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Attitude adjustment for travelers

Go as a guest; act like one, and you’ll be treated like one. Travel, as in the rest of life, you reap what you sow. – Rick Steves

Believing that I have always been an organized-bordering-on-obsessive-compulsive traveler, I never thought of picking a travel skills handbook for myself. Ok, I toyed with the idea, looked at Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door 2012: The Travel Skills Handbook every now and then but never bought it. I deem that it’s more of the pride from my side than confidence though, thinking to myself: “I’m organized enough, what do I need it for???” But that’s actually what I need it for, as one of the tips from Steves is: Don’t be a creative worrier. Yes, in bold letters.

Flipping through the book, which my colleagues bought for me for my last birthday (hoorah!), in search of the itinerary trip for Turkey, the voracious (read: obsessive-compulsive) reader in me had to read it from top to bottom. However, I got hooked on the PERSPECTIVES chapter that I have not finished the book yet. For now, Turkey can wait until we go there.

Feel privileged to walk the vibrant streets of Europe as a sponge — not as a judge. Be open-minded. Absorb, accept and learn. – Rick Steves

In this chapter, Steves wrote about “Ugly Americans” who are treated as such because of being ethnocentric. I basked in this chapter because I know ethnocentrics and this European travel Guru just articulated what I have been trying to express for a long time now, since I stepped and decided to live in Europe.

Steves’ teachings might be dealing with Americans but it is just as fitting to anyone who travels to, live in, work in or decide to take a peek at another destination, country or continent and cannot revel in the experience. He lists the symptoms of the ugly American disease as:

  • criticizes strange customs and cultural differences
  • demands to find America in Europe
  • invades a country while making no effort to communicate with the “natives”

On the contrary, he lists what a thoughtful American (or traveler in this matter) should be:

  • interested in other peoples and cultures
  • learns by trying things
  • accepts and tries to understand differences
  • observant and sensitive
  • humble, not flashy
  • positive, optimistic and don’t compare things “back home”
  • bridges the flimsy language barrier

This chapter, titled “Attitude Adjustment” could very well pass as a major section in an immigrant’s skills handbook if such a book exists. He is a very enlightened traveler and his thoughts are enlightening. I can easily run through his points and attach it to different faces who only know how to criticize and not appreciate, who demands the find his/her country in Europe and who invades and not make an effort to “communicate”.

We all need an attitude adjustment every time we leave our comfort zones to dip into unexplored territories. To be open and aware, be more appreciative, more embracing and well-informed. To judge people individually and not collectively, if we must. People ask me why I love to travel and this part of Steves’ book just answered that. I always thought that the answer, “to see how other people live”, was a lame one. But this is why we should seek new boundaries, ‘to witness how other people live’ — to appreciate the world’s many colors, many different cultures, languages and cuisines. To be more culturally aware and possibly, sensitive.#

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