Feature image: sandeepachetan.com

You follow the trail into the village. You are in South America, Asia, a Pacific Island; in a country that is foreign to you. You step out of your hostel onto a street you have never before walked, in France, Italy, Estonia. You are curious, amazed, perhaps disgusted, perhaps charmed. You tell yourself that you have to write about what you are experiencing.

Later you open up your blog or a travel article you’ve been working on. You write about the “quaint” villagers cooking in front of their “shacks” or how disgusting it was to see a drunk lurching down a big city street at noon. You describe the “exotic” women and customs. You wonder how people can live “in squalor.” Maybe you decide to do a little voluntourism and go help the less fortunate.

You are denying yourself the truly amazing: the experience of simply seeing what lies in front of you, rather than your story of the old woman cooking in front of her home, the laborer going back to work from a lunch celebration with his family. And, you have forgotten that when we travel, we are nothing more than visitors in other peoples’ homes and homelands. What is unusual to you is daily for the locals. You are simply a guest.

Have you caught yourself doing this? The service of the travel journalist is to depict honestly what is before them, without the filter of a biased worldview and their own ideologies and beliefs. Start becoming aware of this in yourself, see if you can catch yourself missing the forest for the trees.