14 Things You Experience When Traveling as More Than a Tourist

August 10, 2016
travel, volunteer

There is nothing quite like a good trip. The magical moments happen when you stop thinking like a tourist and immerse yourself in the place. Being more than a tourist not only lets you see all the wonders of the world but it’s also one sure way to test your state of mind about travel. Difficult times faced during travel are just uncovered learning opportunities.

Here is a list of challenges and rewards that come with traveling like more than a tourist.

1. Embrace slow travel.

Traveling slowly reduces stress from all the planning. And it fills your itinerary. Quality matters over quantity. By traveling slowly, you can  savour the unexpected. You can  be your own guide and practice your street smarts. It’s time to embrace the unknown of traveling!

2. Learning those colloquial phrases will becomes your number one goal.

It’s imperative to be able to communicate with the locals. Sometimes you cannot survive in the city if you don’t try to speak their language. You’ll write those list of phrases that will come in handy while you’re gallivanting around the country.

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Photo credit: Fundación Al Verde Vivo

3. Find tours that give you an authentic travel experience.

From city highlights to hidden gems, there are always “hidden” local tours that give you an authentic travel experience. For example, visit.org is a online travel marketplace that offers  tours with non-profit organisations that help benefit the local community.  Ditch those mass tourism websites for one that aligns with your value — like booking a tour with a non-profit organisation that teaches you how to cook in local homes.  This is no ordinary tourist experience!

 4. You will feel travel burn out.  But don’t let it drain your energy.

The excitement of being on the road begins to dim after some time, along with your curiosity and enchantment. Don’t fret – this happens to nearly all of us! Leyla from Women On The Road shares a common symptom of travel burnout, “you miss your friends and family more than usual and you live for Skype.”  Feeling overwhelmed leads to a negative outlook. Traveling should make you excited. It should never be a chore. When you’re frustrated with your connecting flights and tired of dragging your suitcase, it’s a clear sign you’re burnt out.

5. Expect the honeymoon phase to end, and embrace it!

According to the Berkeley International Office,  there are four phases of cultural adjustment.  1. The honeymoon phase 2. the crisis phase 3. the recovery phase and 4. the adjustment phase.

To quote an experience from Shabrina at Wonder Tripper, “Everything is nicer, better, and bigger. All the grandeur of the city would let you fall in love with it quickly. But, boom! reality hits you.”

Ask any expat about a time they started to loathe everything about living in a new city.  This is a sign that the Crisis Stage has started to manifest.  It rears its head in many different forms such as recurring illness, acute homesickness, and sadness.

Once you adjust,  you’ll feel  more comfortable in your new environment. Then it’s time to explore outside your boundaries. With time and patience, you’ll begin to experience positive effects of cultural adjustment. Remember that what you’re going through is normal. But, wallowing in your sadness will only prolong your homesickness. Know that those unpleasant feelings are temporary.

6. Realize that everyone’s definition of home is different.

It’s the people that matter. After adjusting to a new city for a year,  you might have to relocate and start from scratch. This confuses your mind about the concept of “home.” You realize that attending a “going away” party and saying goodbye to  your friends has become a normal part in your life. Every time you move, it’s just another city and you feel alone again. Eventually you crave to be in another place to escape the “lost” feeling. Friends and family might  think you’re running away. But the truth is, you’re not. Who says their version of “home” is the best version for you? Stay true to  whatever makes you happy.

7. Your loved ones think you are running away.

There’s this assumption that traveling simply means we are running away from our problems and the real world. Conventional jobs and culture have set expectations for us to settle down. Settling down means you’ve fulfilled your life’s mission: get an office job, marry your sweetheart, have beautiful babies, have gorgeous home, and retire.

8. You’ll learn a lot of good skills. We mean A LOT.

Haggling, creating detailed expenses on your multi-sheet spreadsheet, finding the best deal, and knowing that a small towel is a  lifesaver in every condition. One cool aspect of traveling is the bargaining you get to do when shopping at  the local market. Your colorful sarong that cost less than $3 becomes your all-time favorite article of clothing. Ditch those big toiletries and buy everything in your destination. Traveling light will not only make you happy, but it will be cheaper too. No one wants to carry a 10kg backpack while exploring, right? And, you’ll be surprised how the price of shampoo in Asia is 75% less than what you usually pay in your home country.

Photo credit:

Photo credit: Fundación Al Verde Vivo

9. Travelling long-term can cost the same as your rent back home.

The money you spent on dinner in New York can equal three days worth of living expenses in Thailand. The $1500 monthly rent in New York is the same as living comfortably for one month in Indonesia. Traveling for one month in a country instead of fitting 3 countries in at one time would eventually be cheaper. Going slow lets you find better deals and create long-lasting experiences with your new friends. And don’t forget about the envy from your friends and family back home when they find out!

10. Don’t take the little things for granted.

Stuff that we considered trash are, in fact, a source of income to some people around the world. For example, women in Cambodia use banana leaves to create paper, which is changing their lives. Trying to be more than a tourist makes you more grateful for the small things in life.

11. Treat your body better.

When you are constantly on the move, it’s difficult to maintain a workout routine. Traveling drains your body. Many of us feel it’s not necessary to fit in a workout after that long day of walking. Or we prefer to use our remaining energy to chase that second party or we eat too much junk food. It’s time to be nice to your body and find the local gym or better yet, learn local martial arts.

12. There are many good people that try to change the world.

In today’s digital age, we rely more on our network of people to give us recommendations of  places to visit. Immersing yourself in the local culture  not only means seeing the heritage or cultural sites, but it also means understanding how the city’s small businesses operate. There are many good people on a mission to improve women’s lives. It’s a worldwide movement. These organizations listed are all contributing to women’s empowerment! These tours are an opportunity to support the skills honed by women and to learn about the communities and cultures they come from.

13. Be careful with all hand gestures

Depending where you are, not all hand gestures have the same meaning. While it’s cool to give a  “thumbs-up” and the “a-OK” in some countries, in others, these hand signals are highly provocative. The “thumbs-up” in America, Australia, UK and Canada is a sign of approval. However, if you use this gesture in West Africa, Iran, or Latin America it is seen as “up yours.” It’s best to be smart when using hand gestures. Insulting the locals is just not nice!

14. Cultivate your wanderlust without ever leaving home.

There will be days when you’ll feel like everything around you is wrong; you’re aching. The concept of home is not the same anymore. You are stuck in a  routine that suffocates you. You would think living in a new exotic country would make you happy but then the aching feeling to keep moving comes back again. When you start feeling this regularly, sometimes you just have to look at home through a different lens. Try a different path. Surround yourself with the people you trust the most and simply connect. Traveling like more than a tourist does not only mean traveling off the beaten path. Rather, it’s about finding ways to channel your wanderlust when you start to get too comfortable.

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Photo credit: Spiti Ecosphere, India

Top photo credit: Sacred Arts Research Foundation

About Visit .Org

Visit .OrgVisit.org in an online platform for tours & activities offered by nonprofit organizations around the world. Our visits do not include service work, instead they are designed as tours, workshops, and activities offered by members of the local community. Travelers can build full itineraries with these half-day experiences or simply add them to existing travel plans.

One thought on “14 Things You Experience When Traveling as More Than a Tourist

  1. Avatar
    Matthieu
    August 11, 2016
    Reply

    Awesome article 🙂 I visited a nonprofit in France and in the Philippines, and definitely my best experiences!

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