Everyone Can be a Diplomat
Every time you set foot in a foreign country, you have an opportunity to act as an informal ambassador, impacting how people from your country are perceived. It’s a lot easier than it sounds, you just have to be aware of it. Many travelers seek out the authentic cultural experiences while visiting a place. If you walk through a local market in a large tour group, you’re being a passive observer of a culture. If you go through that same market and interact with locals, you’re actively engaging with that culture.
Know a few words of the local language? Great! Even saying “hello,” “please,” and “thank you,” have led to genuine exchanges between locals and myself. Even if you don’t speak any foreign languages, most areas receiving tourists can speak a little bit of English. In the case that the person you’re interacting with speaks no English at all, you can play an amusing game of pantomimes which always results in a fun time for everybody.
Collaboration goes beyond engagement through discourse, which can sometimes become one-sided if the lingua franca between people is limited. Discovering a universal language within Art can allow people who don’t share a common language to communicate and even create something together. Our hostel became a gathering place for travelers and Colombians interested in dance, music, poetry, and stand-up comedy a chance to experience art from a different perspective and co-collaborate. This is always why I prefer staying in hostels or other areas with communal living areas when I travel. You have an instant opportunity to meet people from other countries, discover a common interest, and make something together. In the hostel we kept guitars, drums and other instruments that we brought out for events. Not every hostel has instruments available for use but there are many small instruments travelers can bring that fit in even the flashpackiest backpacker’s rucksack.
Here’s a Colombo-Franco-American band that formed around the hostel’s bi-monthly open-mic jam.