How to Avoid Stereotyping As You Travel

Forming opinions is a natural process but, don't let your pre-conceived ideas inform them!

While traveling through Cuba, Southern Star Travel founding partner Dan Siefken takes a walk and talks to us about how not to fall into the trap of filtering your experience of a new place by bringing along a bunch of pre-conceived ideas in your baggage.

Dan: In this video you may hear me say things like ‘Cuba is this way. Cubans do such and such. This is Cuba as it is, etc.’ Forming opinions of a people and a place is natural but you must be careful not to let a stereotype inform your experience of a place.

Stereotyping is subscribing to a single narrative for a whole group of people and must be avoided if you hope to have a genuine travel experience. So, how do you do this?


First, Go Somewhere

Go to a foreign country and participate in its culture. If you haven’t seen it and done it you probably shouldn’t comment on it. Come to Cuba. Go to Guatemala. Interact. Learn. Connect! If you take yourself to a place and get involved in the daily rhythm of the people there then you can start peeling away your filters and inform a deeper and more meaningful opinion.

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Avoid the Single Narrative

Chat people up and talk to as many different people as possible. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t speak the language. You’ll be surprised how well you can communicate when you try and it’s amazing how well a person can make themselves understood when they have something important they want to say or hear.

Ask several people the same question. Get multiple perspectives: get different people telling the same stories and talking about the same issues. It’s difficult to understand a whole culture or country by talking to just a few like-minded people. Our understanding of a place is based on our experiences and our filters until we talk to others. Broaden your perspective by seeking others’.

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Don’t Think You Can’t Be Surprised

Don’t assume that just because you do something 99 times the 100th will be identical. Keep your mind open to the possibility of change. If you talk to 100 people that 100th conversation could be completely different than all the other 99! Keep an open mind. Yes, I’ve heard the same thing a number of times and I’m starting to form an opinion but my mind is always open to new take on a situation.

Do these three things when you enter a new country and culture of the first time and you will have a deeper, more genuine experience of it!

Keep on traveling!