More and more people decide to share their life experiences when they visit foreign countries, which leads to an international desire to pack a suitcase and get on a plane. We are a generation of travelers, and we just love to increase our cultural intelligence skills.
But do we all fit into the traveler profile, or are we just simple tourists with photography skills? After a few years of making the same mistakes while going on vacation, I came up with the following list of characteristics that define a simple, mainstream tourist.
If you find yourself on this list, make a difference the next time you're on the road:
1. You book a five-star hotel.
If your traveling itinerary includes staying in a five-star hotel, then I have bad news for you: You are definitely a tourist!
Hotels look the same all around the world, so if you want to be pampered, you don't even have to leave your home town.
Save yourself the money and choose to stay in an authentic, traditional house. It will put you in contact with the real location. Imagine you're a local, and get in sync with your temporary home.
2. You only eat at fancy restaurants.
The restaurants will only show you what you are paying them to show you. Choose to eat in the local market, or in a small diner away from the tourist attractions.
Get to taste the local food, and try at least one of the traditional dishes. From my experience, the fancy restaurants offer poor quality at high prices.
The best food I've eaten was often in the market. At least give it a try next time. In the worst case, you'll lose a few cents.
3. You take cabs everywhere.
Public transport is one of the best ways to see the city. Even if it's crowded and loud, it is the most objective view you can have over a society.
From the safety of your cab, you will only see the interior of a normal tourist car. Take the subway in the big cities, and have a look around.
Get into the bus and offer a smile to the people around you. Take the pulse of the location from its population.
4. You don't mix with the locals.
If at the end of your vacation, you only got to speak with staff, then you're about to leave without the complete picture.
The only way to truly discover a society is to come into contact with people.
If language is a barrier, then choose other ways to engage, like dancing, playing sports or lending a hand to anyone in need. Those are not only great ways to connect, but also a way for you to challenge yourself by putting yourself out there.
5. You only visit the tourist attractions.
In any location, you will find a list of things to do. I am strongly advising you to follow that list, but also include activities that aren't that popular in your itinerary.
Ask the natives and create a customized to-do list. Don't follow the routines set by the tourists who came before you. Start getting creative.
Step out of your comfort zone and leave the tourist in you at home when you go on a trip. There are upsides and downsides to any location in the world; even the fanciest ones have a dark part, but beauty will always stand in the eyes of the viewer.
It is up to you to engage in the local lifestyle and blend in. You can choose any means you want: Tinder or Facebook groups, asking people on the street for information or talking to the bartender.
Do what it takes to get in touch with the real deal. Don't pay for perfection: It is only an illusion.