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Is it possible to have more than one place that feels like home? I live in the United States – in New Jersey – and yet, Mexico also feels like my home. I get an all-encompassing, warm-and-fuzzy feeling just thinking about my time there. During my college years, I studied in Puebla, Mexico for four months. I took classes about Mexican history, I lived with a Mexican host family, and I fully immersed myself in the Spanish language.
So when someone tells me she’s going to Mexico on vacation, I just light up. My heart swells with excitement. And I can’t stop blabbing about my walks to the zócalo, my good friends that live there, my favorite tinga recipe, my favorite Mexican sayings. I am still so deeply connected to that place, to that culture.
It got me thinking: maybe, just maybe, I can fall in love with other cultures and destinations, too, – without having to study or live for months at a time in each place.
And, I found out, quite happily so, that it’s absolutely possible. It’s possible to have that shout-from-the-rooftops excitement about a new city. It’s possible to feel like your travel destination is home.
So I’ve put together a list of my 4 favorite ways to make you fall in love with your next trip – before you even leave.
Create a shrine
Pick an area in your home, a space that’s all your own, and dedicate a shrine to your upcoming trip. I got this idea from author and traveler, Joseph Dispenza, in his book, The Way of the Traveler, and I just fell in love with it. Dispenza clears a shelf, lays down a tablecloth, and starts to create a spiritual shrine to his upcoming journey. Between now and your trip, collect things that make you feel excited for your journey. You can print out pictures, blog articles, and brochures. Include flags, recipes, books, and maps. For example, if you’re going to Italy, you can cover the space with a red-and-green tablecloth and include a menu from your favorite Italian restaurant, a picture of your Italian grandmother, and a photo-book of breathtaking, Roman architecture.
Make sure to leave some room for when you come back; you can add important keepsakes and mementos from your trip to complete the shrine!
Research the history, culture, customs and current events
According to the mere-exposure effect in psychology, people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them (“Mere Exposure Effect,” Socially Psyched). So, to foster a deeper love for your destination, you can start by getting familiar with customs, current events, and history – right now. And have fun with it! You can watch a documentary about a significant historical event, listen to current music, watch a traditional dance video on YouTube, cook a typical meal, or start learning the language. Do whatever calls out to you! Research whatever you feel curious about!
You can spend as much time as you’d like getting more familiar with your destination. You can even have an “Ireland week,” and dedicate each day to something different. Monday for making Irish soda bread, Tuesday for listening to music from Irish artists, Wednesday for researching the potato famine, etc.
Learn common phrases of the local language
Learning a language can be magical…and fun! And you can be sure that you’ll feel more in love with the local culture if you can speak a little bit of the language – if you can greet people warmly, if you can recognize words on signs, if you can sing the chorus to a song on the radio, or if you can read the menu at a hole-in-the wall restaurant. As Charlemagne once said, “To have another language is to possess a second soul.” And your second soul – your new language – will make your upcoming trip that much more meaningful.
Here are some helpful resources for learning a new language:
- iTalki: Get 1-on-1 online lessons with native language teachers (in any language!), and connect with people around the world.
- Omniglot: The online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages: Gain access to a collection of useful phrases in many different languages. You can click on the sound file to hear how each phrase sounds.
- Forvo: The Pronunciation Dictionary: You can search for any word, in any language, and hear how it’s pronounced by a native speaker.
- Duolingo: Learn a language for free online. Each lesson includes a variety of speaking, listening, translation, and multiple choice challenges.
Write a letter to the destination before you go
Treat your destination like a dear friend. Tell Santiago, Chile how excited you are to visit. Tell South Africa about your hopes and dreams for your journey. In your letter, you can lay out your plans – the sights you want to see, the people you want to meet, the food you want to eat, the experiences you want to have. Thank your destination for this incredible opportunity to experience something sacred on her land. And when you’re done, you can add your letter to your shrine.
By participating in any one of these four activities before you leave, you can start loving the local culture and your upcoming destination. And when you come back home, even years later, you’ll feel nostalgic and misty-eyed about your sacred journey.
Now, tell me: What are your favorite ways that make you fall in love with a place/culture? Do you like to do some history research beforehand? Learn new words? Eat typical foods? Talk to locals online? Let me know in the comments below!
Jessica Marshall is a writer, traveler, and the co-founder of Your Velveteen Life. Joined by her sister, Shannon, she’s on a mission to help millennial women get unstuck, and create a life full of purpose, through the power of intentional travel. Go to their website www.yourvelveteenlife.com and get their free, word-for-word scripts to wow your friends and family when they ask you that dreaded question, “So what have you been up to these days?”