How to be a Good Traveler

By: Willow

I had an awesome Spring Break this year. (Yes, I know I’m bragging a bit but I promise I have a point.) I was fortunate enough to be able to visit a family friend in Switzerland and do a little traveling around Europe. I learned a lot on my spring break, and I think this information could be useful if you happen to go on a sweet trip someday.

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I know what you’re thinking, “But Willow, the Peer Into Your Career blog is about helping me with my career, jetting across the world isn’t going to do that is it?” Well, yes and no. While the act of going on a fancy trip itself will probably not advance your career, it is possible that you will find yourself in situations where your actions traveling help or hurt your future. Here are a few tips that will help you make put your best foot forward no matter where you are.

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Learn a little bit of the language. I know this sounds like a given but it’s easy to get by without doing it. In Switzerland everyone speaks English, they teach German, French, and English in schools so literally everyone has a basic knowledge of English. Not only does everyone know at least some English, my hostess is getting her masters in English. I figured I would be fine as I would always be with someone fluent in English and German, so I would always have a translator. This was true, but it got really old. One night, we went to an event where a British author talked about her books. When the author introduced herself she thanked the crowd saying how much of a privilege it was to speak in her native language to this particular audience. The speech was in English and all of my host’s friends spoke English. I had no problem talking to the people around me the entire night. While I was standing with the circle of new friends, I realized they were all speaking English for my benefit. I was the only one who didn’t speak any German, and they were all adjusting for me. And that made me feel like crap. How did I go to a new country and not learn any of the language? How ignorant am I? Ugh! The mix of the speaker acknowledging her privilege and me realizing everyone was speaking a language for my benefit hit me hard. I felt bad, really really bad. If you ever do go somewhere where you don’t know the native language, learn a few key phrases, it will go a long way. People notice when you make an effort, and it will mean a lot to them. If possible find someone who knows the language and can help you practice a bit. Or find a friend and learn together. There are a lot of great resources you can use: YouTube videos, books, or language learning apps. Once again, knowing a little bit of the language goes a long way.

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Willow with British author Laura Penny.

Figure out what the driving laws are. Maybe you won’t be driving at all and you think you don’t need to do this. YOU DO. You interact with cars all the time, even if you’re not in one. so you need to figure out the basics such as: what side of the road to they drive on, what are the pedestrian laws, and how their stop lights work. These all could be different depending on where you are.

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Know the phone number and address of the place you are staying. Again, this one seems simple, but don’t forget. If you do you will get really confused and cry in front of the lost and found baggage lady in the Zurich airport. Uh… At least that’s what I’ve heard…

Always say thank you, preferably in the language spoken where you are. Whenever you go into a store, ask someone a question, talk to anyone at all for any reason, say thank you. It’s just a best practice.

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Finally, make as many connections and learn as much as you can. Traveling is an amazing thing to do and honestly a great way to change your life. You never know who you may meet. Keep these guidelines in mind and they might help you get a job, or make a new friend, or just have a great time.

One last reminder, in all your travels, be safe and have fun.

Read Willow’s other posts

Photo source: Willow

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