18 Dec Rules for Intentional Travel: Learn the Language
This is the most obvious and important tool a traveler can utilize. Yes, it can be hard, especially when visiting more than one country. My last trip, I would have had to learn at least 6 new (non-latin based!) languages! But even basics like “Hello, How are you?” and “Thank You” can demonstrate that you are working to connect with local people. Think about it from a cab driver, restaurant worker, or park guard’s perspective. Do you think your job would be satisfying to your soul if the majority of people you worked for could never talk in full sentences, never saw past your main function as your identity, and never connected with you on a deeper level?
Take this comparison for example: In Thailand I hailed a cab in which I could only point to an incorrectly translated address, was unable to converse at all with the driver, and both of us were confused as to where we were actually going. In Costa Rica (I am a Spanish speaker), I hailed a cab in which I could clearly tell the driver where I needed to be, and the whole drive we chatted about his hometown, his favorite aspects of local cuisine, and I could share my background and purpose of visiting. In both scenarios, I got where I was going to; but in one I made a friend, while the other was nothing more than a simple business transaction.
Simply put, speaking the native tongue makes travel much more fun. You can bumble around trying to figure out how to get a bite to eat, or you can yak it up with a street food vendor about her favorite way to eat coconuts. On a deeper level, it humanizes both you (the traveler) and the locals; everyone comes out with a better connection to and understanding of our universal human nature.
Stay tuned for more great stories and reflections as Ingrid digs deeper into more of the Simple Rules for Intentional Travel.
About Ingrid: Ingrid is a wanderlust at heart. She’s lived all up and down the west coast, studying environmental science and Spanish at the University of Portland and studying how to grow vegetables in Colorado and Washington. Her favorite activities include rock climbing, eating ice cream, and writing letters. Her travels have taken her from the Caribbean to East Asia and many destinations inbetween. The next places she hopes to travel to are New Zealand, Japan, and Norway.
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