We don’t want to be tourists. Tourists snap pictures of the famous landmarks, point at the locals attired in their traditional clothing, and never really engage with the culture. Tourists may roam the world and not remember much of what they saw, unless they pull out the photos on their cameras and phones. If we’re going to be anything, we strive to be like the locals when we travel. But you can’t expect that you will integrate seamlessly into a local’s daily routine in a matter of weeks or that you will know everything about the culture after digging into a few guidebooks.
Being the culturally sensitive traveler that you are, you may have pored over destination blogs and immersed yourself in movies or documentaries in the weeks leading up to your trip. Despite the steps you have taken to gain an understanding of the culture you are going to visit, you will make cultural blunders. Maybe you’ll use the wrong greeting or forget to leave your shoes at the door, but things like this happen to the best of us. You’re not a local, and that’s okay.
There are so many vagabonding adventurers who choose not to take any steps toward cultural understanding whatsoever. If they plan to stay on American-owned and operated resorts for the duration of their stay, that might work. But if they have even the slightest inclination to leave the familiar and engage with the unknown, a Google search of the culture is a bare minimum requirement.
If you are taking those steps to appreciate and understand the local culture, your experience traveling will be enriched dramatically. The vast majority of people will recognize and appreciate your efforts, rather than pushing you away for not behaving exactly like a local.
You aren’t a perfect traveler and no one expects you to be. So long as you can roll with the punches and be respectful of the people who live full-time in your travel destination, you’ll be just fine.
Many of you are seasoned travelers who probably know how to pack a suitcase for vacation in an hour flat, but it never hurts to have a few reminders on how to pack efficiently. Here are some quick tips for keeping your bags under your airline’s weight limit and protecting your items along the way:
To all of you commencing your summer travels in the next few weeks, bon voyage! If you don’t have plans yet, but want to go somewhere soon, feel free to reach out to Life's Journey Travel.
When you think of “arts festivals,” what comes to mind? Do you think of massive crowds swaying before headlining musical acts? Or do you picture refined galas with arts patrons in black tie attire? There is likely an arts event that matches what you envisioned, but there are also many more that you might not expect! The world is wide and the art is everywhere. Here are just a few festivals to give you some ideas for your next (or first!) foray into the arts world.
1. Art Basel
Of the three, this is probably closest to a traditional arts festival. It takes place in Miami Beach, USA; Hong Kong; and Basel, Switzerland. Each location emphasizes artists from that particular region, with Basel being the most international of all. You’ll find modern and contemporary art that draws in artists, curators, and art lovers from around the world.
Bluedot happens near the Jodrell Bank Observatory in England, and it is part music, part visual art, and part science festival. It has panels featuring astronauts and physicists, as well as “intergalactic family areas” with workshops and activities suited for younger festival-goers.
Pictoplasma is in Berlin, Germany. This is all about character design for film and other media. Enthusiasts can walk throughout the city of Berlin and find film screenings, performances, and panels on digital media.
There are far too many arts festivals to create a comprehensive list, but these are a few more you might be interested in:
Port Eliot Festival
St. Germans, England
Visual art, music, writing, comedy, and workshops (fashion drawing, acting, cooking). Family-friendly and has outdoor activities.
Stars of the White Nights at the Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
Ballet and classical music
Contemporary art, film, and music by international artists
Traverse City Film Festival
Traverse City, Michigan
Annual film festival that has free and paid events for adults and families
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
International contemporary and modern visual art festival.
Music, light sculptures, and seminars on art, technology, and commerce
Echigo Tsumari Art Field
In over 200 villages of Japan
Art festival occurring every three years with the intent to display humans’ connections with nature. Volunteers from local villages help to create the art installations.
If you’ve ever traveled hundreds of miles to get a taste of sautéed crab from Maryland, if your bucket list of places is organized by the foods you want to try, or if you simply enjoy food that is authentic to the region in which it is served, you probably merit the title of “foodie.” And you’re not alone; with the advent of food tourism services like Eatwith, Airbnb experiences, and Withlocals, trips to satiate the cuisine-curious are on the rise.
Food tourism goes beyond indulging in a few dishes prepared by expert chefs; people who travel for food do so with the intention of connecting more deeply to the region. The source of the ingredients matters. The way it’s prepared and who’s doing the preparation are also things to consider. Tasting some amazing pasta is nice, but going to Italy and having an Italian nonna teach you how to make homemade tagliatelle while she regales you with tales of her youth is even better.
The term “culinary tourism” can sometimes come off as elitist, but people engaged in this sort of tourism are just as likely to be found queueing up for some street food among hungry locals as they are in 3-star Michelin restaurants with the well heeled. The price of the food isn’t what makes the trip special; it’s about engaging with the locals and their authentic cuisine to become more fully immersed in the place.
Eatwith, a service dedicated to connecting foodies to local providers, offers dining experiences, food tours, and cooking classes that allow those hungering for more than food alone to engage with the culture. Instead of taking a classic walking tour of Athens, why not sample phyllo pies on an evening food tour led by a local Greek? Rather than trying your luck on the first few macarons you see in Paris, how about taking a macaron-making class with a MasterChef and sipping champagne as your creations bake?
Eatwith has over 25,000 hosts in 130 countries, all eager to share their generational knowledge with those interested. If the foodie in you is intrigued, contact me so we can start planning your culinary adventure!
If you are a parent, you may know that taking trips with kids requires a little extra planning; if you are a grandparent, you may be doubly familiar with this sentiment. Traveling with little ones can be a rewarding experience for everyone involved - it just takes a slightly different approach from planning adult-only travel.
Thinking ahead is key. First off, children are often scheduled in myriad activities, so even just finding the time to take a vacation can take some doing. If you’re a grandparent taking your grandchildren without their parents, you will be coordinating with the parents’ schedules; you may also need a letter of permission from the parents if you are taking your grandchild out of the country.
Aside from those initial logistics, it’s a good idea to try and make the actual traveling process - the planes, trains, and automobiles part - as smooth as possible. You can apply for the TSA pre-check program to minimize your time waiting in airport security lines, select your seats to ensure that you are sitting together and in the seats you want, book nonstop flights to decrease layover times or transfers, and arrange for ground transportation ahead of time so that you have fewer logistics to think about when you arrive in a potentially unfamiliar location. Your travel agent can help you get all of these things in order.
When it comes to the destination itself, plan now to make things easier later for both you and the children with whom you’re traveling. Even the most seasoned travelers can get turned around in a new place; being responsible for children at the same time can compound the stress of the situation. Booking a guide for your activities can help take some of the pressure off your shoulders. Also, building in down time and giving the kids some space (whether that’s an adjoining room or a workshop for kids) will keep everyone in better spirits.
Introducing children to traveling at such a young age can be a fantastic way to give them exposure to new cultures and worldviews, while at the same time deepening the bond that you share with them. All it takes is a little planning, which is something I’d be happy to help you with. Let me know when you’re ready to begin planning your next family adventure!
Author: Debra Harris
As founder of Life’s Journey Travel, I’m deeply passionate about creating custom travel experiences that allow my clients to truly savor the journey.