Travel and culture do not necessarily go hand in hand. They are many people who have traveled extensively but are still culturally unaware due to their unconscious biases. When thinking about traveling, travelers must always be aware that they will experience cultural differences and be respectful of the culture they choose to place themselves in, even if they don’t accept it. Here are five ways to become a more culturally sensitive traveler.
1. Know that culture is not limited by race or ethnicity. People have different cultures based on their upbringings, language, gender, religion, or sex, to name a few. As a traveler, expect to see people who have different experiences, backgrounds, or viewpoints.
2. Know that you will see, hear and possibly feel things that will be different from what you are accustomed to. For example, queuing or standing in line is common when traveling through airports in the boarding process. However, in some cultures, the boarding process can be chaotic as some cultures are accustomed to a “me first” mentality.
3. Know that even though you might recognize your destination for a particular culture, this does not mean that you have to abandon your own culture. Be culturally sensitive as many places are multi-cultural, and you can add value to your destination with your own culture.
4. Know that culture influences people’s attitudes, beliefs, values, and behavior. Try not to judge a person based on what you presume to be their culture; oftentimes, your judgment is based on your own unrecognized bias.
5. Know that travel becomes a much more pleasant experience when you have learned to accept and respect people and their differences. You will become much more open to new knowledge and experiences and add value by sharing your own culture with others.
It has pained me to see the new wave of Asian racism as much as it has been to experience it as a person of color. What I do know, however, is that traveling has opened my eyes to see people as they are and not what I think they are. Has traveling opened your eyes culturally? I’d like to know.
Having flown as a career for over 20 years I have stayed in many hotel rooms and so the experience has taught me a lot about what to look out for in terms of cleanliness.
1. Check the hotel sheets. No one wants to sleep on possible dirty covid sheets. I can’t tell you how many different times I have gone into a hotel room just dying to shower and get into bed and found that the sheets have not been changed. If you do this when you first get into the hotel room, there is plenty of opportunity for the hotel to fix the issue before you are ready to go to bed.
2. Make sure the sheets are visibly dirty before you check out of the hotel and prevent any possible Covid spread. I think it’s just a matter of kindness to the next guest and just plain hygienic. Don’t feel bad as the hotel should automatically be doing this anyhow. I always wiped the bottom of my shoe across the sheets before I checked out.
3.Place a face towel or hand towel on the bathroom counter to place all your items on. Especially in this time of covid you do not want to transfer any germs to your face or hands. It’s also a visual reminder of anything placed on the counter and it helps in not forgetting items like jewelry in the bathroom.
4. Take an extra washcloth and wipe the toilet seats down. I think we all assume that the hotel room has been cleaned thoroughly but my experience has shown that the toilet seat is often overlooked.
5. Treat hotel room floors like airplane bathrooms and never assume it’s just water. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed through hotel corridors and seen the remains of a hotel room party gone wild. Let’s face it, the hotel does not have the manpower or capability to thoroughly clean hotel room floors, nor do they often have time between checkouts. Covid can be easily spread through bodily fluids.
I hope my tips have been helpful, check back in for more of my lived travel experience.
For years I have had to battle the question of my travel experiences. When it was professional, it was “how can you leave your kids?” When it was personal it was again about the kids and whether I should put their needs first. Recently the question was “what about Covid?”
There will always be questions no matter your choice. The only right choice is the inner choice you make and life is too short not to put yourself first.
I always choose me! This might seem selfish, but I cannot be a good mother, wife, or friend if I am stressed out and unhappy. I have learned that more now since becoming an empty nester than ever before. My kids are grown, and I honestly believe that they would not have me make any different choices than the ones I made. Of course, they have not always been happy with my choices, but at the end of the day, I have.
You can be replaced easily at work, marriages fail, children grow up, and tomorrow is never promised. Life is too short not to travel, not to take a vacation, not to get a massage, not to put yourself first. Choosing to travel is a gift to yourself that you can open as many times as you desire. My choice is to travel, it’s the gift I give to myself.
Have you ever been judged for your choice to travel? Let me know in the comments. I bet I’m not alone.
Having traveled both professionally and personally, I can certainly attest to the travel envy often directed to me even though unheard and unseen but very present.
As an international flight attendant, my job took me all over the world. It was not uncommon for me to fly to unique destinations such as Paris, London, Buenos Aires, Bermuda, or Madrid within the same month. At the same time, I was still a mother and a wife and had to contend with all that those roles entailed. I quickly learned when trying to establish a relationship in the community, to gloss over my job. Mentioning destinations seem to bring on the envy of travel and I would quickly say “I’m a flight attendant” and change the subject as many seemed to hear my destinations as a brag. I would get responses along the direction of “oh how nice” or “that’s wonderful.”
It was not unheard of to get responses like “what about your kids?” or “how does that work with your husband and kids?” With my explanation that it was just a job like any other, I would inevitably get the response “it must be nice!” To me, that was the code for travel envy. I quickly learned in conversations to say that I was “going to work” or “going on a work trip.” Always conscious to never say a destination.
As an ex-pat in Europe and Asia, there were plenty of opportunities to travel in those areas. Thankfully I had learned from my professional travel experience to not discuss my travel plans in depth when having conversations with family and friends. Here too, the refrain “it must be nice” was also heard.
It was an honor and privilege to be a flight attendant for over twenty years and to fly to so many unique destinations. However, it was also a job and many times after long haul flights, the only part of the city seen was the hotel room. My personal travel was quite different as destinations such as Bali or Bangkok were planned with itineraries and time to complete them all.
I can certainly empathize with the travel envy now that Covid has canceled so many travel plans for me. But I know as long as I travel, there are many others whose dream of travel is unmet. So, I am very careful in discussing my travel plans and limiting or tailoring those discussions to the audience.
Have you ever experienced travel envy? How do you handle it? Does my story strike a chord? I’d love to hear your take.