Like it or not, the stereotypical American tourist isn’t pretty: She mindlessly consumes all-inclusive drinks, overpacks, and has a reputation for expecting everyone around her to speak English. Many of us find ourselves herded onto crowded tour buses, spending a few days binging on food and drink with other tourists, and then being bustled home without ever encountering the local culture, language, or landscape. After returning home exhausted and disconnected after a few so called “vacations”, I now strive to be a more thoughtful traveler. Turns out it isn’t that hard: by practicing just a few good manners and creating a thoughtful itinerary, I’ve left the Ugly American behind for good. And after a bit of research (and catching up with a few in-the-know adventurers), I’ve put pen to paper for 7 ways you can be a more thoughtful traveler on your next vacation.
Mingling with locals, volunteering, and learning new skills may not sound like the typical American vacation, but let’s face it: the American tourist stereotype could use a refresh.
Courtney Williams is a writer, editor, and publisher of print, digital, social, and mobile content. Check out her portfolio at Tribe + Works.
featured image from jcrew
Study up on the Local Language.
In our globally connected age of technology, almost everyone has access to online resources and a few moments to spare before boarding the plane. Even knowing a few key phrases – such as please and thank you – will go a long way in earning respect from the locals. Download Duolingo (a free and fun language learning app) before your next trip, and if you’re really serious be sure and check out our story on how to learn a new language in one year.
Dress the Part.
When packing, remember that less is more. There’s no need to pack your entire wardrobe. Choose basics or favorite pieces and save room to be able to pick up unique accessories and gifts on your travels. While you’re at it, shop the local markets and source local artisans – helping the economies of the local communities you’re visiting. While showing skin may be par for the course in sunny Miami, for instance, be mindful that covering up tastefully is essential to blend in respectfully in many parts of the world.
Take an Impact Trip.
Often a life changing experience can bring with it a new level of awareness and connectivity with the world around us. Intrepid Travel offers small group tours across the globe connecting adventures with local guides. Intrepid Charity Treks offer travelers an opportunity to explore and make a difference in areas of the world most in need, such as Nepal. Explore Nepal and hike Mt. Everest while fundraising in helping to rebuild local communities. Can’t make the trek? Donate.
Sustainability, Meet Luxury.
There is a new class of hotels merging sustainable practices with 5 Star accommodations and amenities. 1 Hotels is leading this movement in experiential travel where sustainability, nature, community, and luxury co-exist harmoniously. When staying at the 1 Hotel South Beach, guests can volunteer with the Surfrider Foundation, cleaning up local beaches. Other sustainable properties we can’t wait to visit include: Hotel San Cristobal in Todos Santos, Petit Hotel Hafa in Saylita, Mexico, and the Harmony Hotel near Playa Guiones, Nosara.
Learn a New Craft.
Immerse yourself in local culture through learning a new skill you can take home and incorporate into your daily life. If the culinary arts and wine tastings with a Mediterranean backdrop sound appealing, check out the family owned La Foresteria Planeta Estate in Sicily. Workshops with Chef Angelo Pumilia teach the traditions of Sicilian cooking and experiment with fresh seafood, native vegetables, local olive oils, and herbs grown on property. Or if French cuisine is more your thing, check out the amazing Médoc workshops hosted by our former contributor, Mimi Thorisson.
Make Room for Wellness.
Whatever the destination may be, take time to nurture yourself and incorporate wellness into your trip. Enjoy open-air massage treatments fusing elements of the sea and yoga classes to the sound of crashing waves in Tulum. Immerse yourself in the geo thermal mineral waters that have been a trusted source of healing for thousands of years in New Mexico’s Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa.
Travel with Benefits.
Giving back and helping others isn’t just a nice thing to do, it can help boost personal happiness and fulfillment. Now you can explore destinations, hotels, and local + global charities and causes through an innovative new booking platform, launching this summer, Kind Traveler. The Public Benefit Corporation and online booking platform takes travel to new heights promoting wellness, sustainability, and community. Travelers donate directly to local and global charities and in return receive discounts and insider access to some of the world’s best hotels and unique experiences.