The opinions expressed in this post are mine based on my experiences, I am not trying to impose them on anyone, I am sharing them from my own experiences. If you have a different opinion, that’s perfectly fine and you are welcome to share it in the comments.
Imagine someone comes into your home and they look around your home and immediately find that your home is set up wrong and they don’t like the way your living room is set up and they “Oh how can you possibly live with your toilet paper roll hanging backwards” and “why would you put the baby’s crib so far away from your bedroom” – I am pretty sure if someone questioned the way you live your life, the style of your parenting, the way your home is set up, the way you sort your groceries in the fridge, you would not welcome them again in your home, because they would make you feel uneasy by being so judgmental.
Let’s examine of what it means to be open minded:
Open mindedness is when even if you think you are right, you know that you can be wrong and are always willing to listen to and hear an opposing or contradictory view.
Open minded people have views but know that their views do not have to be held by everyone. Open minded people also know that their views can be wrong.
(Source: Urban Dictionary)
For years we learn how our own culture expects of us to live our lives and we are taught by society to conform to a certain way of living and acting, how to have manors, what it means to be respectful, how we should dress at work/school/for certain occasions, etc. etc., so when we travel to different parts of the world, it is very easy to judge another cultures customs and compare them to the beliefs we are rooted in on what is the “right” way.
If everyone in the world would live in a way that was right in our own minds, what would be the point of travelling in the first place?! Embrace the differences, be open minded, and be compassionate to other cultures and customs. As much as we’d like to think that, we are not always right and our way is not always the best way and we can surely learn a whole lot by being open minded and allowing ourselves to learn about alternative ways to do things and maybe eventually we can even put our ego aside and adapt other ways, because we will admit that those are better ways to live, act, cook, eat, celebrate, respect, what ever that may be.
If you travel and all you do is judge other cultures and people on the way they live life, their traditions, the way they prepare their food, the way they raise their children, you will certainly quickly lose the enjoyment of traveling.
At any point in time, our views about the world and about life are limited by our life experience. I admit, when I first went to Africa, my first impressions were influenced by culture shock, but I consciously tried to have an open mind and listen to different viewpoints and I was genuinely interested to learn about the beliefs and customs in Tanzania. Once I got to know some local people who I built strong friendships with, I had a lot of deep conversations about why certain beliefs are the way they are that were really honest and at times honestly a bit uncomfortable, but I am so appreciative that I was able to have these conversations and really learn about Tanzanian life beyond what can be seen on the surface, experienced as a tourist, or shared on a blog.
I certainly would have never been able to learn and understand these things if I would have been closed minded and immediately dismissed and judged how certain situations are handled and how life is lived (on so many levels) – but in conclusion, once I put all the pieces together and when I imagined myself living in those type of conditions with those type of resources they are living with, it actually made sense to me.
It was also only then, when things started feeling normal, and I didn’t take things personal or felt any longer that they wrong, inappropriate, or weird. Those moments that you can emerge into a different part of the world, into different culture, for me are the most precious moments of travel.
How we live our lives is circumstantial, depending on our resources, on our knowledge, and sometimes even just on being at the right place at the right time (or vice versa). Circumstances influence of what we are able to do, how we feel emotionally, how we act, and generally how we live life. And it’s like this for every single person in this world – so it is unfair of us to judge how others live their lives without knowing their circumstances and their story.
Tips on Travelling with an Open Mind
- Be compassionate
- Meet some locals and listen to their stories – most people love to talk about their country and culture
- Try to imagine what you would live if you were living under different circumstances
- Learn about the other culture
- Ask questions to understand the reasoning behind certain actions
- Research to see if those reasons have validation and can convince you to change your own mind
- Be spontaneous
- Get off the beaten path
- Learn about the history of that country/culture/tribe
- Try new things
- Try new food
- Be patient
- Observe daily life
Have you experienced culture shock? Have you experienced situations where you were sure to be right, but were eventually proven wrong? Do you consider yourself to be an open-minded traveler?