How to be a place maker

How many times has a person changed your perspective of a place?

Maybe someone held a door for you and you thought ‘the people here are kind’; or maybe someone cut in front of you in line and you thought ‘this place is rude.’ It’s these tiny actions that begin to develop our opinions and understanding of an entire place.


I met Simon in Paris, and he playfully flirted with my mom and I, teaching us a French word or two and telling us about what was happening in Paris that week. He created a memory for us, and made France a fun, energetic place.

In Costa Rica, my husband and I had several people stop to point out an animal or unusual tree to us. Once, our taxi driver, who spoke no English at all, stopped the car to point out a sloth in a tree for us. To us, Costa Rica quickly became a friendly place that highly valued wildlife.

IMG_3583Over and over again, it’s the people who set the tone and the culture of a place. There is culture at every level, from the grocery store (how many of you notice a cultural difference between Wal-Mart and Target?) to the entire nation. The tiny actions at the grocery store often reflect the larger context of the culture.

But the funny thing about the word “culture” is that most people think it means somewhere else.

But culture is right here.

Culture is not something only to be experienced elsewhere. It’s everywhere, and it is right where you are. Wherever you are, you are part of that culture. You are setting that tone.

Culture is nothing if not the people. And you are one of those “people,” you have the power to affect someone else’s experience in your place.

Six years ago, I spent a week in Moscow. I learned quickly that smiling is not the thing to do in Russia. (In fact, it’s sometimes considered rude.) I found it odd how serious this place was — no one would even make eye contact. Until one day while riding the metro, a girl, probably my age, looked up and smiled at me. That’s all it was — a simple smile. Yet I remember it to this day. Suddenly, on the metro that below-freezing morning, Russia became a little less cold, a little less distant.


Maybe you will be the person who smiles.

Maybe you will be the one who demonstrates a love for the outdoors here. Maybe you’ll be the person reading a classic novel in the coffeeshop that makes someone think this is an intellectual place. Maybe you’ll be the person playing sports in the park who makes someone think this is an athletic place.

Will you make this place friendly? Will you make this place patient? Kind? Funny?

You have the power to create culture, in every little moment.

What will you make your place?

{How has someone changed your understanding of a place? Let us know on Facebook!}

Latitude Travel MindsetThis post is part of a new series: A Travel Mindset. The series will cover topics like how to travel right where you are, appreciating cultures, creating an empowered mindset, and more. Subscribe here to keep up with the series, and tweet Latitude to ask any questions or mention any topics you hope to see covered!