October 19, 2016

How Culture Influences The Way We Travel

how culture influences the way we travel
The Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

This post has been in the making for quite some time. Several months ago, Danielle of The Thought Card reached out to me about writing a guest post on her blog about this very topic. 

I knew I had an exciting, thought-provoking task ahead. 

I don’t often think about how culture influences the way in which we travel, and what we do on our vacations. I kind of just… live it? But now that Danielle planted this seed of thought in my head, I can’t believe I ever travelled without considering my cultural background and how it affects my travels very much. As an Armenian-American, I am now much more aware of how my Armenian heritage has an impact on the way in which I travel.

Located in Eurasia, Armenians are very much warm, hospitable, welcoming, and happy people. Of course many of us like to think we embody these characteristics as well, but as Armenia is not a first-world country, much of their happiness stems from invaluable friendships and experiences, unlike our more materialistic, “I need this and I need it now” culture here in America. Although not entirely relevant to this post, these characteristics likely influence what I am about to discuss below.

Anyway, my Armenian heritage influences the way I travel for several reasons. I am bilingual, and come from a culture which values learning several languages (Armenian, English, Russian, etc), and find that this affects me positively during my travels. I am always willing to (attempt to) speak in the language of whatever country I am visiting, regardless of how terrible my accent may be. When I have traveled with Americans, however, they often either ask waitresses and other individuals in non-English speaking countries if they can speak English, or may even just assume that the locals do and just begin speaking English right off the bat. 

how culture influences the way we travel
Traditional Georgian cuisine in Tbilisi, Georgia

Another aspect in relation to travel which I can attribute to my heritage is my willingness to eat anything and everything. Growing up sometimes eating barbequed liver for dinner and dates as dessert (in America, mind you), I’ve always been eager to try new and unusual foods (by American standards). Whether eating in a restaurant or dining as a guest in one’s home, in an effort to make the host happy and learn more about the host culture by eating their food, I’ll eat anything which I am offered. This includes, but is not limited to, escargot in Paris, cow tongue in Georgia, pigskin in Armenia, rosewater and saffron ice cream in Iran, and many others. When I return to the States, I love seeing the looks on peoples’ faces when I tell them what diverse and delicious foods I had the chance to taste during my travels (note: these are often looks of disgust).

how culture influences the way we travel
Hagharstin Monastery in the Tavush Province of Armenia

Being Armenian also influences where I go for vacation. While there is nothing wrong with visiting iconic and well-traveled locations such as Paris, London, and Venice, being from a country which does not have a booming tourism industry has made me realize that our world is filled with so many hidden gems. When non-Armenians get the chance to visit Armenia, they are awestruck by the beautiful, mountainous land, the ancient monasteries, the delicious food, the welcoming locals, and more. Armenia is just a treasure trove of history and beauty. Never have I been so tantalized by the seemingly simple view of a snow-capped mountain (i.e. Mount Ararat, which is located in historical Armenian lands, now occupied by Turkey) looming over lush fields of grass, flowers, grazing animals, and ancient stone churches. The juxtaposition is simply breathtaking. After continuously finding beauty in the lesser-traveled lands of Armenia, I welcome any opportunity to visit other “hidden gems.” To name a couple, last summer my travels with my family took me to Georgia, and this summer I visited Jerusalem and its surrounding cities. 

It is clear that I personally experience travel differently than some, and I attribute it to my Armenian background. Regardless of ethnic identity, however, I think that all of the above aspects (speaking countries’ host language, being open to new cuisine, and exploring lesser-visited countries) can be experienced by anyone. Yes, anyone. Although my Armenian heritage may make these travel behaviors and experiences a little more natural and inherent to me, I think the key is to truly just be open-minded. I cannot assume that all Armenians would be okay with eating pigskin or traveling to lesser-traveled countries, for example, but I can assume that if they do so, it is because they are open-minded and have a willingness to leave their comfort zone. You too can experience an unadulterated, adventurous, travel experience by simply increasing your willingness and open-mindedness. 😊 

What're your thoughts on this topic? Do you have similar sentiments?

Thanks so much for reading, all. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it! 

Pinterest graphic below. :)
how culture influences the way we travel

(Original guest post on Danielle's blog, found here).

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