Javier Valdez, Myght Founder

Why We Love Travel, and You Should, Too – Pt. III

Middle East

If you approach travel with curiosity, an open heart, and an eagerness to learn (and you should!), it’s almost guaranteed to reward you. One big way it can do this is by making you more knowledgeable, empathetic, and sensitive to those around you, which brings us to this reason why we love travel:

Traveling Creates Cultural Sensitivity

It’s easy to forget that much of what you consider “normal” can be foreign, bizarre, and even downright disrespectful to others. Like did you know that in Brazil flashing the "a-okay" sign is equivalent to flipping someone off? Or that in Dubai and Saudi Arabia public displays of affection are jailable offenses? Or that a thumbs-up in Iran and Afghanistan is an obscene insult, much like pointing your foot at someone in Southeast Asia? Or who knew that in Japan it’s rude to say “no” when discussing business (they instead expect you to guide the conversation toward different options)? Needless to say, this list goes on and on.

Cultural Sensitivity in the Middle East

However, this or any list of social etiquette pitfalls shouldn't make travelers fearful or timid about exploring new places. Rather, it’s a reminder that when you’re a guest in someone’s country, use common sense and do your best to behave as a good guest and increase your cultural sensitivity. Don't treat your host’s country like a foreign playground, where you can behave without consequence. Make an effort to learn, to be aware, to respect, and to try not to offend. And remember, even if you do commit a faux pas, most people give foreign visitors a pass, so long as you’re not obnoxiously brazen about your misstep.

The point we’re trying to make is that traveling can expose us to a vast and diverse world, and trying to understand and respect all of those we meet along the way can be immensely helpful – personally, culturally, and professionally. When we return to our homes with this new, more sensitive mindset, we may find that we’re able to be slightly more objective, less driven by preconceptions. We may even feel more empathetic to those who are struggling to mesh with our idea of “normal.”

In short, when we make an effort to learn about another person’s customs and culture, we are not only signaling respect and sincerity, which builds connections and bridges, but we’re also celebrating diversity, which encourages people to preserve what makes them unique

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 4 of this series.


Interested in making travel a force for the good? Discuss your dream trip with one of the responsible travel advisors.