4. Traveling isn't as scary as it's made out to be
Many of my friends at home aren't into traveling for several reasons - one being safety. You can't deny that you hear stories about horrible things happening to people while traveling. Unfortunately, those things do happen and they are tragic - but they aren't the norm. I guess it also doesn't help watching movies like Taken or Hostel...
A major problem is that when some people travel, they throw away all their inhibitions and do things they normally wouldn't do at home. A way of traveling safe - just be aware of your surroundings, don't do things that are risky (i.e. don't stay late at bars in neighborhoods that you're not comfortable in), and trust your gut. Basically, if you wouldn't do something at home, don't do it when traveling in a foreign country! If anything, be more reserved and cautious. Also, there's nothing wrong with staying on the beaten path and going to places that are used to/serve tourists.
|Kids on their way to school in Egypt|
I'm not saying that everyone around the world faces the same problems - because as an American, I know I could never completely understand the problems of someone who is...let's say...North Korean. However, while traveling, I've found that the people I've come across (from Asia to Central America) are more similar than one would think. Everyone has to deal with their day-to-day issues, relationships, etc.
2. It's okay to be a tourist
I never want to become one of those seasoned travelers who scoff at the touristy things. When I'm in Paris, I love standing in front and marveling at the Eiffel Tower - and when I'm in Italy, I'm going to eat some gelato. There's nothing worse than hearing a traveler say "I'm not a tourist" (umm, yes you are) OR "I wouldn't waste my time going to (enter a tourist destination here) . Less traveled places are fun in their own right, and some of my favorite memories have been when I've happened upon a place. But, do the touristy stuff (these places are iconic for a reason!) - and try not to become one of those people who thinks they're better and beyond that.
We've come to find that American tourists aren't as bad as they're made out to be. Sure, I can see the picture now - the guy with the fanny pack and huge camera whose pushy because he's going to make sure that his family sees something first. Or, the college kid who plays into all the Eurotrip stereotypes. But honestly, when I've been cut in line or pushed out of the way, 95% of the time it's not by an American. Give us a break, please! I know we can be easy targets.
Also, I've never come across a rude Parisian - although I know that the "rude French" is a widespread stereotype that many people agree with. Think of it this way ... when a tourist is in your town are you totally accommodating? It's all about perspective... I know that I'd probably groan about a minivan traveling down I-4 at 50mph going to Disney World OR a car swerving all over the road with a tourist inside who has no idea where to go. During the height of tourist season in Paris, Parisians are probably just tired of having deal with crowds in their beautiful city.
However, there are some stereotypes that have been totally spot on - like the one about the Japanese being civil and very accommodating. Several times we were 2 very lost travelers in Shinjuku Station who have no idea how to get around on Tokyo's crazy metro. Every person we came across from the moment we landed at Narita went out of their way for us - from the janitor at the airport to be women working at the metro.