Want to Embrace Local Culture? Ditch the Inclusive Resort
People travel for all kinds of reasons but the most common one is to experience other cultures. They want to eat exotic dishes, feel the street vibe in foreign cities and meet interesting people who may or may not speak English.Tweet This!
This is all very noble and exciting. But something happens along the way for many. Pop-up ads for all-inclusive resorts, 5-star hotels and gorgeous cruise ships distract us as we book our flights on Expedia. The lure of endless cocktails and poolside cabanas become the little red dot to our adventurous cat. We book the “shiny thing” instead of the once in a lifetime cultural event we’ll tell our grandkids about.
It goes without saying that a luxury vacation is great. But will it be something that touches your soul? It’s doubtful. No one makes a cocktail that good. To experience life-changing travel you must dive into the culture and live like a local. The feel of a country’s culture is in the daily rhythm of its people; where they shop, eat and play. It’s in the sounds of traffic or in the playgrounds. It’s in the smell of the food stalls on the street or in local cafes and bars. It’s in the touch of a hug as someone greets you in a local church for Sunday service. It’s in the joy you feel when you volunteer with kids in the community. You won’t feel any of this tucked away in your poolside cabana. You must leave the confines of your fancy space and blend in with the people who work at the resort. They are the cultural heartbeat at your destination, not the resort itself.
Now you’re probably asking yourself if it’s safe to go wandering outside the resort. Of course it is. You must simply use your common sense the same way you would in a strange American city. Statistically speaking you’re just as safe as you would be at home following some basic precautions.
Let’s take two popular destinations as examples. Mexico is still by far the most popular vacation destination for Americans. 31 million of us ventured south of the border last year, and in 2018 the total number of tourists in Mexico from all countries topped 45 million. How many tourist deaths were there out of 31 million people? 196.
Another wildly popular destination for Americans is the Dominican Republic, which suffered a huge drop in tourism last June due to tourist deaths. But was it overreaction? Over 6 million tourists visited the Dominican Republic in 2018 and 2 million of those were American. How many deaths were there? 13.
Now let’s examine the causes of tourist deaths abroad. According to KHOU.com it breaks down like this: 38% are accidental, 19% are caused by drowning, 18% are homicides and 15% are suicides. These numbers are important. You have a 72% chance of being totally okay as long as you aren’t clumsy, despondent or swimming while drunk. If you put things into perspective you can see a lot of the hysteria is quite overblown.
The local cultures benefit from having resorts and cruise ships, of course. Tourists drop cash at the resort and the resort provides jobs. However, how much more would the local culture benefit if you went outside the resort to some local restaurants and mom and pop shops? The answer is just as much as they do when you shop in your local neighborhood back home. You probably have a favorite local diner and gift shop. There’s one outside the resort you’d probably love, too. Go find it. Fall in love with the nice lady who owns it and in return you’ll have a deeply personal and unforgettable memory to take home along with that souvenir she sold you.
The bottom line is if you want to experience local cultures you have to make more of an effort than calling room service. It might not be as effortless but the rewards will be priceless.
Photo by Mindaugas Petrutis on Unsplash
About the Author: Gail M. Carter is Founder and CEO of LightShift360. She is a speaker author and leadership and personal development coach and consultant. She creates programs and strategies for individuals and businesses so that they can develop great leaders, make a difference in the world and ensure maximum productivity through engaged employees. Learn more at lightshift360.com