Why It’s Best to Blend in While Traveling

June 30, 2015
turkey, turkey stories
Why It's Best to Blend in While Traveling

The concept of being a traveler or a tourist is nothing new for wanderlusters like us. We are all passionate about why it’s better to be one way or another, and we firmly believe in the difference between the two designations. Tourists might see more, but travelers might see it better. Regardless of why or how you travel, it’s a given that on all of our trips, wherever we go, we all have something in common: we want to stay safe.

Before I left for that trip, my sister gave me the best, most valuable piece of travel advice I have ever received: “Always look like you know exactly where you’re going.”

I first traveled away from home alone when I was 17 years old. I had finally convinced my mother that I was mature enough to take the roundtrip flight from New York to Miami to visit my older sister at university, all by myself. To say I was excited for my adventure would be a vast understatement – I was thrilled for the chance to have a real adult experience.

Before I left for that trip, my sister gave me the best, most valuable piece of travel advice I have ever received: “Always look like you know exactly where you’re going.” Especially as a petite woman, this is one piece of advice I’ll never forget.

Since then, I have been lucky to travel within my country and abroad by myself. I’ve gone to places where I didn’t understand a word of the language. By choice, I took most of those trips alone. And as a solo traveler, I remembered that advice from years ago.

Any time I was confused in town, or wasn’t sure if I was going the right way, I kept my head high and my eyes in front of me. I kept myself going.

Similar to the ‘strength in numbers’ belief, if you don’t have the numbers on your side, then at least don’t make it obvious that you are clueless. The best way to avoid this is to try to fit into one’s environment – or, at least to try not to stand out.

Why It’s Best to Blend in While Traveling

I feel much more comfortable when I don’t stick out like a sore thumb in a new place. As a female, blending in to my new surroundings puts me at ease. The very last thing anyone wants when exploring a new place is to be the victim of a pickpocket or anyone else who may want to cause harm to a foreigner. A foolproof way to become a target, as anyone who has seen any movie knows, is to draw attention to oneself. It’s for this reason that I try to camouflage myself when I travel, especially if I am alone. Other than constantly aiming my camera at my surroundings or occasionally turning it backwards for a scenic selfie, I prefer to be another face in the crowd.

When I visited Istanbul, Turkey for the first time, I discovered upon arrival that despite what my carrier had assured me, my American phone was out of service. I had no way of reaching my family whom I hadn’t seen in many years. While panicking inside, I put on my best poker face of confidence and walked the airport’s arrivals terminal looking for a semi-familiar face.

I found that acting as though I knew exactly where I was and what I was doing made me feel as though I really did.

I alternated between walking wide loops around the terminal, so as not to be noticed, and finding a different spot along the way to sit inconspicuously while I waited and gathered my thoughts about what I should do. I eventually found my cousin who had come to meet me, but I learned a valuable lesson while I was essentially stranded and jetlagged in a completely foreign country. I found that acting as though I knew exactly where I was and what I was doing made me feel as though I really did.

One of the best things about traveling alone is meeting new people from all walks of life. Few things are more interesting than meeting a person from the total opposite side of the world who has almost nothing in common with you. But it is vitally important to be smart about just how to meet those people to ensure you’re keeping yourself out of harm’s way.

Having been taught from a young age to embrace being different, and having always loved standing out among my peers, the notion of trying to do the opposite is a bit weird. But I’ve found that traveling as one of the locals can enrich the experience by allowing me to get a true feel of what a place is really like, while maintaining confidence in my safety.

Why It’s Best to Blend in While Traveling

Whether you’re a traveler or a tourist, everyone likes to keep his or her eyes wide open. The key is to find the delicate balance between absorbing everything like a sponge and blending in to stay safe. As with anything, practice makes perfect – all-the-more reason to keep traveling.

Why It’s Best to Blend in While Traveling // Blend in*

 

About Lili Sajecki

Born and raised in NYC, I’m a media nerd, language lover, writer and traveler. Constantly living with feelings of wanderlust and a strong curiosity about the world around me, I am always eager to learn about people and places very different from my own life and to tell those stories. Learn more about me on my blog and follow me on Twitter @shigahon.

2 thoughts on “Why It’s Best to Blend in While Traveling

  1. Quita
    October 28, 2015
    Reply

    I am visiting Istanbul this December. Looking forward to going somewhere new.

  2. Mary wilson
    July 3, 2015
    Reply

    Such a nice post Lili. How lucky you are? You are doing what you wanted to do in life. I also love to travel alone. But don’t know how it will be possible. Keep it up. God bless you.

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