Foreign vs. Familiar Travel

If foreign feels a little frightening

Let's be honest, we evolved in tiny bands of people who shared beliefs and customs. It's in our DNA to not trust the tribe on the other side of the hill. Have you seen what they eat? Some of us are adventurous by nature because we actually like strange and new things. But do not feel bad if the idea of a vendor in a market selling monkey brain or a bathroom with nothing but a hole in the floor (a long drop) to do your business in gives you a moment's pause.

But if you still want to see some of the great sights of the world but your fears and worries about alien stuff is holding you back, read on:

A Few Key Realities of the 21st Century:
  • The world isn't that big anymore. And western culture, if that's where you're from, has made a toehold everywhere. What does this mean for you as a traveler? English is just about everyone's second language at this point. And they speak it better in Scandinavia and Germany that you do (better schools). Same with food. Hopefully, you are actually excited to try the local delicacies, but if you need a burger and fries, it's probably not far away. And of course the internet now covers the globe for the most part. So you can stay in touch, google the exchange rate, or watch Netflix. Sadly, this takes away some of the adventure. But it does mean you have less to fear if you're a tad nervous.

  • Europe is pretty familiar for Americans, Canadians and Aussies. There are still happy exceptions to that, but you're not going to be a total stranger to the culture and customs. Asia is a bit more exotic, but there are plenty of western touchpoint at hand.

  • Most places you will choose to travel are touristy. That's because they are interesting, historic, beautiful, etc. So a tourist trade has built up over the decades to take good care of you. They know how the bread gets buttered.

Worries You Might Have:

  • Will I be able to find food I like? Yep. Even if you're a picky eater, you have to get pretty far off the tourist trail to find a place with nothing but squirrel kidneys.

  • Will there be clean bathrooms? Generally, yes you will find flush toilets in your privies the world over. But this does vary somewhat on your country of choice and what your accommodations budget is. Worst case, head into the nearest fancy restaurant and borrow theirs.

  • Will I be mugged, buggered or murdered? Doubtful. Don't be an idiot but most touristy places around the world are as safe as the next. Foreign people are not inherently worse than your people. But like everywhere, they have their share of low life trash. Tourist zones are usually safer in some ways (more police presence, more incentive to protect the reputation of the place) but tourists are also natural targets for theft. They tend to have money, nice things, and are often quite trusting or naive. This almost never means violence or weapons (they aren't all packing like in the U.S.). But don't leave your purse hanging on a chair in a cafe. Don't leave your wallet poking out of your back pocket. Don't trust a super friendly guy in Thailand who approaches you with some weird story about getting married and needing to buy jewelry. It's probably a scam. Common sense. Savvy.

  • How do I deal with the money? It's pretty easy. Europe is now almost all one currency (the Euro). But wherever you are, just work out the exchange rate (roughly) in your head. So if a Euro is worth $1.25 and the sandwich is 3 Euro, then some quick math means it will be about $3.75. Or just use the calculator on your phone. More importantly, nobody uses cash anymore. So if you use your credit card, the bank will take care of all the details, typically at a good rate.

  • How do I communicate? Will I need a phrase book? It's sort of a shame, but almost every tourist related person on the globe now speaks passable English. Now, please don't be a dumb American and assume this. And don't just talk more loudly in English as your way of meeting them in the linguistic middle. Do learn to say "Do you speak English" in their language. Offer please and thank you in the native tongue if you can. Be humble. Be a good guest. If you do this, more likely than not you will be addressed and helped in English. Failing that, ask another tourist if they can help you out. It's fun.

So You're Saying I Should Just Try It?

Absolutely. If you want to see the Taj Mahal, get out there and do the long drop.