What Travel Can’t Show You
When traveling, you can see new sights, spend time with friends, make new contacts along the way, and spend a few days living in a way you don’t at home—whether that means partying or relaxing.
What travel cannot do:
Give you a true understanding of another place and culture.
Traveler means visitor. Traveler means guest. Traveler means tourist. All these descriptors ensure that locals will treat you differently.
Also, while a traveler, you fill your days seeing and doing things that locals don’t do. You eat in restaurants that cater to the traveling set. You stay in hotels and bed-and-breakfasts and hostels in areas where locals don’t live. Tour guides entertain you to earn fares and tips, telling tales to suit their moods, their political and cultural biases, and their takes on you as a tourist.
Truly, you cannot know a culture, people, or place without living there for a sustained period—and living like the locals do. And how often can that happen in a single lifetime?
When you live somewhere, everyone and everything doesn’t exist to serve you.
Want to gain knowledge of a different place?
Read a book written by someone in that culture. Study a country’s newspapers and magazines for a sustained period to understand what matters to it and how its people see the world. Watch films made by people who live there for locals (not foreign distribution).
By all means: Travel. Yet value touring for relaxation, fun, play, a break from your norm. Don’t trump it into something more edifying than reality permits.
What’s your take?