We’ve all been tourists before. Whether it’s travelling to New York City for the first time, going on vacation in the Caribbean, or flying to another country for a trip, everyone has experienced trying to explore everything possible in a new place. Tourists get kind of a bad reputation because they are unaware of the cultural norms of the place and often stick out like sore thumbs. That’s what makes this experience so different from any other time I’ve travelled. I don’t feel like a tourist. I feel like a resident.
There are several distinctions between the ‘carefree drifter,’ the ‘mass tourist,’ and the ‘mindful traveler.’ I know that I, personally, started out this journey as a mass tourist. I was moving nonstop, trying to fit in all the attractions that London has to offer in a small amount of time. That’s what these mass tourists do – they have a set list of sites to visit and things to do that are all “typical” of a tourist (historical sites, museums, landmarks, etc.). I went to Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and so many other places in one day. There’s nothing wrong with being a mass tourist, but you definitely do not really get a chance to take in the beauty and atmosphere of your surroundings when all you’re doing is running from place to place.
I have booked trips to Munich, Germany, Geneva, Switzerland, and Copenhagen, Denmark. At this point, I plan on being a carefree drifter while I’m there. I really have no plans in mind of what to do or things to see while I’m in those places. I will probably wander around with my friend, look around at the scenery, and stop at random places we come across. This is what the carefree drifter does. She has no plan in mind, travelling simply to breathe the air of a different place. There is also nothing wrong with this, but you don’t really get anything out of going somewhere if you actually have no plans of what to see.
Finally, there is the type of traveler we all hope to be: the mindful traveler. The mindful traveler plans what to do in a country, but also plans out how he or she will help the community while in that place. They also want to see what the community will give them over the course of their stay. I think Slimbach stated it perfectly when he said, “Mindful global learning aspires to narrow the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ strengthening the bond of understanding and legitimate respect between strangers” (Slimbach 87). This is exactly what the mindful traveler does. She tries to understand the culture, not simply exist within it. This relates perfectly to our working definition of a global community: “A shared living space of interdependent individuals endowed with universal human rights while choosing to act upon them, embracing differences, and working toward common goals.” The mindful traveler seeks to benefit not only him or herself, but the entirety of the global community. I think that our definition of a global community still applies, based on what I’ve experienced while studying in a different country – especially the part about embracing differences.
I think that mindful traveling is very important for members of the global community. In order to benefit the global community, I really want to try to volunteer in as many places as I can. I know that people here are not typically as affluent as a lot of the people we are exposed to in America, and I want to benefit them with my travelling. I don’t want this experience only to be beneficial for me. I want to learn things, visit libraries, stroll through museums, and really embrace the culture of every place I go. No matter where I go, I want to try to eat traditional food. My goal as I continue to branch out to different parts of Europe is to feel like less and less of a tourist as I go. However, it is difficult to consistently be a mindful traveler because it requires constant thought and planning. That’s why it is “mindful.” Also, in every single place you visit, there are always going to be typical tourist attractions. For example, you can’t go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. These typical tourist draws also make it harder to be a mindful traveler because seeing these sights is not always the number one thing to do for a mindful traveler. I know it will be difficult, but I intend to be as much of a mindful traveler as I can for the remainder of my time here.
I think this picture very much exemplifies the idea of a mindful traveler. In this picture is a typical tourist attraction, Tower Bridge. However, it is from an angle that not most people would consider seeing it from. I think this reminds me to think about things in a different way, and try to remember the ideas behind tourist attractions (where they came from, what time period they were constructed, etc.) rather than the physical attraction itself. It’s very exciting to see things you’ve only dreamed of seeing in person, but we have to remember that, somehow, we should be trying to bring benefits to the global community during our time abroad.