"Traveling ten thousand miles is equivalent to reading ten thousand books."
Ancient Chinese Proverb
Traveling is indeed a learning experience. Traveling forces us to live outside our comfort zones and alters our perspective on things. Learning about another culture involves more than visiting museums, archeological ruins, and national monuments. So what is the best way to experience another culture?
The first step is to do some research before the trip. Reading travel guides will provide practical information but also, the better ones, have sections on the local culture and customs. Travel journals can be interesting too. When getting there, it’s essential to keep an open and respectful mind.
Staying at hotels and touristy places does not help. This is one reason travelers are turning to home exchange. It allows them to live in a “real” home surrounded by people who live and work in that place. Buying food at the local grocery store, using public transportation, talking to the neighbors (who will not be other travelers) are good ways to experience the culture.
Spending more time in one place rather than running around trying to see all the landmarks will allow time to observe local life. Sitting at sidewalk cafes, on park benches and wandering around on foot are great ways to experience a place. Eat where the locals eat.
Finally, don’t plan every minute and every activity on your trip: embrace the unfamiliar and the unexpected. You trip will be much more interesting.
See www.transitionsabroad.com/experience-culture for an interesting article on how to experience culture authentically when travelling.