Do you dream of making meaningful connections and memories when you travel?
By conducting a little pre-travel research you can deepen your knowledge and appreciation of the culture.
Here are some reading activities that can help you prepare for cultural travel by giving insight into your next destination.
Some folks don’t want to research a place before they get there.
They want to discover new things in the moment.
I respect that, but sometimes practical information is great to have.
It enables you to get the most out of your trip in multiple ways.
A destination guide can give you important cultural insight into the behavioral expectations of a country.
This is especially true if you are heading to a destination that you anticipate will be very different from where you live.
No matter how much you prepare or think you know before your trip there will be surprises. Culture shock is a real thing!
Knowing how or when to eat. What not to do in a public place or what is acceptable.
Perhaps how to dress or what to avoid.
All of this knowledge will make for a smoother experience and could save you from a potentially embarrassing situation.
You are an ambassador for your own country and want to show your best self.
People everywhere appreciate the effort and respect for their way of life.
Knowing where things are located and when they’re open is valuable information.
It can save time when you travel which can be priceless if you are on a short trip.
Something as simple as preloading a map or a transportation app will provide you with the necessary tools to get around.
Also, it is handy to have a list of restaurants you may potentially dine at, neighborhoods you’d like to visit, or attractions that sound appealing.
This doesn’t mean you are locked into those things but it is nice to have in case you are stuck once you’re there.
Sometimes the choices seem overwhelming, (or underwhelming!) once you arrive.
Standing about undecided wastes precious time that could be used immersing yourself in the moment, as opposed to bowing your head to your phone while searching.
Sometimes, reading about certain activities or points of interest may lead you to realize it is not something you would be interested in after all.
So time is saved allowing you to skip something that doesn’t appeal to you.
These helpful reading ideas will not only enrich your cultural travel it can also rescue you from disappointing moments.
For example, if a museum you had your heart set on seeing is closed on the day you were planning to go.
In certain cultures, some days of the week may hold religious significance and therefore businesses may be closed.
During certain times of the day the community may grind to a halt as per custom and then restart again.
This is true in parts of Spain where restaurants close after lunch only to reopen later in the evening.
Rest assured, there will be plenty of open-ended time left to make discoveries in organic ways.
However, a little practical background knowledge helps avoid pitfalls that could put a damper on your travels.
Using a destination guide can offer a greater understanding of everything around you.
Your surroundings may be rich with history and meaning that will be lost on you without any awareness of these things.
Historical context or significance will help you deeply appreciate what you see.
Who doesn’t love a gripping novel?
How about one set in your travel destination?
Discovering landscapes and landmarks, all brought to you by a favorite author, can be fun!
Through the adventures of the characters, you can create an understanding of the cultural background you are about to experience
Consequently, points of interest and historical context will help you build a connection to where you will soon be.
Conversely, many a trip has been inspired by an imaginative tale of a far-away place.
Beware, reading great fiction may intensify your desire for cultural travel.
Stories are universal and will help you prepare for cultural travel.
Folktales, storytelling, music, and dance have been used to educate and entertain people for thousands of years.
All of these things are a reflection of that society’s values and culture.
It’s a way to discover differences and connections by revealing common themes of humanity.
Did you know there are over 800 versions of “Cinderella” all over the world?
In the United States, most people are familiar with the Walt Disney retelling of this story.
Before you travel why not seek out a regional rendition of this tale or some other favorite?
Here are some examples.
The most delicious way to prepare for cultural travel is through food.
Cookbooks give you recipes, ingredients, and cooking directions.
Did you ever notice they often give you a history lesson about the dish or region as well?
Delve Into the cuisine of the region. Cook the dishes you plan to try for a taste of what’s ahead.
Back home you could reminisce upon your return by recreating a meal you had on your journey.
But I do have to warn you, it never tastes as good as it did when you were there discovering it for the first time.
Government Tourism Sites
Local city or community guides are easily found online and can give you helpful ideas for local culture.
It is their job to help prepare visitors for cultural travel so the information will usually be the most updated available.
You’ll find nearby attractions and upcoming events.
They also usually list places to stay and where to eat.
Learning the language, or languages, of a community, can give you great information about the people. The ability to read a sign or a menu will make you feel more comfortable when traveling in an unfamiliar culture.
Even if you don’t feel confident learning a new language, just knowing a few words or phrases will enhance your visit. While waiting in a line, or a few stolen moments can be all you need to pick up a few words and phrases.
Most people are appreciative of the effort to learn about their culture and it will increase the chances of positive interactions with locals.
I will always remember the incredulous reaction of a porter at a hotel I was checking into in Indonesia. I thanked him in his language and he was so excited I couldn’t help but laugh. Sadly, I had to break it to him that I only knew three Indonesian words; Hello, please, and thank you.
But it was enough. After that, for the next couple of days, we became great friends.
Google translate can also be helpful.
A small pocket phrasebook is helpful when the internet is not available.
Many public libraries offer free language learning programs online to their patrons for free.
Audiobooks and Podcasts
Audiobooks and podcasts are great to listen to and learn about a different culture.
They are also highly convenient for the times when it is impossible to kick your legs up and grab a book.
Listen to them when you are out for a walk, working out, or cleaning the house.
Driving, flying, and train rides are great opportunities for listening.
Many guidebooks, and of course, fiction are available in an audio format.
Podcasts are especially useful for learning about the location.
Shows related to ex-pat life discuss what it is like to be immersed and living in the culture. These first-hand experiences can be invaluable to you as a traveler.
Here is a list of additional travel podcasts to get you started.
The anticipation of discovering new places and experiences is exciting!
You can use these 7 helpful reading ideas to prepare for your travels.
Here are some tips on how to immerse yourself in the culture once you get there.
Are you a first time international traveler? Here is a handy guide with important tips for your first trip abroad.
93.02.05: Cultural Understanding through Folklore. https://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/1993/2/93.02.05.x.html. Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.
“What Is Folklore?” What Is Folklore?, https://whatisfolklore.org/. Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.