I read a quote below, by Mark Twain, years ago and it stuck with me. The reason this is such a powerful quote is that so many of the divisions between people inherent in many societies, such as bigotry and racism, thinking your way is the only way and refusing to compromise, being self-absorbed, feeling entitled, etc., are rooted in the fact that most people who hold these views have such limited frames of reference. Many have never left a one-mile radius from where they grew up…their city…or, their own state, let alone their own country.
Through my travels, I’ve seen a great deal, I’ve learned a great deal and have experienced an infinite number of things I would have never experienced had I never ventured out of my comfort zone. I’ve been fortunate that my profession allowed for a lot of travel (mostly domestic, within the US, but I did go to Argentina and Brazil through work). Mind you, we learn a lot about our country as well simply traveling within it. I’m not a “passive” traveller which sadly describes many people. However, in my view, I’d rather people be passive travelers but at least travel vs. never seeing anything outside of their own town. I encourage people to learn a few phrases in the language of the place they plan to visit, to learn how other people in other places live, to listen to other people’s perspective on life and observe people’s tradition, culture and their everyday life.
I have travelled extensively for leisure and I speak Spanish, a bit of French and am currently learning German. I have been fortunate in life but it always wasn’t like this. I grew up poor, my dad passed away when I was 14 and my mom died when I was 30. I was a single mom by 20 and endured many hardships along the way.
The ability to speak other languages has opened up worlds that most people don’t get to experience because as we know, if you speak someone’s language, people are better able to share their thoughts and themselves with you and they are also more open to someone who comes from a different place than they do. However, let me be clear, these languages didn’t just “come to me.” I had to study over years to learn them because I wanted to learn them. I’ve often heard people say, “I wish I could speak Spanish.” That irks me. How about we stop with the wishing and start with the trying! I know how hard it is to learn a new language and some people struggle more than others, but just about anyone can memorize a dozen of phrases and maybe 20-25 words. Make no mistake, however, it does require effort. The most important factor in learning a new language, I’ve found, is motivation. I strongly encourage anyone who has always wanted to learn a new language to really give it a try. You’ll find you have a completely different experience when you visit a country whose language you’ve taken the time to learn. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to speak it fluently. Learn a dozen phrases and learn them well. Those 20-25 words, make them the ones you’re likely to use in everyday situations. I saw a Ted Talk a few months back called, “How to learn any language in six months | Chris Lonsdale.” It’s fabulous and I wish I’d seen this 10 years ago when I first started learning new languages. It’s 18 minutes long and has gotten 13.1M views. I HIGHLY recommend anyone wanting to learn a new language see this video first. Here’s the link.
One of the best apps out there for learning a new language is called Duolingo. It’s free. You can download onto your smart phone or visit their site. No sponsorship here, I just think it’s a great app and if you haven’t heard of it, check it out!
Through my blog, I hope to impart some of these travel learnings to my readers. If I can encourage you to stop buying “things” and start buying “memories” instead, I’ve achieved my goal. You see, many people say, “Oh, I don’t have the money to travel,” yet they spend far too much on electronics, over-consumption of food, household products and clothing and they insist on buying everything brand new. For more on this, please read my Responsible Living page. I hope to convince you that spending this way is not conducive to living a full and happy life. If you’re going to spend your money, spend it on traveling! See the world and get yourself out of “that little corner of the earth” Mark Twain talked about.
I’m also happy to answer any questions you may have about traveling–getting started can be a bit overwhelming (if you’ve never done it before), don’t hesitate to reach out to others for their perspective and tips! 😀
To get us started, I’ll share a key lesson I learned while traveling through Argentina’s wine region: Mendoza. The mosaic you see below is from a solo trip I took to Mendoza, Argentina. I’d been in Buenos Aires for work and decided to take advantage of being in South America to go wine tasting in the Mendoza
region, known for producing some of the best Malbecs in the world.
So, off I went. When I got there, it turned out cycling to the wineries was the best way to visit them. There was no organized tours and taxis were not part of the city’s transport infrastructure (maybe hotels had tours but I stayed at an Airbnb). Anyhow, when I arrived at one of the bike rental shops that I’d looked up on Trip Advisor, the man who owned the small shop (ran it out of his home) was such a beautiful soul. As he was getting the bike ready he told me there were some bad locals had been targeting tourists along the route, usually and stealing their money and passports. He was very worried because I’d be going out on my own. I’m not going to lie, I had second thoughts. But I also figured, well, I’m hispanic so maybe I’ll blend in, making me less of a target? Not really, the fact that I was on a rented bike clearly marked me as a tourist.
At that moment, a couple walked in to rent a bike. He asked me to excuse him (left me waiting–he still hadn’t given me my bike) and helped them with their rental. I was starting to question his customer service…but wait, there was a method to his madness.
He struck up a conversation, asking the couple where they were from (they were Brazilian from Sao Paulo, the woman spoke fluent Spanish). As he wrapped up the paperwork, he asked them in Spanish (taking me by surprise) if they’d be willing to pair up with me and bring me along with them. He mentioned he was worried about me going out on my own because “you never know.” I was like, “Wait, what??!” You know we Americans are a bit weird about being a third wheel, about being paired up with strangers and we’re a bit weird about our privacy. Don’t tell me this isn’t true 😉
They were so gracious, however, immediately saying, “Absolutely! We’d love to have her join us.” We had an amazing time together.
Anyway, after the full day bike ride, they invited me back to their hostel where the chef (who was from Galicia, Spain–a place I’d visited and knew well) was making Paella. The chef was so impressed I had visited his hometown and could reminisce about the Pulpo a Feira, the local white wine (Albariño) and bread that was to die for–all of which I had when I was there–he invited us to another bottle of wine, just the four of us, and we hung out chatting until past midnight.
As for the Brazilian couple, we’ve remained in touch on Facebook and Instagram, for over four years now, they’ve since married and had a beautiful little boy.
I hope you enjoyed this first lesson from my travels. I’ll have many more to come in future posts…stay tuned! Now, remember, stop buying stuff…buy memories!! ❤