I’ve always been fascinated with languages. I remember being twelve and begging my mother to let me take French lessons because I was in love with the culture. I took French for several years as well as in college before switching over to Italian, which I’ve been taking off and on while living in Italy. It never occurred to me that it might be a lot of work for nothing, or that there might not be a reason for me to use another language—I was learning French so when I went to France, I could speak along with the locals.
When living in Italy, I was asked by numerous people why I wanted to work on my Italian. “You won’t use it once you leave Italy!” they exclaimed. “What’s the point? You already know the universal language.”
They had a point. We English speakers are lucky because our language is pretty much taught everywhere. I was amazed when I was in the backwoods of Slovenia and I was able to have meaningful conversations with everyone I came in contact with. The more I traveled and realized that I didn’t have to know the native language in order to speak with new friends, the more I began to question whether or not it’s necessary to learn a foreign language at all.
However, the answer isn’t so black and white. I took a neuropsychology course in college and we discussed how learning a foreign language is not only just a useful skill to list on a resume or when you are abroad, but how it can actually change the way your brain is mapped. In fact, some neuropsychologists argue that you can’t fully experience a culture unless you learn the native language. Your brain begins to think in a different mindset culturally when you are connecting with others by using another language.
Would my experiences in France and Italy have been different if I had been unable to communicate in another language? Yes. Very much so. I think in an entirely new way when speaking another language. Not only has it served as an exercise for my brain, but it has also helped me to view the Italian and French cultures from a new perspective than I wouldn’t have gained otherwise.
Have you learned a foreign language for your travels? Did it help you?
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We’ve all been there. You’ve come back home from one of your fantastic adventures and you can’t wait to share the details. You’ve already organized the photos you want to put on Facebook. You’ve picked out gifts for loved ones and you can’t wait to elaborate on your stories about the time you spent away. However, when you sit down with your friends over a cup of coffee, you find that they don’t want to hear about it.
Returning from a long journey like an extensive backpacking trip or living abroad as an expat can be a challenge to begin with. But you may find that you’re unexpectedly alone after returning to a place you love. The first time I returned from Venice to Montana, I was expecting to tell all my friends the stories I had accumulated during my time abroad. What I came to find was that very few people actually cared. Not that they didn’t care about me and whether or not that I had a good time, but few cared about the details or wanted to hear my experiences.
It took a few more trips for me to realize how personal travel really is. Even when you’ve made the decision to embark on an adventure with a traveling companion or two, you’re not going to have the same experience as they have had overall. There’s a reason travel encourages us to grow as individuals—each experience is unique to the traveler. Learning to recognize that your experiences are yours and yours alone and to enjoy them as your unique moments can make a huge difference in how you see future trips.
Although there might not always be someone who wants to hear about your adventures, it doesn’t really matter. Traveling should be an individual experience that should affect you most of all. Learning to travel for my own personal growth rather than seeing it conversation-starter has taught me a lot about myself as a person. It’s taught me that it’s okay to do things for myself and to enjoy experiences because I want to rather than in order to share them with other people.
What are the reasons you travel? Do you choose to travel alone on purpose in order to create memories for yourself? Do you disagree?
Nothing is worse than dealing with a stolen credit card when you are traveling—I’ve never experienced it personally, but a few travelers I know have gone through this problem on the road and it has turned out to be a huge ordeal. You can spend an entire day trying to deal with having no funds and it can require much more than calling to cancel your card. I had a friend suggestion that I write about some tips when your credit card is stolen abroad and what you can do to prevent it.
Call your bank well ahead of time.
It’s surprising how many people forget to call their bank before they head abroad and find that they are stuck without a credit card because they forgot to let someone know they were traveling. Remember to call your bank at least two weeks in advance so you know that you’ll be set to head overseas. Also, it’s a good idea to have a way to call back to the States if you need to. I use Viber Out, so I can call any number in the US when I have wifi—including my bank and credit card company in case I am making a last-minute trip and need to let them know.
Keep multiple credit cards—and keep them in different places.
It’s a good idea to have a few credit cards on hand when traveling abroad, and you’ll also want to keep them in different locations. Take one with you when you go out and leave one behind in the hotel or hostel safe so you know if one is lost or stolen you have another as a backup. If you plan on taking both of them out, keep them in separate locations on your person. If your wallet is stolen and you have your two or three cards in there, it doesn’t help you to have multiple credit cards.
You can still use checks.
I didn’t know this, but my friend informed me that even if your credit or debit card has been locked because it has been stolen or lost, you can still write checks from your checking account. Also, make sure you have some cash out when you are traveling—it’s a good idea to have it as a backup in case something happens and you find that you no longer have any cards.
Have any tips for travelers? Ever lost a card before? How did you manage?
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