Discussing travel with colleagues and friends: why it can be frustrating

Ever since I was young and would see exotic destinations on TV or postcards my aunt would send me from around the country during her travels, I always knew I wanted to see the world. Although my parents always said that travel was for “rich people” and that I could always travel once I retired, both ideas sounded completely senseless to me. For one, people on limited budgets travel all the time. People save money and backpack through countries, staying at hostels and scoring cheap flight deals; students always do this, and I used to do the same when I was in college and in my years just after graduation. The second idea is terrible because… let’s just be blunt: how do we even know we will ever even reach retirement? What if we die of a life-threatening disease or get hit by a car and killed way before then? Plus, even if you are fortunate enough to reach retirement age and actually stop working, how can you possibly be so sure that you will be able minded or able bodied enough to want or enjoy travel? My dad has suffered from worsening arthritis for years now. My mom has a disc out of alignment in her back, which she’s suffered from since my teen years. Was my mom really naive enough to think that she would be traveling in her retirement with a husband who doesn’t even want to see Canada, the country just to the north of us without their daughter pushing them to go, or that she’d be adventurous enough like some of her friends to travel in women’s friend groups?

Once I had my first international experience for a month away in Shanghai when I was 20, I was completely enamored and hooked, and all I wanted was more, more and more. While I have friends who love travel but also can’t wait to come home, I’ve honestly never felt that way about any trip, ever. The only time I’ve ever really gotten a small feeling of wanting to come home was after our longer stints in Melbourne at Chris’s parents house, which is essentially like a third home for me.

You would think that because I love travel that I love talking about it. This is a bit of a tough one: I love discussing travel… but with like-minded people. I like discussing it with people who have a curiosity about cultures other than their own, who want to go to places that aren’t just the main hot spots that Americans go to, and who love different cuisines. I love talking about travel with people who aren’t afraid to leave their comfort zone. If you don’t fit any of those descriptions, I probably won’t enjoy sharing with you. I get bored and annoyed when I come back from trips, and occasionally a colleague will make a statement like, “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to go to that part of the world (we’re discussing India), but I always get scared that I won’t be able to get by because they don’t speak English, and that’s all I speak.” Okay, this response is flat out wrong for multiple reasons: 1) if you are simply a tourist in a place like Asia, you will likely be staying at an accommodation where everyone CAN speak English, and they will be ALL OVER you to help you if you wish because hospitality is a priority in their culture, 2) Um, one of the national languages of India is ENGLISH, and since you work at an education tech company, you should know this given most of our customers start their user base in India, where they are taking our courses… IN ENGLISH, and 3) 70% of communication is body language. While on your holiday, you’re unlikely planning to have a discussion about the quadratic formula or the hidden meaning behind Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, so please get over yourself that you won’t be understood. You’ll want usual, everyday things conveyed like, “how much is this?” or (ugh) “Does this have wheat in it?” Plus, if there truly is a doubt, there’s always this thing called GOOGLE TRANSLATE. A little kindness and a smile also can go a long way.

Yes, that comment did really get said to me last week after I returned. And yes, I did correct this person’s ignorance and nicely respond with all the replies I noted above. The other comment I got from another colleague was, “How did you choose India and Sri Lanka?” That seems like a fair question initially, right? Until you think about this: if I had said I was going to Paris, Rome, or Barcelona, no one would ever ask me why I chose any of those destinations. And we all know why: the three European cities I mentioned are heavily trafficked by tourists. When people go to a place like Sri Lanka or India, there always… needs to be a reason outside of just, I want to go there and have fun and eat! They are seen as more foreign and exotic lands, less accessible to those in the West.

Another thing I do love about sharing travel: when people actually take my suggestions or recommendations. I get so, SO excited when I’ve shared different lists that Chris and I have compiled, and someone comes back from their trip and lets me know that yes, they did book our day guide in Saint Emilion! Yes, I did book the wine tasting tour in Chianti! OMG, the paella place you recommended in Valencia was one of the best meals of our entire Spain trip! All the above have happened, with the paella restaurant comment happening the most recently. This always makes me happy, as I love sharing things we’ve done that other like-minded people will potentially enjoy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.