As we approach the halfway mark in Italy and as I begin to prepare for midterms coming up in about a week and a half I realize that traveling is much more than just visiting a location. You need to ingrain yourself within the culture, people and norms that follow suit when you enter the new environment. In order to do develop such an ability, one bust exploit what Slimbach describes as “Mindful Traveler” intentions. He writes in chapter three that, “To be a ‘mindful traveler’ is to approach field settings with a level of sensitivity and curiosity that raises our conscience awareness of how we affect the social and natural environment we enter and act upon” (Slimbach, 74). This sensitivity that Slimbach elaborates on is somewhat of a tool necessary for understanding the specific people and their behavior. When I traveled to Germany this past weekend, I struggled with learning the customs of greeting a German local. Especially because of the short time in the country, I continued to present the norms I learned in Italy but was not received correctly. The discussion of the two ideas of a “carefree drifter” and a “mass tourist” are also interesting in that they provide us a structure and an outline for individual behavior that displays ignorance or awe. When we travel, Slimbach tells us we must be mindful and aware of everything we encounter and attempt to avoid shock and awe at the slightest new encounter. This relates to our working definition of a Global Community in that we are all separated by borders and bodies of water, but in reality we are all one community and this idea is constantly becoming stronger with the increase in global interconnectedness. Economic relations between nations are becoming so intertwined that those who see the direction of the future of the world would follow the examples Slimbach describes by learning how to interact in different cultures.
I firmly believe that mindful traveling is a key characteristic for those who willingly participate in the global community. Those who succeed while studying abroad are those who master mindful traveling and return home with skills mindless travelers do not acquire abroad. In the final two months abroad I plan to broaden my mindful traveling abilities when I venture into countries such as Spain, Switzerland, Hungary and the Netherlands. By deepening my knowledge and experience entering new cultures, my ability to ingrain myself in the customs of each country will increase. Challenges that exist to harm my ability to perform well are those around me and the activities I am doing. When I am surrounded in class and at all the clubs and restaurants by American students, I feel I am not getting the most authentic Italian experience. When I travel throughout Europe I am usually in a hostel with all American students and travelers which also inhibits my ability to adopt cultural knowledge. I must be weary of this and attempt to avoid any inhibitions to my experience.
The picture I chose is me at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. The festival was filled with travelers from across the world. It exemplifies me being a mindful traveler in that I am deeply engrossing myself in a century-old tradition. I was able to learn some basic German and understand how people act in this country and compare it to the norms of Italy and the United States. I plan to continue this mindful traveling when I visit Barcelona this upcoming weekend.