The Best Travel Advice I’ve Ever Received

February 28, 2013
The Best Travel Advice

foreign-correspondent badge final It came from an embassy consultant when I arrived in Ethiopia at the start of a two year tour. But this can certainly apply anywhere. So pay attention. It might bruise your ego a tad, but everyone needs a little humbling advice every once in a while.

“You didn’t get prettier, smarter, or funnier when you decided to travel.”

Funny, right? But also a reality check. Of course, you imagine that going abroad will widen your horizons, make you more knowledgeable and confident, and perhaps, a bit more fashionable.

So naturally, it’s easy to let things go to your head when strangers call you beautiful or tell you how incredibly gobez (smart) you are that you can say a greeting in the local language. Or when your family and friends say they’re so proud of you for travelling the world and experiencing other lands and cultures firsthand.

You feel like a rock star, because either everyone is looking at you or you feel equipped enough to be mistaken for a local. Either way, it’s easy to think you had this magical transformation throughout your time travelling.

And of course you did. You became a little less ignorant, a little more humble, a little more courageous, and a little bit more of a travel guru.

But all those wonderful transformations and incredible experiences notwithstanding, always keep this piece of advice in mind.

“You didn’t get prettier, smarter, or funnier when you decided to travel.”

You may have broadened your wardrobe a bit, maybe added skirts to your rotation, or scored a sweet peacoat and scarf combo. Maybe you’ve learned some new makeup tricks or even embraced your natural beauty and realized that you don’t need to wear makeup to look gorgeous.

The Best Travel Advice

Either way- you’ve discovered more things for yourself, sure; just don’t let that cute stranger bowl you over with his/her declarations of your beauty. Of course, accept it. Take the compliment. You deserve it. Absolutely. Just don’t stop dead in your tracks because you’ve just had a better meet-cute than any romantic comedy could ever offer.

When learning basic phrases in a language, there are the basics. Hello. Goodbye. Can I have the check? Where is the bathroom? Another drink please.

All very important phrases and questions- very important to master saying correctly so you don’t say something you don’t mean, or end up insulting your waiter. When you have only a basic knowledge of a language, people commenting you on your skills ad nauseum should be considered a bit sketch.

If they’re just happy you made the effort to respect their culture and language by learning enough to make conversation, thank them for their flattery. You did make an effort. You did learn something. Yet you’re still not a rocket-scientist.  Casual thanks, take it. Too many compliments?  Nice to meet you, goodbye.

We all make mistakes from time to time when travelling. Putting in your MetroCard the wrong way. Using the wrong word in a sentence and completely changing the meaning of your statement.

You know, blunders, which you laugh off and try to give the locals a little giggle out of your misfortune, rather than the flick of annoyance you saw creeping over their faces.

Crack a few jokes, say a funny stereotype about your country that you know they’ll appreciate, ease the tension. Give people something to smile about. But unless you were Chelsea Handler in a previous life, if the laughing keeps going and the compliments keep coming in, be your own judge. Were you really that funny? Or does this person just have the best knack for flattery?

“You didn’t get prettier, smarter, or funnier when you decided to travel.” Remember that.


The Best Travel Advice


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About Nora Kreml

Nora Kreml graduated Drake University with a degree in Art History and
International Relations. She is currently serving in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps attempting to improve English language instruction in local primary schools. She has an ever expanding 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon index in her head and can play a mean game of Scrabble and Quirkle.

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