Travel offers you the opportunity to broaden your perspective. When we implement that world view, we make travel a political act. Here are my top ten tips for doing just that.
- Get out of your comfort zone
- Connect with people, and try to understand them
- Be a cultural chameleon
- Understand contemporary context
- Empathize with the other 96 percent of humanity
- Identify — and undermine — your own ethnocentricity
- Accept the legitimacy of other moralities
- Sightsee with an edge
- Make your trip an investment in a better world
- Make a broader perspective your favorite souvenir
1. Get out of your comfort zone: Choose Managua over Mazatlán or Turkey over Greece. When visiting Israel, explore the West Bank. You can enjoy far richer experiences for far less money by venturing away from the mainstream.
2. Connect with people, and try to understand them: Make itinerary decisions that put you in touch with locals. Stay in people’s homes (check out Airbnb or Couchsurfing) and spend time with your hosts. Visit a university, eat in the cafeteria, and make a new friend. Seek answers for cultural riddles: Why do some Hindus feed their cows better than their children? Why do many Muslim women wear scarves? Why do Norwegians so willingly pay high taxes?
3. Be a cultural chameleon: Embrace cultural differences with joy rather than with judgment. Eat with your fingers in a Sri Lankan restaurant that has no silverware, dip your fries in mayonnaise in Belgium, smoke a hookah in Greece, kiss a stranger on both cheeks in France, or attend a hurling match in Ireland. Rather than gawking at pilgrims, become one. Climb Rome’s Scala Santa (Holy Stairs) on your knees, feeling the pain while finding comfort in the frescoes of saints all around you.