When I chose my niche for my blog, I was intrigued by other blogs who focused on the same idea. I came across Chelsea’s blog, and I was in love. What made her blog so fascinating was her rich cultural blend that she implemented into her writing. Her pictures really captured the true meaning of igniting a positive change in the world. So, I decided to interview Chelsea about connecting with others around the world.
Trek with Derk: What made you want to blog about connecting with others and promoting a positive impact on local communities?
Chelsea: When I was 19, I went on my first solo trip abroad to Guatemala without the faintest idea that it would drastically alter the course of my life. Before I knew it, I was falling in love with travel, meeting new people, learning new languages and cultures, and finding out more about myself than I ever thought was possible. Over the years, I continued traveling and building relationships throughout Latin America and realized that my personal passion and purpose in life was sharing the gift of travel and its transformative powers with others, which is why I began organizing and guiding trips to various parts of Latin America.
Furthermore, it has always been really important that my travels, both personal and professional, take into consideration the sustainability and ethics in regards to the impact on the local environments, economies, and societies. Above all else, as a tourist or traveler, I think you have a great responsibility to learn about the culture and the language. To invest in getting to know the locals in a respectful way. Too often people go on vacation and the local people become an afterthought or background noise in their trip when they should be much more at the forefront of the travel experience. I make sure to work with locals as much as possible. I introduce people on my trips, to my friends and colleagues, and participate in activities that support local communities and promote meaningful interactions between tourist/traveler and locals.
Trek with Derk: What intrigues you about the local people?
Chelsea: The same things that intrigue me about all people, I guess. For me, it’s not so much about paying extra special attention to locals, it’s about not ignoring them (which often happens when people are traveling) and being sure to interact with them as I would anyone back home, despite language and cultural barriers. Obviously, locals do hold a certain intrigue that, by getting to know them, you can begin to see the country through the perspective of a local, therefore deepening your understanding of the place that you’re visiting.
Also, interacting with locals on a deep and genuine level often requires you to get outside of your comfort zone, open up your mind and to try to put yourself in the mindset of someone different from you with very different life experiences and world views. This exercise can be challenging, but it makes you grow as in individual and allows you to analyze and question your own values and perspectives – often times solidifies pre-existing beliefs or causes you to shift your views. All of this helps you to grow as a person as it does for the other individual. Through small conversation and interactions, we can arrive to understand ourselves and one another; better and break down barriers that exist in the world.
Trek with Derk: How do you approach locals?
Chelsea: With a smile! When I’m in Latin America it helps that I speak fluent Spanish. Once someone realizes I can interact with them fully in their own language they tend to be comfortable and open. However, when I was still learning Spanish I struggled on a daily basis to get through simple tasks and conversations at the market, the bank, my job as a bartender, etc. At that time I replied of expression, body language, and broken Spanish to convey that I had great respect for people and their country and culture, that I was friendly, and that I wanted to learn more. As time went on and I formed friendships with coworkers, students from the school I worked at or regulars at the bar; I was able to ask questions that allowed me to form deeper friendships and also enhanced my understanding. To this day I feel like I have a fairly good grasp on Latin American culture and history, however, I know that I don’t know it all and that I never will, but I will continue to expand my understanding and knowledge by getting to know people in as respectful and genuine manner as possible.
Just be friendly, warm and open.
Trek with Derk: Any tips on how to connect with others?
Chelsea: Long version: Don’t be afraid to look foolish if you are struggling with a new language. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Try to not be offensive and realize that some things you do that you might not consider offensive could be perceived that way so try to be sensitive about that. On the flip side, locals may say or do something that you find to be offensive within your culture or perceived societal norms. Be ready to be flexible and realize that (unless it’s a truly cruel offense) what might be “ok” or “not ok” back home isn’t necessarily the same in the place you are visiting. At the end of the day, you’re a guest in their country and you have to be open-minded and accepting of other people’s cultural norms 🙂
Short version: Smile, say please and thank you.