Why I'm Not American When I Travel

1:50 PM

Don't get me wrong I love being an American. This post is meant to open the eyes of my fellow travelers and to get rid of the blinders we all wear. When I travel, I don't deem myself as an "American" Minnesotan" or a "Chicagoan." After this summer, I will have traveled to 16 countries and all over the US. I wanted to give a little background on my experiences as a seasoned traveler, and no I'm not Anthony Bourdain but a girl can try. I wouldn't have the stories and memories to date if I didn't have the unparalleled desire to understand and embrace places other than home.

I'm going to Europe this summer with my boyfriend and I couldn't be more excited! We are going to Amsterdam, Croatia and Bosnia. If you couldn't already tell traveling is my passion. I know how hard it is to book that ticket because it seems that we never have enough time, money or patience for travel. Trust me- book the ticket a few months in advance and GO. Here are a few pictures of where I'll be heading in June- can you guess which place is which?

Even with all of the beauty and adventure of traveling it also brings a lot of sleep deprivation and moments of intolerance. Sometimes even during the best times of our trip, comes a time when we can't stop comparing the cultures to those of where we live. I'm not saying that you should embrace every custom that isn't your own, but once we obsessively compare our own cultures to those of where we are visiting, it makes it impossible to immerse ourselves in our surroundings.

It's easy to think "that's not how we do it back at home" or "why do they do things this way." People have cultural norms, customs, and languages far different from ours, but isn't the point of traveling to look outside of ourselves and learn? I believe that this is what really differentiates tourists from travelers. I'm not saying that when you see a McDonald's you don't stop in because you miss that greasy hamburger, but try something you'd never order off the menu at the next restaurant.

I truly believe that traveling helps you grow as a person. These memories you make last a lifetime and gives you deeper insight into the world. Every person I've met that can immerse themselves in other cultures other than their own is a more well-rounded, mature and interesting person.

The next time you travel take every opportunity and the possibility to embrace the changes you see, let's stop being so judgmental and pigeonholed to our own culture, whether that's where we live or where we were born.

Put down your map, don't plan every minute, forget the wait in the long tourist lines because it's the hottest attraction and stop taking a picture of everything you see. Instead- talk to strangers, meet the locals, wake up early, get to know the language even if it's just "hello", sit down in a local coffee shop and people watch. Immerse, immerse, immerse. If you're a good traveler you will feel the change once you get back to your everyday life.

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