The educated tourist

As I write this blog post, I am already counting down the days till I embark on my next trip. The anticipation is palpable, and in my mind I quake like a trained horse at the starting gate, ready for the signal to bolt down the dirt track with fury and thunder, as the soil kicks up from beneath my shod hoofs. Eleven days. Just eleven days till I depart. Although my anticipation is excitement, there is always nervousness of the unknown, as I know so little about the countries I will visit. But, isn’t that why we travel?

When I say I know so little about these countries, it is both true and false. I have sat down and read about Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and the Czech Republic. I know what kind of governments they have, received a brief rundown of their histories concerning communism and the reshaping of Europe after world war two, and their prominent cultures and religions. So, in that respect, I have done my research, and educated myself, but my nervousness comes from other things, the social faux pas’ one may commit in another’s country.

Travel to a country requires abandoning what we inherently think we know about that country, or what our society has taught us about the culture through mass media. Searching out literature on a country, travel guides like Lonely Planet and Bradt Travel, are a sure way to learn a small amount about your destination, with the least amount of time spent on research. It is easy to forget that as we visit a country, the locals are not there solely to entertain us, and that we are guests in their homeland. Just as many people bristle at the summer invasion which consumes the coast of Maine, as sleepy little towns become traffic snarls for miles on end, due to an overwhelming of our states highways, we must remember it is a two way street, and that we, at times, can become those people we detest.

I am reminded of the times when my friends and I traveled around Europe, talking to locals, asking them questions. We could converse on topics with them only because we had done minimal research before we arrived at our destination. You would be amazed at how people smiled and were pleased to see this, and we gained more from our interactions with these people, than if we acted the tourist, just snapping photos and trying to pronounce names of cities wholly butchering their names.

So again, as I research my trip to the Baltic nations of Europe, and a few others, I am still nervous with anticipation, because, well, in two weeks, I selfishly hope the Euro is still low as it is.

David Jester

About David Jester

David Jester lives in the Midcoast region of Maine. He received a masters degree in American and New England Studies from the University of Maine. David is a full-time firefighter/paramedic and writer, who maintains another blog He travels the world, but chooses locales that many would never consider for vacation. The world is full of many different and unique places, why not see them all?