I’ve almost become desensitized to images of amazing, foreign countries on Instagram. Every day it seems, I have a friend that posts a picture of them gazing over Machu Picchu, or smiling with the Eiffel Tower as the backdrop. Not to say I’ve never done the same; I definitely have posted that Machu Picchu picture. It’s a common question among my friends. How did you afford to do all of this traveling? There’s no magic secret or formula. I saved my money and went.
In the meantime, my sense of curiosity still ran wild and I had no choice but to get acquainted with my own city. Through exploring my own city, I took on a new perspective and was able to explore the world. Here’s how to travel the world without leaving home:
I would argue that—other than meeting a local—there is no better way to understand a country than through their food. Luckily, I live in Montréal, which is one of the most diverse food cities I’ve ever been in.
You can find any kind of food you want from Ethiopian to Moroccan to Venezuelan. You may not have the budget to get on a plane and go to that particular country, but immigrants have made that journey to your city and brought with them their culinary traditions. If I ever need to be reminded of Thailand, I head to my favorite Thai place and get the Pad Thai. All of a sudden, visions of me going rogue in Southeast Asia flashback to me, seeing temples along the road and watching elephants stroll by.
Every country has their own cultural event. Whether it be a Greek festival, Irish Saint Patrick’s Day, or the 4th of July in the US, there is always some country in the world celebrating something. There is no better way to understand a country’s history than to watch their celebrations. Do some research and find different cultural events happening in your city. Chances are they would be more than happy—honored even—to have you join and find out more about their unique traditions.
Friends From Around The World
Friends from every corner of the world help a lot when it comes to understanding different countries and feeling like you’ve traveled to a different place. For example, here in Montreal, I have friends from Peru, Pakistan, Australia, US, France, Lebanon, and Iran. These are just the countries I can think of off the top of my head. Talk to them about their experiences or their parents’ experiences. There are not many better ways to understand a country than getting a first-hand story. For example, a friend of mine left Cuba when he was 8. I love when he tells stories of his childhood, playing and dancing in the streets of Havana. The funny part is you may understand a country better by talking to an immigrant or children of immigrants than someone who traveled to that country, stayed in a hostel, and had little interaction with locals. Ask your friends about how their country sees different norms. It’s an amazing way to see how different yet similar each country and culture is.
Learn A Language
In today’s world of accessible technology and us literally having computers in our pockets, there is no excuse not to start learning a language if you really want to. There are apps such as Duolingo that help you practice and speak. The best part is you can start learning languages in as little as 20 minutes a day. I may be different than most, or just love languages, but when I travel to a new country, I always start learning the basics of a language. I find it is a great way to get excited about an upcoming trip and it helps remind me to cut costs where I can to save for my trip. If you don’t have a trip booked soon, it’s still a great way to learn more about another country and to feel like you are traveling (even when you’re not). You can even join a local language club or exchanges. You tend to meet like-minded people who enjoy traveling and learning about other cultures. Who knows, maybe you will even meet your next travel partner!
Read A Travel Magazine
I know what you are thinking. “Grant, I don’t live in a big city, I live in a rural one, and we don’t have any of this stuff you mentioned here, what do I do?” Great point. A lot of the things I mentioned are for big city people. However, a travel magazine is a great way to get interested in other parts of the world without even leaving your house! All you need is a good cup of coffee, a couple of hours, and be ready to be transported to a foreign country. Anyone can do this at any time and with any budget. Be ready to be inspired.
Going into nature is one of the best things to do when you get the travel bug. You feel like you are in a completely different world where you are able to relax and take in the smaller details. I find going for an intense hike gives me the same sort of rush as exploring a new country or city. It doesn’t matter if it is half, full, or multi-day hike. All I really need is a few hours surrounded by forest, birds, and animals and it’ll satisfy my travel bug for a bit. Of course, it always comes back (only next time more intense!)
I love to dance. Whether it be Samba, Salsa, or a Waltz, I love learning any kind of dance. Most dances are closely tied in with culture. An added bonus about dancing is that there is a physical exercise component. Trust me, I’ve never sweat more than taking a Salsa class. I love going to salsa bars, meeting new people, and listening to different Latin music. It allows me to feel like I am still traveling around South America for a few hours.