Packing your bags for the trip of a lifetime? If you find yourself on your way to a developing country for mission work, tourism, or just plain curiosity, you have a world of excitement ahead of you. Immersing yourself in a new culture (that may be very different from your own) can be intimidating, but these tips will help you make the most of your travels while leaving a great impression on the locals.
Do a little homework
Depending on where your travels take you, friends and family may give you a list of cautions and perils to look out for. No matter where you travel (domestically or internationally), it’s always a good idea to let others know where you’ll be (and how to reach you), stay aware of your surroundings, and know a bit about the area. The areas in which our artisans live are often described as “dangerous” or “scary,” and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been apprehensive at times to visit. Most every apprehension I’ve had has been unfounded once I arrived and settled in.
When in doubt, ask
Most locals want to help and are happy to give advice or directions. If possible, learn a few key phrases in their language. They’ll appreciate the attempt to integrate into their culture even if you don’t know the language like a native speaker.
Bring a small gift from home
If you’ll be meeting someone in the country, I’ve found that bringing an offering of a trinket or snack can go a long way. I usually opt for candy from a local shop (but not chocolate - it can melt!). If you plan to encounter local children, a small toy can be a great option as well.
Go with an open mind
You will undoubtedly encounter things that are different than home – embrace it! Take in a new culture with new foods, customs, and traditions. Learn something new and bring it home to share. Give yourself the freedom and time to explore things that interest you