In recent decades, travel has become an increasingly popular pastime around the world: nearly 1.5 billion people traveled internationally in 2018, an increase of 50% in just ten years. And yet as traveler and photography enthusiast Dave Highbloom reminds us, making a few simple adjustments to how you travel can have a profound impact on the value you take from your journey. As you plan your next excursion, Dave offers a few pieces of unique advice to help make your trip safer, easier, and even more fun.

Savor the Differences in Daily Life

It’s not just the scenery that changes when you travel; so too do the daily routines of the people around you. Dave Highbloom recommends immersing yourself in these small but profound differences by spending some time focusing on the mundane things that we all take for granted in our own daily lives: sitting quietly at an outdoor café, a park bench, or a busy street corner and simply observing the people around you. Pay attention to the small details: the smells of a nearby bakery, the buzz of people conversing, the colors of banners and signs promoting local businesses. These rich sensory experiences too often go unnoticed by travelers who are focus too heavily on big, impressive tourist attractions. Chances are, your memories of the time you spend simply observing the scenery around you will be longer-lasting and more cherished than your memory of visiting some famous building or museum.

Spread Joy by Lending a Helping Hand

Dave has one piece of advice that you’re unlikely to hear (or read) anywhere else: during your next vacation, earmark a day or half a day to volunteer at a local non-profit. Working for the benefit of others is a beautiful way to spread joy, connect with people you may not otherwise have the opportunity to interact with, and gain new insight into the culture you’re visiting. If you do decide to volunteer, be mindful in selecting an organization to volunteer for. Unfortunately, many organizations around the world are willing to take advantage of your kindness, and you may find yourself the victim of a scam. Research reputable volunteer opportunities in your destination country, and opt for an organization that is well known and well respected. This isn’t as hard as it may sound; online resources like Grassroots Volunteering, which international volunteers discover service opportunities, can turn your desire to help others into a reality. 

Go Deep

If you truly want to immerse yourself in another culture, there is no better way to do so than to actually live in it. Dave Highbloom strongly recommends homestays as a means of connecting with a place, its people, and their daily lives. Whether working on a functioning farm in Australia with his family or visiting in a Maasai village in Kenya, Dave’s own experiences have brought him into close contact with people all over the world. The experiences and interactions Dave was able to have through these living situations could not have been replicated in any other way, and are some of Dave’s most cherished travel experiences. 

If you are fortunate enough to travel, understand that this is a privilege. Be mindful of your surroundings and of your interactions with others. Of course, you should capture your journey in photographs – but don’t spend the entire trip behind a camera or cell phone. Make a conscious effort to be present and to immerse yourself in your destination and its people. Most importantly, remember to exchange the most important form of global currency – a smile – with the people you meet along the way.

Source for the travel statistics:

https://ourworldindata.org/tourism