From sailing the Adriatic Sea, to backpacking through the Pyrenees, an increasing number of global nomads are choosing to invest in travel. In fact, Trekksoft’s 2016 Tourism Report reveals that Millennials are 23% more likely to go abroad than previous generations, seeking spontaneous adventure and revitalizing the tourism market worldwide.

With so many destinations offering diverse cultural experiences, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for making the most of international trips. Nevertheless, ensuring that you travel with an open mind and a desire to grow is the most important part of any itinerary. In honor of World Tourism Day on September 27, enjoy these four tips to maximize your cultural immersion and create lifelong memories.

  1. Local Language: Before making a bee-line for the English audio guides or asking for a translated menu, consider prepping for your trip by learning some basic words in the local language. Apps such as Duolingo and Memrise can help you achieve baseline understanding. There’s nothing like immersion to help develop your language skills. Not to mention, the locals will appreciate your effort to communicate, and more than likely will meet you halfway.
  2. Get Uncomfortable: Travel forces us out of our routine and comfort zone; which can encourage us to seek home comforts instead of trying something new. Maybe lunchtime cravings strike, and with the globalization of restaurant chains such as Subway and McDonald’s, it can be tempting to go straight for well-known favorites. Or go straight back to your hotel, and consider calling a taxi instead of dealing with unfamiliar transport systems. Join the 69% of global travelers ready to try something new this year. Take each challenge as an opportunity to experience life in a new way, and opt for the unknown. Prepare by looking up your intercity itinerary beforehand, or by choosing local restaurants with regional specialties.
  3. Picture Perfect? Don’t stand on the sidelines taking insta-perfect pictures or posing with your selfie stick! Tourism is not a photo-op, but an enriching opportunity to grow as more global-minded citizens. Research from Fairfield University and the Psychonomic Bulletin suggests that not only can taking too many photos actually impair your ability to recall your experience, but reduce the emotional intensity of your memories. Take a few snapshots here and there, and spend the rest of your time in the moment.
  4. Digging Deeper: Instead of simply admiring Santiago’s street art or marveling at Machu Picchu, take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the history and cultural importance of local monuments. Ask a museum guide or a friendly native about their insight on the wonders of their region. Learn first-hand about the creativity, ingenuity, beliefs, and values that culminated in the global wonders before your eyes.

Whether you’re jetting off for a new adventure, or revisiting a beloved destination, take the time to invest in your experience and develop deeper cultural understanding.

Sharon Schweitzer and Amanda Alden co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards

Amanda Alden is an intercultural research assistant with Access to Culture. She graduated with honors from St. Edward’s University with a major in Global Studies and a minor in French, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Intercultural Mediations at l’Université de Lille III. Feel free to connect with Amanda at on LinkedIn

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