Don’t be a travel dunce.

I love tourists, but I dislike them at the same time.  I’ve been a tourist myself, but I always took pains to not look like one, and I really hate it when tourists act like tourists.  One, it annoys the locals.  Two, it makes you a bigger target for pickpockets, muggers, and who knows what other kind of miscreant.  Three, I don’t think you can fully enjoy yourself if you don’t have the foggiest idea what’s going on or where you are.  Before going anywhere, you should know the place like the back of your hand.  If you have sights/attractions you want to get to, map out your route from the hotel/place you’re staying to any public transportation you’ll need, and them from the public transportation to where you’re going.  For example, using my hometown of Chicago, if you want to see Navy Pier, before you leave your hotel, know where the buses are that will take you there, know how to get to those buses, then know how to get back.  If you’re going anywhere in the Loop, every train in the city stops there, so just get off at a random stop and head east.  That’s the lake.  Always keep keep the lake in your sights so you’ll know where east is, and that means the other cardinal directions are simple to figure out.  You can get anywhere you need to from there.

If you’re traveling to a country that doesn’t speak English as its predominant language, learn a few key words and phrases in that language so you can appear to at least be trying to fit in.  Hello, goodbye, please, thank you, yes, no, and most importantly, “Do you speak English?” will go a long way to ingratiating you to the locals.  Most countries in Europe are as fluent in English as they are their native tongues, but that’s in the major city centers.  In Paris, you’ll be fine.  In some little town with more sheep than people, maybe not so much.

I’m a firm believer in traveling, experiencing new places/cultures, all of that…but I’m also a firm believer in traveling intelligently so you have a safe and happy time of it.


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