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The travel industry can entice even those who don’t like to travel. Pictures of scenic beaches, towering mountains and verdant forests can pump up the senses into making plans for the next destination. Every company out there is trying to tell you about the next must-visit destination. Miles and points are the vehicle that drive my travels around the world. Given that we live in an age where information is readily available but not always the most accurate, how should we go about planning where to travel?

As much as I love writing about miles and points deals, I find the experience of travel to be one of the most fascinating things in life. The reason to post this was triggered as I sat atop Mount Monserrate in Bogota Colombia, way above the city’s skyline at over 10,200 feet. What have I gained after traveling 6 continents? What has the experience been like? Would I recommend it to others?

Tranquility atop Mount Monserrate, Bogota, Colombia

The Golden Age of Travel

Soaking in the stunning views in Koh Samui, Thailand

The phrase gets tossed around quite often. I’m not sure what a golden age would truly look like, but this definitely is a great time to travel the world. There’s a lot of connectivity to fly around the world. There are different credit cards which you can apply for in order use miles and points. So, if you have the time and the money or miles to travel the world, then go for it!

Human Rights and Political Upheavals

Vietnam’s countryside is a visual treat

You’ll often hear something in the news about a particular country. The farther and more frequently you travel, you end up realizing that a lot of these perceptions are partly true. A lot of them are driven by the 24 hour news cycle, where a lot of things happening around the world get blown out of proportion, only to suddenly disappear.

Does that mean that I advocate traveling anywhere irrespective of your values, principles or personal security risks? No, not at all. However, as much as we like to judge other countries, we also need to realize that we’re also not perfect. Traveling with an open mind is the first step to enjoying any new country you visit.

Breaking the Stereotypes

You watched a documentary about country X. You watched a movie about country Y. You’ve read positive things about country A and B since you were a kid. There’s a high likelihood that you have a better opinion about country A and B as compared to country X and Y. The more countries and continents you travel to, you’ll realize that a lot of it these things are just perceptions that cloud our mind. Irrespective of what you think about a country’s President or its human rights record, interactions with people are an eye opener.

People in almost all countries around the world do pretty much the same things. They work for five days a week. They take their families out to the park or travel on the weekends. Business goes on as usual. They’re all just vying to get a better life than what they currently have.

In essence, if you have negative perception about any country, then I’d say give it a rethink. Read up about the best practices as a traveler. Read up about the cultural nuances and the history deeper. Don’t let a single news report or any other ‘opinion maker’ get in the way of you seeing this wonderful planet. Go and see it for yourself. Again, I’m not telling you to walk into a war zone. However, use your own discretion in order to decide where to travel.

The Pundit’s Mantra

If you’re preparing to travel the world, then you can use a few handy tips in order to ensure that your travel goes smoothly. Firstly, respect the local culture, even if you don’t agree completely with it. As a tourist, you don’t want to be that guy or gal who’s obnoxious to the locals. You can politely disagree without trying to convert people to your view.

Secondly, if you’re visiting a country where language is a barrier, then try learning the language basics. Basic statements like: “Where’s the train station?” or reading signboards in the local language.

Thirdly, make sure you do a quick read up around the history and some of the recent events. This will give you a context to a lot of things you see happen around you. Given the plethora of information available these days, it should be pretty easy to find this information.

Given that I grew up in a country that’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-lingual, I’ve always had a great comfort level in being with people who don’t look like me or speak a different language. If you’re skeptical and unsure, then step out of your comfort zone. In spite of all the upheavals and problems that you read about in the press, the world is still worth exploring. Every culture has its unique vibe, its food, its colors, and most importantly, its people.

Is there a country in the world that you’re not sure of visiting but would still  like to visit? Let us know in the comments section.

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