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Tea Leaves

Asian, female and middle-aged equals a happy traveler

Globe-trotting with cultural identity in mind enriches the experience

A woman checks her phone outside the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, in July. The author says that taking an "outsider approach" to travel, rather than trying hard to fit into the local culture, makes the experience more enjoyable for her. (Getty Images)

There is a spectrum of attitudes from which a traveler can choose. On one end, you immerse yourself in the unfamiliar; being invisible is desirable. On the other, you are fully cognizant of your identity, gazing on your surroundings as a mirror into yourself; you remain a conscious outsider.

My work as a management consultant provides me with a steady stream of travel. Before COVID-19, my default attitude was to localize. I believed there was nothing more mortifying than to be labeled a tourist. But much has changed in the post-pandemic era, including my approach to travel.

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