I sometimes hear people who are about to take a trip saying that it is not a ‘real’ trip. They go in an all-inclusive resort, or they go visit family, or else. What is a ‘real’ trip? Who are the ‘real’ planet travelers? Travelers that are having homestays? People that already have traveled around the world? If I travel in my own country, I can’t be a real traveler, or could I?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. I am only going to tell you my opinion. It will be up to you to make your own.
I think a real traveler is someone who, when going somewhere else than his or her hometown, is experiencing something new about that place, its people, its culture. The more you experiment, the more real you are as a traveler.
You know what I am talking about. I can travel to the other side of the planet, and stick to my ways: eat the same food I eat back home, sleep in a similar or even better room than my own, and speak the same language. I could visit places and learn stuff, but it would have been the same as if I would have watched the National Geographic channel.
The thing is with experimenting and experiencing: it will change you. Your life experience is shaping your mind and your brain. Did you know that interpersonal contacts are among the major causes of neuronal connections? It means that when you connect with someone else (talk, laugh, argue, etc.), there are new connections that are made in your brain. So to interact with someone will change you, and even make you smarter!
‘Change? I don’t want to change!’ some might say. But change is a constant in life. You will change anyway, even if you stay home and do nothing: you will become a grumpy old person who thinks he is always right!
Change makes us grow; so we could say that traveling makes us grow too. The interactions and experiments you are having will change you forever, in a good way.
I’m not saying that 5 stars hotels have to be avoided if you want to experience the real local lifestyle, you just won’t experience that part of their culture. You can still experience everything else. And you don’t HAVE to eat snakes, monkey’s brain or tarantulas, but you could get a little bit out of your comfort zone and try fully cooked street food.
I wish I was more of a ‘real’ planet traveler… there’s still some stuff that I won’t experiment. But traveling, even if we get out of our comfort zones, have to be fun. For me, sleeping on someone else’s couch isn’t fun. But if I can have a homestay with clean sheets on a decent bed, I’m all for it! So let’s just try new stuff, let our guards down, experiment, laugh at ourselves, and see how grown, smart and easy going we’re becoming.