One of the most important aspects of any trip to faraway lands is being immersed in the culture of the place you are visiting. Regardless of where you go, Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia, the experience will be unbelievably rewarding when shared with others.

For instance, when I first lived in Australia, I found myself as a bit of a loner, keeping behind my camera lens or computer and observing from afar. While this is a normal behavior when traveling alone, it hindered my experience. I didn’t even notice it was a problem until I started to be a more outgoing and social traveler. Getting a job as a bartender was an occupation that caused me great stress in the lower 48, but in Melbourne, it was a chance to interact with dozens of internationals in a given day. I learned so much: about the city, the country, places to go, events to see, how people viewed America, differences in culture, and a list that could continue. It was amazing being considered “exotic,” something I would have never considered myself to be.

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Making friends Down Under

From that moment on, I have been cognizant of my interactions with new people in new countries. I go out of my way to ask someone to take a picture for me, or if they need help finding their way, or a simple hello. I’ve found that more often than not, and truly almost every time, I am met with a smile and conversation that makes both of our days better.

Without this attitude, I wouldn’t have had an epic hackey sack session with some people of Maori descent in Queenstown, played on a cricket team in Melbourne, played sepak takraw in Laos, or gotten drunk with locals in the Mekong Delta.

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Sepak Takraw, or foot volleyball, in a Laos village.

Be open to new conversations. In fact, seek them out. Interact, regardless of the language barrier. It costs nothing, but may be the most invaluable aspect of any trip you take abroad.

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