Yes. I spelled it travellers. Sorry, I'm having a relapse.

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..

And finally, 

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!

*if you have an aunt named Griselda, I suggest you run. Very fast. In the opposite direction.
I am a proud traveller.

I love the bustle and stress in an airport, the dull waiting for the plane to board, the tasteless airline meals and the muddled and confused in-flight movies. These things mean that exciting things don't always come easily.

Unless you have a first class ticket.

I love the excitement and the confusion of visiting a new country with new customs and new sights (wth is a little water fountain doing in my bathroom?). It means that you're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.

Unless you're a fussy tourist who wants everything their way, just like "back in the states". (If you're going to complain, go home).

I love interacting with the new people, with their exciting accents (Ever heard a Slovenian-English accent? Oh my gosh. Beautiful), their interesting stories, their hopes for the future, the fact that they are indeed separate people with separate lives, not tourist attractions whose sole purpose is to be "natives".

I love the difficulties and the blissfulness, the frustrations and the felicity, the omg-why-is-this-wifi-slow and the omg-this-pizza-is-amazing moments. They signify that no, not everyone lives exactly the same as you do.

I love drinking out of water troughs in Berner Oberland, diving off cliffs in Liguria, and skiing down immeasurable peaks in Friuli. I love scurrying across dangerous rope-bridges in the Soca Valley, I love hurrying out of the rain in Ljubljana, I love chasing my wind-blown fedora in Trieste. 

I am a traveller who becomes a momentary resident of each country he visits and explores, leaving behind another bit of his heart. The heart isn't divided by travel, it's magnified. All the little bits scattered around the globe create this great network of "I understand why they all go to sleep at 12 in Italy", "It's not nice to wish someone gets kicked by a horse in Slovenia", and "Don't step on the PH in St. Andrews."

I am a proud traveller. Take my hand, and become one as well.

Or don't. Your choice, really.


    I'm a traveller, not a tourist. I love visiting obscure and beautiful places around the world. I used to live in Europe, but I now reside in the States.

    Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.

    ~Francis Bacon


    December 2013