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Forget These 12 Outdated Travel Practices

For your reconsideration.

As time goes on and the world evolves at a pace that is simultaneously glacial and lightning-fast, the moment comes when it is worth re-examining our behaviors and, if necessary, outing them as past their prime. How we travel—our mindsets, assumptions, and habits—are no exception. Here are a few outdated travel behaviors for you to reconsider.

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Don't Try to Blend In

It is understandable to want to blend into your new surroundings, but wearing a beret will not make anyone think you are French, and that’s okay. Many parts of you besides your clothes will give you away before a word even comes out of your mouth—the way you carry yourself, the expressions you make, your confusion at the street corner—you will not be able to conceal your outsider identity even when you are clad head-to-toe in black, stomping through New York City in your combat boots. This urge to appear as though we could belong to a place usually springs from the desire to avoid being categorized as the dreaded “tourist.” The key thing to lean into here is that you are a tourist, and looking like one should be the least of your concerns when it comes to the negative connotations around tourists. Focus on being a curious, observant, and agreeable person, and it won’t matter so much if your general appearance lets everyone know you’re touring their country.

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Don't Overlook Your Passport Privilege

Not all passports are created equal, and for travelers who have a strong passport, this ease of international mobility is frequently overlooked. The U.S. passport is a particularly useful document to have, as it grants access to many countries without the need to file (or pay) for a visa, or if you do need a visa, it is a matter of filling out a form with basic identifying information. For countries not requiring a visa, you are not even required to let anyone know you are coming, you just show up and walk on in.

Now that Brazil has changed its rules for U.S. citizens entering their country, it provides a glimpse of what international travel is like for a great number of people. To be granted a visa now requires copies of bank statements indicating sufficient funds for the duration of the stay in addition to the usual application, photos and fees. For many travelers wanting to visit the United States, the process of filing for a visa can be lengthy and cost upwards of $1,000. There are no guarantees that the visa will be approved, and if the application is denied, that money is lost.

It is also helpful to understand this because when you ask citizens of other countries if they like to travel or where they have been, they may tell you that they have never left their borders. It is not always because they do not want to; it is because there are prohibitions and obstacles to doing so. This can be a reminder to appreciate your passport privilege and use it while you can.

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Don't Only Carry Credit Cards

It may seem as though carrying cash is outdated, considering the array of electronic payment options available and the increasing number of places where these methods are commonplace and preferred. Now that we are making the switch to scanning chips, flashing phones, and transferring via apps, it can be tempting to avoid ATM and exchange fees and forego carrying cash altogether. Despite the abundant acceptance of cards, not having any cash makes it certain that there will be moments when you wish you did.

There are countries where tipping is inappropriate, but otherwise, it is quite common that small gratuities are appreciated or expected. It is good to have cash on hand to tip a tour guide or a taxi driver, or if you are feeling generous, to give money to a person on the street. If you want to buy anything from a street vendor, you will most likely need actual money. Also, many businesses that accept credit cards add a percentage on to the total when paying with a card, passing their credit card fees onto the customer. Whether you are paying ATM fees or credit card fees, there are fees, and the fee beast must be fed.

While it is a good idea to carry cash, it is not necessary to withdraw cash in your home country to exchange when you land. At this point, ATMs are widely accessible in airports and cities. The fees you’ll pay at the currency exchange may be higher than the ATM fees anyway, and the time you spend exchanging currency will certainly be greater than the time you’ll spend at an ATM.

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Don't Get Annoyed by Ever-Present Screens

If your interest in a place was piqued by a color-enhanced photograph on social media, chances are that when you get there, your view will be obstructed by a flock of outstretched arms wielding selfie sticks. If your preference is to stay away from content-thirsty crowds, you’re going to have to travel to places that haven’t shown up in your algorithms, or you can accept that you too have a camera and cellphone at the ready. One day soon, those panoramic views won’t be compromised by spouting gardens of LEDs—the VR program in your headset will transport you to world-famous sights, and nobody else will be there, and you can wander alone through the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore or among the ruins of Machu Picchu from the comfort of your screen.


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Don't Go to a New Destination Without Doing Any Research

We carry the knowledge of the world in our pockets, accessible through any mobile data plan or decent Wi-Fi connection, so it can be tempting to postpone any information gathering about a travel destination until the moment when questions arise. Sometimes, we travel with friends who have made all the plans, or we take part in a group tour, relying on the guides to tell us everything we want to know. The downside of this approach is that upon arrival to a place without any understanding of the context, such as the current events, national identity, or cultural norms, the result will be confusion about what you are seeing and what is happening around you. Also, sometimes it can be difficult to know what to search the internet for without even a basic understanding of the place you are in. Yes, you don’t want to necessarily know every last detail before you arrive, there is an element of surprise and delight that is worth retaining. However, the overall experience could be more satisfying if you save the surprises for smaller-scale items, like food or experiences, and not, say, the entire history of the country.

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Don't Assume That Escapism Is a Bad Thing

Traveling with the intention of escaping from your regular life is often framed as running away from your problems or postponing the inevitable. And so what if it is?

Escaping through travel is not a permanent solution, and most people embarking on this sort of journey understand that it will all be waiting for them when they get back home. Removing yourself from your routine or permanent life situation for any amount of time can allow space to think, reassess, or gain new perspectives that may be helpful toward finding a resolution.

There are many ways to escape from regular life—some people crank through multiple seasons of a police drama, while others choose to motorbike through rice paddies in Vietnam. Both are similar in that they temporarily distract you from something in your life, but one has more potential to reframe or influence your state of mind than the other. If you don’t have the power to change your situation, you can at least try to change yourself, and traveling could be a medium through which to do that.


