How to Learn While Traveling

Picture: A stunning church in Lima, Peru, a country where I learned so much I could probably write a book about it

Happy learning month friends!! I had a few posts on my idea log for this site and noticed I had enough to fill out the month of October, aka learning month. Every post you will see from me will have something to do with learning. I love learning, I find that it helps me expand my entire world and keeps life interesting. I always want to learn, whether I am a student or not.

I think it’s important to start this month off by saying: learning is not just in school. We are humans and part of our nature means learning to adapt and change, learning new skills to simplify our daily lives, learning how to be better people, and so much more. Today, I will be discussing one of my favorite forms of learning: learning while traveling. I have had the privilege of being able to travel from the wee age of 18 months old, and through that travel, I have picked up so much knowledge about people, life, and the world in which we live. How does one do this? To some, the world is such a vast place, learning from it might be very overwhelming. Today, I will break that all down for you and hope on your next adventure, no matter how far you go, you learn something new.

Traveling exposes you to so much, so long as you are open to it. In order to fully experience a place, go in with few expectations. If you go with a preconceived mindset about a place, the people in it, etc. it keeps you from being open to the different beauties the place you are going has to offer. Just because you are used to doing something a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way or the way everyone else has to do it. I could go on and on about the construction of culture, however, you are not here for an anthropology discussion. But I will share, there is something beautiful about the fact that different groups of people form their societies in different ways. You don’t have to agree entirely, but it makes the world a uniquely beautiful place.

Do a bit of research beforehand, then take advantage of being able to experience that research while being there. For example, everywhere I go, I like to look at the typical foods and food customs to prepare myself for when I go (food customs differ from place to place, it’s important to educate yourself on what’s rude before you get there, this applies to customs across the culture, not just food). In some parts of Europe, for example, it is rude to make modifications to the menu, knowing this (using the right mindset of course) it’s exciting to experience the food exactly how it was meant to be prepared. If I were have gone in asking for some sort of change, I wouldn’t have experienced the absolute heaven the food truly is. This applies to other cultural things too, like churches, architecture, art, etc. Giving yourself an outlined understanding about what you will come across will allow you to better immerse yourself into what you are seeing as well as ask questions to those around, and make connections to the inter-workings of the culture you are visiting. Basically, travel learning peaks when you become a mini anthropologist.

Don’t be scared to wander off on the beaten path. Some of my favorite moments from travel come from those that were more spontaneous. It’s the stumbling across the alleyways in Seville, Spain, and accidentally finding an absolutely excellent tapas place. Or walking through one of the cities in Cinque Terre, Italy, and stumbling across a cemetery overviewing the ocean, which was honestly one of the most stunning things I have ever seen. The beaten path doesn’t just mean it literally while walking. It could also mean that you can steer away from the touristy places, which is where you get the experience that is slightly manipulated for what the tourist wants, which typically is not the authentic experience of that place. This goes back to my doing research point, research places. Hunt for the places that the locals spend their time or the places that have not been touched yet by mass tourism. These places are going to be the ones that best connect you to the authenticity of the place you’re going to. You’re going to learn a lot more when you go exploring because we learn by doing, therefore using those authentic, first-hand experiences to get to know a place will be far more beneficial to connect and learn about the places you visit.

Going to museums is an excellent way to learn about the places you are going to. You might be rolling your eyes at me and saying that that’s boring, but that’s because your mindset is in the wrong place. As my dad would tell me growing up “Boredom is a personal problem,” and hearing that all these years ensure that I do my best to make every experience interesting. Museums are not just art (although art museums are wonderful), I’ve gone to a purse museum in Amsterdam, libraries across the world, universities in Portugal, churches within every nation I’ve visited, palaces of the royals that defined Europe’s history, etc. Museums, to me, are structures that showcase the cultures you visit. All of these provide a story, learning the history helps you understand and connect to the dynamic today (can you tell I’m the daughter of a history teacher). In school, we only hear about a small fragment of the world’s story, going to these museums (an umbrella term for all kinds of structures that display culture) allows you to go beyond the textbooks. Now, in order for this learning to be effective, you HAVE to be open to it. Learning is fun if you make it fun, meaning you don’t have to look at every single painting in the museum, just go to what you’re drawn to.

Lastly, meet people. When you put yourself in a position to connect with the locals, you will learn a lot from each other. When you want to learn about the place, go directly to the source to those who interact with it on a regular basis. They will show you the ropes of what it means to be an inhabitant of the place. Even meeting the local business owners teaches you so much. They always have stories to tell if you ask them, and they really connect you to their culture.

For more stories about my travels, check out these travel posts!

I will always stand by learning as one of the greatest joys we can access as humans, especially through travel. I hope you take these tips with you on your next adventure. Don’t forget to stay vibin!

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