We understand that no one wants to lose their passport or be stolen while traveling… You want to be comfortable and snap a lot of photos… But, when traveling overseas, do you really have to stand out like a sore thumb? You, we believe, do not.
Here are 5 things we can do to help restore our reputation the world over.
1. For the love of God, leave the fanny pack at home
On the front of a person’s body, fanny packs and backpacks are powerful tourist identifiers. My best estimate about the logic for wearing such front-facing storage devices is that assets will be safer where they can be directly monitored and although this may be technically right, is it really worth looking like such a giant dork?
Instead, try this: Awareness of one’s surroundings. You don’t have to see your belongings to be aware of their presence. Keep an eye on what’s going on around you.
You may be robbed if you make it simple for a thief to rob you, so pay attention and apply common sense, and you should be alright.
Disclaimer: There are times when extra precautions are required, and goofy packs may be beneficial, particularly in larger cities and when traveling by public transportation. When traveling, always apply common sense and study.
2. Just because people can’t understand what you’re saying doesn’t mean that they can’t hear you
When you’re traveling through a strange nation and are surrounded by people who don’t speak your language, it’s easy to fall into the habit of casually discussing what’s going on around you (“Look at that lady, she’s about 3 feet tall!”). “Oh my God, he’s walking like a goat”).
To be honest, I’m guilty of this all of the time… And, honestly, if you do it at a low volume, it probably won’t be a significant concern.
You should probably stop talking if you can be heard from across a busy street. Don’t be obnoxious; the folks around you live and work here; they aren’t all on vacation with you.
Instead, believe you’re in a room full of people who understand what you’re saying. Humans are amazing at reading nonverbal signs; they can tell if you’re making polite or disparaging remarks about someone based on your facial expression, manner, and tone.
Don’t say something to someone’s face while traveling that you wouldn’t say at home.
3. Dress appropriately for your travel destination
Hawaiian shirts with half-unbuttoned buttons, baggy cargo shorts, and sandals are perfect for travel… to the beach. All jokes aside, it’s crucial to dress appropriately for the location you’re visiting.
That’s not to say you can’t wear anything you like; it just means that if you don’t want to stand out in a crowd, some effort may be required. However, the importance of dressing comfortably, particularly when traveling, cannot be emphasized.
You should bring light, versatile clothing that is appropriate for the environment and suitable for the variety of activities you will be participating in while remaining comfortable.
Consider the following: Invest in some lightweight, durable, comfortable, and breathable clothing made of “technical” fibers. Merino wool is a popular choice because of its versatility.
While clothes manufactured from these fabrics are typically more expensive, it is definitely worth the investment if you plan on traveling frequently and prefer comfort over style.
Related: The Secret to Discovering Your Dream
4. Pretend like you know what you are doing
Another distinguishing feature of the classic visitor is the perpetual expression of sheer befuddlement on their face. (What exactly is it? What am I doing here? Is this where the market is?) You observe people walking aimlessly into roadways, taking picture after picture.
They frequently obstruct traffic by stopping in the middle of a busy sidewalk to ask for directions or examine their map.
Instead, try faking it. I grew up in New York City, where I learned the importance of presenting yourself as someone who knows what they’re doing. You blend in (and don’t get mugged) if you walk confidently and purposefully.
To be sure, research and preparation for your trip are crucial, but even with meticulous planning, you’re bound to get lost or confused somewhere along the road.
When this occurs, simply continue walking confidently until it is comfortable to stop, take a minute to regain your bearings, and then, if necessary, ask a street vendor for instructions (in their language). People will regard you as if you belong if you act as if you do.
5. Speak (at least a little bit of) the language
A gentleman stopped me when I was traveling through New York City’s East Village a few years ago and asked me a question in French. I am not fluent in French. To convey this to him, I used regretful facial and hand gestures.
He ignored the cues and simply began speaking louder, his voice tinged with displeasure, as if to say, “How dare you not speak my language?”
This was the first time I had ever seen what residents of non-English-speaking tourist sites go through on a daily basis. Keep in mind that you are in the minority as a non-native speaker.
You don’t have to be proficient, but you should show some respect for the folks whose house you’re visiting by making an effort to talk with them in their native tongue.
Remember these easy rules when going abroad, and you’ll be fine: Be nice and considerate. Don’t make a spectacle of yourself or be too loud.
Simply act as you would at home, and you should be alright… unless, of course, you are a nasty person, in which case, please do not travel for the sake of your people’s international reputation.