Respect locals and their culture.
First and foremost, remember you're a guest. Would you go to your best friend's Mom's house, raid her fridge, and then leave your trash everywhere? No. Would you tell her that her cooking was terrible or that you didn't understand why she didn't speak English if she knew you were coming? Absolutely not! Some of the best parts of travel are getting to discover the different languages, foods, and customs! Enjoy these things and try your best not to leave a trace of your wanderings.
Eat and shop locally.
If you're traveling alllllll that way, why in the world would you stop into a Starbucks for a coffee?! You have the opportunity to experience a local café! Do it! Support them with their use of local ingredients and produce, local workers, and food culture. You will never be able to experience a true local cup of coffee any other way. AND an added bonus -not only is it delicious, but you're also then helping the local communities support themselves. Win-win!
Respect dress codes.
Do your reseaarch here. Be mindful of your itinerary when you're packing your bags. If there is the smallest chance you might be visiting a religious site during your travels, research the appropriate dress codes. And if you're unsure, pack layers. Some places won't even let you in if you're dressed inappropriately!
Learn the local language as best you can.
Do you need to be completely fluent? Nah. But it's respectful to learn a few key phrases, and the locals will appreciate that you've tried! A few years back, Dane and I visited the Duomo in Florence, but couldn't figure out how to get inside. We walked around and around the giant building, and no one seemed to speak English or even care to try. And why should they? We were in their country! So. Here are a few things that might be worth knowing ahead of time:
Slow down and soak it in.
One thing you should know about me is that I had never been on a plane until 2015. No, I'm not kidding. But after I met Dane, we started traveling like crazy! And as it turns out, his travel style is not at all like mine! I like to take it slow and take in all the things. I want to leave feeling like I spent the trip like a local. And he likes to skip city to city and see as many things in one trip as humanly possible. And really, it's no fault to him. His family traveled quite a bit as he was a kid, and so this is just how he was taught to travel. I mean, you only get a few weeks of vacation time, so you might as well make the most of it, right?!
Of course the toursit places are fun to see, but you shouldn't be rushing from place to place just to say you've seen it all. My first trip to Europe with Dane's family was just like that. And honestly, I left feeling that although I'd seen it all, I experienced nothing! With my travels from now on, I intend to discover the rhythms of the local life. I want to stroll through local neighborhoods and observe the architecture, buy foods from local markets (with my EpiPen close by, of course!), have coffee in local cafés, and be completely present.