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Travel the World in Your Neighborhood

Tips for bringing the diversity of the world to you without the money and stress required to travel to distant countries.

Child touching a globe.

Whether you’re a student dealing with assignments, a parent raising kids, or a professional with important deadlines, there can be a lot of roadblocks that prevent traveling and experiencing other cultures.

However, if you’re like me, you still want to learn about the world beyond your corner of the globe. And if you feel that, for whatever reason, you are unable to go to the countries you’ve been wanting to visit, here are seven ways to bring those countries’ diversity to you:

1. Participate in exchange student programs.

There are always students looking for families to live with when they sign up for exchange programs, and you could sign up to be a host family. This is a big responsibility, but it’s also a great way to serve and interact with youth from other countries. I’ve had exchange student siblings from Germany, Ecuador, Montenegro, and Thailand, and knowing these students taught me more about their cultures. Keep in mind that you have to meet a few standards to host an exchange student. Here is just one program you can look into signing up with. And if you can’t host a student, you can volunteer in other ways.

2. Attend interfaith meetings and other similar programs in your community.

Many communities have interfaith organizations, which are great places for people of all persuasions to connect with each other. These programs provide service opportunities and educational opportunities. There are multiple places to interact with these organizations. From interfaith choirs to school clubs, there are various opportunities to learn about people from other faiths.

3. Host potlucks and support local businesses.

Contrary to what we often think, there are always people living close to us who are from all different places. Consider inviting neighbors to a potluck to share homemade food. Or find friends to try authentic restaurants from different countries. Support your local businesses by visiting such restaurants and getting to know the people who run them.

4. Utilize apps to learn other people’s native languages.

Hola! Bonjour! Apa kabar! Even from our homes we can talk to people from other countries. There are several apps that give you the opportunity to learn other languages, including Tandem.

5. Go to celebrations for different cultures and peoples.

From Latino Heritage Festivals to the Festival of Colors, there are countless opportunities to participate in local celebrations for other countries and peoples. In the town I live in, there’s a Jewish celebration in December for Hanukkah. You can use your city’s newspaper or news website to find out about other cultural celebrations near you. This is a great way to learn about other cultures and to meet people from other places.

6. Learn the dances; listen to the music.

Latin dancing? Korean pop? Becoming familiar with a country’s artistic traditions is a big part of connecting with other cultures. A lot of communities have places that offer a variety of dance classes. But what’s even easier than dancing? Listening to music! Find time to listen to authentic music from other countries.

7. Order global foods from subscription box services.

In our Winter 2022 issue of Stowaway, we will feature more information on this.

Any of these methods would help you to get to know other countries! You can start with just one. But in all of your efforts to branch out and learn about other people and cultures, make sure you are being respectful.