Traveling is a whole brand of education unto itself and it’s one that never ceases. What we learn from our experiences becomes a type of blue-print we follow for future travels.With my upcoming trip to Lithuania and Hungary in the fall, I thought I would share some of the travel lessons I’ve learned over the years.
1.) You don’t have to learn a whole new language
It’s impractical to try and learn an entire language before you go on a trip. If in a pinch, the best thing to do is learn the basic phrases of the native language in whatever country you’re traveling to such as; hello, thank you, please, and good-bye. However, I always make a point to know how to order beer and coffee in the local language. This is helpful as bars and cafes can be loud and busy, so this saves everyone a lot of translation trouble.
Lastly, always be able to ask someone if they speak English. More on that in the next rule.
2.) The first words you speak to a local should be in their native language
Never assume that someone speaks English if you’re in a non-English speaking country. While it’s true that many people all over the world (especially in Europe) do speak English, it’s impolite to jump to that conclusion. Imagine if someone in your home country walked up to you and started speaking a foreign language. It’s off putting and out of place. Show a little effort and greet them in the native tongue then ask (again in their native language) if they speak English.
3.) Make friends with the bar tender
Bar tenders are always a guaranteed source of knowledge. If you’re interested in finding out where the best local hangouts are or what tourist traps to avoid, a bar tender can usually clue you in. Additionally, if you treat your bar tender well, they to treat you well. When I was in Dublin with some friends we went to a Temple District bar where we chatted with the bar tenders the whole time. They let us stay past last call and we didn’t get charged for probably half of what we drank.
4.) Go off the beaten path
When I visit a country, I like to feel like I’m actually in another country and not on a perpetual tour with other visitors. Whenever I travel, I usually get up early one morning (around 7 or so), get a cup of coffee, grab a map and walk all around the city/town i’m staying in. It’s a neat way to see the city wake up and the best time to go into a cafe or shop because it’s early and everyone is a lot more relaxed.
5.) Don’t mistake directness for rudeness
The Americans and Brits really love to make niceties in every conversation with lots of how are you’s, pleases and thank you’s. It’s part of our culture and how we speak, but just because another culture does not make all these niceties doesn’t mean their being rude. Some cultures and people — as I like to describe it — don’t waste a lot of words. So if you sit down in a restaurant to order lunch and the waitress simply asks you what you would like without warmly saying hello and asking how you are — don’t take it personally.
6.) Don’t wear a backpack
It’s fine to wear a backpack when you’re actually en route from the airport to your hotel/hostel. But, if you’re just out and around the town — leave the backpack! Backpacks are easy for someone to pick pocket you, especially in crowded areas and when you’re waiting in line somewhere. Additionally, backpacks are harder to control when walking through an indoor shop. On a trip to London years ago, my friend was wearing a big backpack and we walked into a crowded pub. Unfortunately, when she turned her backpack knocked a guys beer clean out of his hand. My recommendation, if you need a bag then get a small-medium sized messenger bag that closes securely.
Got any worthwhile travel tips? Let me know!