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Love stepping out of your comfort zone? Feel compelled to explore all corners of the earth? Eager for authentic cultural experiences and mind-expanding landscapes? Have an incurable lust for adventure? Replying yes to any of these means you’re well on the way to being a true traveler; but if you can also tick off the following 15 things, you’ve already got there.
Some of the most amazing places on Earth are not the easiest to access. For this reason, overnight travel is often the most efficient or sometimes the only way to reach your destination. A true traveler will not be phased by the idea of spending the night en route to their destination, even though it might be ranked as one of the most uncomfortable night’s sleep (or attempted sleep) they’ve ever had.
It’s far different to pass between countries via air transportation rather than physically walk across a border, especially in a developing country. Crossing from Costa Rica to Panama or Nicaragua to Costa Rica, for example, requires patience, the ability to not question the arcane system, and navigation of the slew of people trying to sell you immigration forms (which are actually free) or those insistent on “helping” you by showing you the way to their taxi. A true traveler knows that this is all just part of the adventure.
A true traveler will not forgo a trip because they don’t have someone to travel with, or that they initially have to travel alone in order to meet their travel partner or group at the designated destination. There is something truly unique about traveling solo – something only those who’ve traveled alone will understand.
The ability to communicate in a multitude of languages is one of the greatest assets you can have as a world traveler. However, most of us only speak one or two languages. There are well over 6,000 spoken languages in the world today and 23 of those are spoken among over half of the world’s population.
The best thing to do when traveling to a country where you don’t speak the native tongue is learn how to at least say hello, goodbye and thank you. Obviously, the more you can pick up the better, but using a country’s basic greetings is highly appreciated by locals. True travelers know this.
In line with the above point, true travelers have had to resort to pantomime to communicate in a country where they don’t speak the native language. Using hand motions, exaggerated facial expressions or acting out scenes is sometimes the only option when responding to a situation where you can’t communicate verbally. More people than you might expect are actually really great at playing charades!
A true traveler has realized the value of having an unblocked phone, and how easy it is to acquire a SIM card, local telephone number and internet plan. A phone can come in handy for navigation purposes (Google Maps), communicating with new friends or people with whom you plan on meeting and of course for emergency situations away from WiFi. Most of the time it’s as easy as buying a SIM card at a convenience store and purchasing a prepaid card with minutes.
As a true traveler, you have come to realize that most non-true travelers tend to subscribe to what they are told about a certain place and believe it full heartedly without ever having set foot there. Common comments include: “that place is so dangerous,” “the people there hate tourists from [insert country],” or “you will definitely get kidnapped, robbed, or sick in [insert place of interest].” When finding yourself in this type of verbal situation, you have defended the country in question to the end – your experiences mean you know these acquisitions aren’t true.
“The media” may have everyone else convinced the world is this scary and dangerous place where everyone is out to get you, but you know this is far from reality. While there are a handful of terrible people who frequently make world headlines, the rest of the billions of people aren’t affiliated with such hostility. You’ve realized that most places aren’t any more dangerous than the place in which you call home.
Unfortunately, it is possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but as a true traveler you know that the wrong place and time could be steps away from your front door. While everyone else is living in media-sensationalized fear, you are out experiencing the wonder in the world.
The French writer Andre Gide once said that, “man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” While this is true, from a philosophical standpoint it suggests our inability to discover the world within us and outside of us if we aren’t willing to leap away from our comfort zone. A true traveler will realize this, as well as have literally lost sight of land while on an aqueous adventure.
Or, anywhere other than a hotel, hostel or house.
Mother Earth is decorated by natural phenomena only visible to those who open their eyes to them. A true traveler knows to look up, around and even underneath the surface to find hidden miracles of the natural world. Natural phenomena like the Northern Lights in Norway, a bioluminescent plankton bloom in the Tasmania and a tidal bore on the Amazon River are just a few of the jaw-dropping wonders of our world that only further fuel the true traveler’s wanderlust craving.
A true traveler has been in the presence of giants at least once on their escapades. This could be standing at the base of a massive waterfall, throwing your head back to look up at an ancient, ginormous redwood tree, feeling humbled by the passing of a 100-foot blue whale, or marveling at the intricate construction of the Egyptian pyramids.
There are innumerable fascinating celebrations, rituals and festivals all across the globe and throughout the year. Observing or participating in traditional practices or events in the country you’re visiting is a mind-shifting experience unmatched by any other. True travelers will seek out cultural celebrations and events like the Festival of Lights in India, Carnival in Brazil, Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Thailand and La Tomatina in Spain.
There is nothing quite as delicious as eating gallo pinto in Costa Rica, handmade pasta in Italy, paella from Spain, macrons in France or pho in Vietnam. A true traveler will find themselves craving traditional dishes from the places they’ve visited, and to placate their worldly palate they will either seek out authentic restaurants in their area or attempt to recreate the dish at home.
After spending time in other cultures and embracing different ways of life, true travelers will often incorporate practices that bring meaning or benefit into their daily life back home. This might include things like morning meditation, daily yoga practice, afternoon mate tea, or perhaps eating a cheese plate with a glass of red wine after dinner but before dessert like the French.
Ticked all of these off? Congratulations, it’s safe to say you’re most definitely a true traveler.