In my opinion, you get the most out of travel when you have the right attitude towards it. There are certain qualities that enhance the experience. If you’re a traveller, the chances are you will have many of these traits already. If not, they are worth cultivating. Here are 9 traits that make the traveller…
You can’t travel with a closed mind, not if you are doing it properly. Each country and culture have their own ways of doing things, and your eyes will be opened. Certain things you’ll find distasteful, others you’ll prefer to home. It’s easy to skirt on the ice of a culture but if you dig deep beneath the façade, you’ll be in a whole new world. If you can be open to people, places and experiences, you’ll find that countries open to you in a way that you never expected, but you need to be open to them first.
Travel involves a lot of tolerance and it can really push the boundaries of said tolerance. Not everywhere in the world is politically correct or particularly pleasant to tourists. Some people may remark on the colour of your skin, the texture of your hair or your accent. They may question why you are unmarried, childless or ‘alone.’ It’s easy to be offended by such questions but it is important to be tolerant, partly to avoid getting yourself into trouble! For the most part people are simply curious and don’t mean to ruffle your feathers.
Whenever I travel to a new country, I try to be respectful. Showing respect means understanding the cultural norms and adhering to them as often as possible. Showing respect is not taking mementoes from Uluru, littering national parks or abusing the locals. Showing the country, culture and people respect gives a good impression of tourists and invites respect back. If more people travelled with respectful intentions, we’d see a lot more smiling faces. Remember that innocuous actions can be interpreted disrespectfully by different cultures. Reading up on what constitutes a cultural faux pau before you travel can be handy and save many embarrassing misunderstandings. I’m thinking of writing a blog shortly about offensive cultural missteps if you’re interested!
Kindness is a kind of currency. People tend to want to help you and look after you when you show them kindness. There are also a great many people in the world who need our kindness. It’s free and easy to deliver in endless ways. Kindness might involve opting to volunteer at a school, giving a tip to the waitress or assisting other travellers with their onward voyage. When I was lost in Osaka, a Japanese businessman walked me all the way to my hostel in the rain. I have never forgotten his simple act of kindness!
This quality may sound contrary to openness and tolerance but it’s not. As tourists, we are also vulnerable and can be taken advantage of. Whether people want your money, your belongings or your assistance, many people view travellers as guileless and naïve walking wallets whom they can easily exploit and many people fall prey to scams and hoaxes. It’s vital to maintain healthy boundaries. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t give too much away. Don’t feel that you should hand over all that is yours. You worked hard to afford your trip and there are many worthwhile ways to give back including volunteering. Be wary of the smiling stranger who wants a favour. It’s okay to say no!
Travel involves courage, there’s no doubt about it. To get there in the first place, you need boldness and bravery to get your feet on the road. Courage is vital because it gets you doing and being rather than thinking. I seem to come into my own when I travel whereas at home I can be more of a scaredy cat. I’m still figuring out how to cultivate courage in my daily life when I’m back in the UK!
If you’re flying solo, you need to be an independent person. That doesn’t mean that you’ll always be alone or lonely but simply that you need to have your own mind, intentions and goals when you travel. If you let yourself be swept up by the crowd consistently, you’ll miss doing things that mean a lot to you. Having the guts (and the commitment) to follow your own passions is so important. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain to make your travel experience the best that it can be – FOR YOU!
With travel, there can be a lot of ‘hurry up and wait involved.’ You rush to the airport only to have a delayed flight. You order patatas bravas in Barcelona at 7pm and are finally served at 7.45pm (yes, this did happen to me). The pace of life is often far slower in other countries and if you are used to the frantic energy of city life, you are in for a rude awakening. I am not a patient person so I have struggled with this one, but I try to embrace that time is a loose concept in many parts of the world. It’s also good for me to slow down now and then.
Thirst and hunger for the world around us are so vital. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, the cat had 9 lives to burn anyway. Remaining inquisitive about people, places and experiences keeps us engaged with the world around us. Ask questions, take up a new hobby and don’t be afraid to be an eternal student. Travel is an immersive experience that can teach you an awful lot, if you are open to it, but a lack of curiosity will shut opportunities down.
Truth be told, there are many qualities that make a traveller and not all of them are listed here. It’s also important to be spontaneous, confident and friendly, amongst many other things! These are the traits that I continue coming back to – they are worth having in your travel arsenal.
All my love,