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Don't Trash Other Travel Styles

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to travel. Plenty of travelers love to cruise the Caribbean islands on a behemoth ocean liner; others board a coach bus and travel as part of a group. Backpackers prefer to travel on the cheap, while vacationers opt to lounge in upscale beachside resorts. The planner types design full itineraries down to the last detail, while solo travelers might not make any plans at all. Rugged travelers would rather spend their entire trip hiking through the mountains and never see another soul, and tourists focus on getting into the mix and visiting all the most famous sites. Those who want to keep a low profile may disappear after their plane takes off, while others document every significant moment of their trip and share it on their social media.

There is no right or wrong way to travel—everyone should be free to choose the experience that will make them happy without the need to it justify it to anyone.

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Don't Haggle Over Small Amounts of Money

Haggling is the norm in many countries, and it is an activity that can be harrowing for some and great fun for others. It depends where you are, but oftentimes, the first move in a haggle is to reduce by half whatever price the seller is stating, meaning that if you accept the original price they offer, you are wildly overpaying. The idea is to negotiate a fair price and to pay the market value of the item you are purchasing. However, when you get down to the final negotiations and the difference is between a matter of cents, perhaps it is not necessary to hold on to your position so tightly. What is considered a small amount of money to you might mean more to someone else. At some point, you could be overdoing it and wasting everyone’s time just to come out victorious in a haggle battle, so it’s worth considering the actual amounts you are standing your ground over.

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Don't Only Socialize With People Your Own Age

For backpackers in their 20s, hostels provide low-budget lodgings and are an avenue to instant social connections with like-minded peers. As people get older and age out of these accommodations, there ceases to be a straightforward path to similarly-minded folks, as the interests and budgets of people in and over their 30s vary widely. People have a tendency to maintain social connections with those in their age range, a choice that is understandable when the gaps between generations feel more akin to canyons. Traveling can be an opportunity to open your mind to the types of people you can get on with because when a person of any age is willing to have a conversation with a stranger from a different country, they are at least somewhat open-minded and curious. A conversation with an older person who has a lot of life experience and is a good storyteller could end up being the one of the highlights of a trip, and serve as a reminder that there are no foregone conclusions when it comes to aging. Younger people have the potential to bring an eagerness to learn more about the world, which can reinvigorate thoughts or ideas that we may have pushed aside over time.


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Don’t Avoid Guided Tours

Guided tours have a reputation as being geared towards a specific type of traveler, one laden with cameras and sporting a sun hat and sensible shoes. Guided tours do not have to be multi-day affairs rambling into rest stops on a crowded coach; they can be a low-level commitment that offers perks beyond the tour itself. Even people who love to retain a lot of freedom in their travels can hand over the reins for 2 or 3 hours. Day trips to out-of-town-nature sights, neighborhood walking tours, or street food tours can streamline your knowledge of a place so that when you are out on your own, you are able to hone in on the things you enjoy. Tours also provide an opportunity to meet and socialize with both locals and other travelers, interactions that can extend beyond the tour or impart useful tips about events or places not to miss. Most mid-sized to large cities offer free walking tours, which can be a great way to orient yourself when you first arrive in town. The quality of these free tours can vary, but the guide is always a local person and may be willing to share additional recommendations based on your interests.


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Don't Book Through Low-Level Third Party Sites

Booking through an unheard of third party site to save a few dollars on flights or train tickets is usually not worth it, no matter how much you appear be saving on the transaction. The lower price tag comes with hidden costs; sometimes those costs are in dollars and other times you pay in terms of quality, experience, and service. These sites rarely if ever allow changes or grant refunds, which can be information that is difficult to confirm when their customer service is non-responsive. If changes are allowed, the fees can sometimes be more costly than the original purchase. Also, when a company sees that you purchased a cheaper ticket through a third-party vendor, you are more likely to receive a lower quality of service—if there are over-bookings, your seat could be on the chopping block. You have little to no recourse if anything were to change or go wrong, so unless you are absolutely sure that you will be using the booking as purchased, the money saved is not worth the headache. The best bet is to book directly through the company who is offering the service, which can cost more money, but that money is more likely to be recovered if your plans change.


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Don't Assume That Travel Is Going to Automatically Change Your Life

When we are exposed to unfamiliar environments through travel, it is an opportunity for us to relinquish aspects of our cultural conditioning. Removing us from our societal roles and the expectations around them can provoke spontaneous, authentic reactions to new stimuli. However, the mere act of moving yourself to a new place is not enough to guarantee that your travel experience will elicit insights, in the same way that visiting India does not guarantee enlightenment. If you spend most of your time comparing everything to how it is back home, you are bringing your mindset and cultural norms along with you for the journey instead of seeing each moment with fresh eyes. Your experience will be processed through a filter of existing perceptions, and this can make traveling feel like nothing more than a series of inconveniences. When the mindset you take with you on your travels is one of open-minded curiosity without preconceived notions, you create space for ideas and perspectives to enter, and the experience feels more meaningful and impactful and can stay with you after you’ve returned home.

fouDor March 30, 2024

Lots of valuable info here, but #7...?  A few thoughts - the 5 star luxury as a "way to enjoy yourself"?  I don't trash it, but am painfully aware of how extremely expensive it is for the ecology, climate, water and energy resources... hence not very responsible manner of travelling in long term.  The giant accommodations, giant ships spewing their cargo into small communities/islands - just think of the impact - everyday, every week, every month, every year.  It is one thing to be helping local economies - it is something else to gradualy degrade and destroy the reason you want to explore the area in the first place... Give it a thought...
If a grand resort is your preference, stay closer to home...