Anyhoo, advice for tourists to turn them into travellers.
Number 1) Don't follow other traveller's advice (except this and the following).
Why? Well, say you're visiting Ireland, and Suzy who visited last month went to Dublin and came back and she told you it was nasty, the people were unfriendly, and it rained constantly. But when you went to Cork, the people were friendly, it was sunny, and it was wonderful. This goes to show that Cork is better than Dublin. Just kidding!
What I mean is that when other travellers give you their subjective advice about the very localized time and place they visited, they plant premonitions in your mind about that place, and you prepare incorrectly, both physically and mentally.
When I visited Scotland, I was prepared for two weeks of rain. I got two weeks of sunshine, and therefore didn't need that £250 Goretex raincoat.
Same thing happened when I visited Haslital (Switzerland, and future blog post) in January of 2011. I was prepared for ski weather-- snow, wind, and cold. However, it rained half the time, and on the last day it was a sunny 50. When I went back next May, it was in the 40s and rainy, although we were thankfully staying in a chalet above the level of the clouds.
So, moral: that bit of advice Aunt Griselda gave you about Germany's red cows is probably wrong.*
Number 2) The people in the countries you visit are indeed natives, but there's no reason for you to be a visitor. That's a touristy mindset. Treat them like you treat your neighbours, and if you have nasty neighbours, treat them like friends.
Read up on several of the more common customs (from a truthful, verifiable source, not that encyclopaedia Britannia from 1856) that occur daily in the country you're visiting.
Learn a little Slovenian, or Russian, or French, (unless you're going to Vietnam. They'll look at you very strangely indeed if you say "Dober Dan") or a bit of the language from wherever you're going. Try learning from an actual grammar book. Phrases and computer programs like Rosetta Stone help with stock phrases, but I find them remarkably unsatisfying. I like forming my own sentences. But whatever you say, even if you say commencement "commencement" in France (oh yes. I just did.), they'll appreciate the effort and especially appreciate the fact that you're not expecting them to speak your language. You're the visitor after all. Arrogance will get you nowhere.
Number 3) Airport and Plane Etiquette
Here's some basic Airport/plane etiquette to make both your and other traveller's lives easier. It's pretty basic stuff, but in my travels, I've experienced many who simply seem to be lacking all sense of any sort of etiquette. Basic stuff here, people. Airports and Planes aren't "Human-Decency-Free Zones"
In the Airport: You have about a million other fellow-travellers. Be courteous and kind to them. If you're experiencing difficulties, no doubt they are too, so don't ever cut in line and don't interrupt them while they're talking to a airline representative. Don't get offended if they bump into you. Keep in mind that you can't retain your fourteen square feet of allotted personal space when you're in an airport or on a plane. Don't hog seats when you're waiting to board a flight. Does your carryon really need a seat for itself? Probably not.
On the airplane: Move along with the crowd when you're boarding. Airlines generally have young families and elderly people board first, so unless you're a young family or an elderly person, you shouldn't have to worry about possibly running over either party. Seat yourself quickly! You have 7 hours and fourteen thousand different possibilities to rearrange your luggage, so don't try to do all 14,000 of them while other people are boarding. CAREFULLY stow your crap in the overhead bin (and for goodness sake, leave the hatch open), and sit your bum down.
If you're uncomfortable on the flight, once again, wait to situate yourself until AFTER the flight takes off..
Number 4) Be patient. You're in a new country. Either very few or none at all of your normal American/British/Insertcountryhere's basic customs like handshaking, elbows on the table, or left-side-of-the-road are utilised and/or accepted. Read up on the customs from a recent source, like I said up there, so that you know what to expect.
Be patient with things that may not seem to be the same as in your country. Believe me, there is nothing worse than a crabby American tourist who simply can't stand that all the stores are closed at 12 PM on Mondays and bawls out the entirely un-responsible-for-this-travesty clerk in their hotel. Stop fussing and moaning and complaining about how things are back in the States. You're not in the States. You're very far from home, and it'd be best if you enjoyed your time by focussing on the good things and overlooking petty offences and bad things. You'll be so much more unstressed and your vacation will seem more like an exploration if you accept the bad and enjoy the good.
That's all for now, Folks! Come back soon and hear more of my ramblings, if you wish!