Our closest bonds in life are often with people who help us learn. By “bond” I don’t necessarily mean the development of a best friend – perhaps it’s a friendship that lasts all but for a moment. But in that moment, a bond is formed, making the experience unforgettable.
In the process of learning something, 2 things happen:
You open yourself up to being vulnerable, to admitting you don’t know everything, and that someone has something to teach you.
You give your ‘teacher’ a sense of joyful power and honour as they have the opportunity to share with you something that they know. And in that moment, they are more likely to share something about themselves, too.
If you want to truly ‘experience’ while travelling, find a way for a local to teach you something.
What you learn is important, but even more important is the bond that occurs when you open yourself up to being vulnerable and gaining a lesson from another.
Ideas that have worked for me:
When eating at restaurants, ask fellow restauranteurs “what should I order?” Often this opens up stories to cultural dishes, food etiquette, and entertaining stories about parties and events that revolved around the food. Also, chances are you’ll get an amazing meal!
2) Find a tutor. A language tutor. A cooking tutor. A sewing tutor. Even a 2 hour class. I say ‘tutor’ because this needn’t be a formal school setting – you just need to find someone (maybe through your hotel or hostel, or asking at a religious building, like a church or mosque) if they know of anyone who could teach you _________ just for a few hours. The opportunities here are endless and guaranteed you’ll learn things you didn’t think possible. I once learned how to cook Waakye in Bolgatanga, Ghana, simply by stopping by a food stall and asking when I could have a lesson.
Check out http://ghanaianfood.blogspot.ae/2011/04/waakye-with-fried-fish-and-wele-stew.html OR http://betumiblog.blogspot.ae/2009/11/recipe-27-waakye-3-ways-rice-and-beans.html to make your own Waakye!
3) IF CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE ONLY…learn something from a child. Join a game that’s being played. Ask to learn a song. Children are the BEST for learning a new language because their vocabulary is simple and often includes the basic words you need to know. Any Chichewa I know from Malawi started with my “classes” from the kids who lived on my street.
4) Ask questions. Lots of questions. When you’re out shopping, ask the vendor about the products. When you’re walking and pass a local, ask about the architectural landscape of a building nearby. Just ask questions. All the time.
Be open. Be courteous. Be curious. Be yourself. And you will learn!
What about you? What lessons have you learned travelling? What has worked for you in getting someone to ‘teach’ you?