I just had to share another photo collage and appropriate caption from my wise-beyond-her-years cousin, Briana. At her young age, she’s in no danger of leading a life not worth living on account of not adventuring beyond her boundaries. Briana embodies the “Wanderfull” spirit and utilizes it to explore all that her home of Hawaii has to offer….from the gorgeous scenery that surrounds her to trying new and unique foods as she continues her journey. She’s truly an inspiration!
I love photography and wish I had more time to dedicate to learning how to become a better technical photographer. For the time being, I do the best I can with my mediocre skills, camera and lenses. But, I’ve learned that an eye for aesthetically pleasing composition, a fancy camera and high end lenses are most definitely not requisite for capturing special travel moments on film (or really, the digital equivalent).
Some of my favorite photos from my travels aren’t of beautiful scenery or spectacular buildings I’ve beheld, but rather many of my favorite trip pictures capture a feeling, random silliness, a facial expression or an unusual finding during my vacations shared with loved ones and friends. I do love beautiful photography of amazing sights and sites I visit, but anyone can take a pretty picture; I could buy a postcard with spectacular photography in hi-gloss hi-resolution far superior to any snapshot I could grab. However, I would look at that photo and, while appreciating the beauty, still be left cold.
Yet, when I look back at photos I’ve personally taken, whether they be of my son having fun hamming it up for the camera, of some peculiar sign we happened past or of some other fashion of a random moment that was too special not to capture for posterity, my heart is warmed with the fond memories of the travel time shared with my son, friends and family in a way that an aesthetically pleasing photo can’t possibly evoke. Remember – those moments are fleeting. Do what you can to freeze them in time and hold on to the special emotion those memories instill forever. I can’t remember the last time in recent history that I smiled as much as when I went digging through the droves of my photographs to dig up the pictures contained within this post. A picture really does convey MORE than a thousand words. They project so very much more than simple words could hope to express.
On a literal level, I suppose the title of this post merely states the obvious. However, I’ve witnessed firsthand too many times the reason why the pejorative terminology “ugly American” came into being. It boggles my mind and sensibilities as to how visitors to a country and culture foreign to their own arrive with expectations that their destination should closely resemble that of their place of comfort back home and that the residents of said destination should speak their language or readily understand customs of the visitor’s place of origin. With that expectation, it belies common rationale for undertaking a trip to a foreign destination in the first place.
Have you ever heard a fellow traveler overseas exclaim with indignation, “Nobody here speaks English!” My goodness, what a shock, given that you’re in Spain or Estonia! It irritates me to no end when visitors to South Florida (or worse yet, long time residents of SFL, but that’s an entirely different issue!) ramble to or at me rapid fire en español on account of the fact that I have a light tan and dark hair. While I may very well understand 91.5% of the gist of what they are saying, I tend to return a vacant gaze and a response formulated in my remedial German. When they return my glazed stare as if I have three heads, I calmly explain that I thought it was “Pick A Language Day” wherein they chose Spanish and I chose (grammatically incorrect) German.
Since I become quickly annoyed at such rude, presumptive behavior, I would readily expect inhabitants of non-English speaking countries to possess a similar attitude when Americans wrongfully presume that everyone should speak English. How many times have the French, or Parisians in particular, gotten a bum rap as being arrogant and rude? Well, frequently those who label the Parisian locals as being impolite approached them with a question or statement in English (oftentimes with an arrogant air), without so much as prefacing their inquiry with, “I’m sorry I don’t speak French….” Whether that introduction be in English or French, at least one is not making the automatic assumption that a Parisian ought to speak English just because the American traveler does.
When traveling to foreign locales, part of my pre-trip preparation is to ensure that I either learn in advance or bring along with me a few handy phrases in the tongue indigenous to my destination country(ies). Practically universally, I’ve encountered nothing but polite treatment by locals, oftentimes with a smile and reply to my poorly pronounced attempt at pleasantries in the native language ensuring me that I don’t need to butcher their language further since he or she speaks English quite well. When locals don’t speak English, they typically will play along with my pantomime and my limited knowledge of their language with a helpful willingness to answer my question or accomplish my purchase.
My dad led by example during travels of my youth. Even though he didn’t speak any language besides English, he never failed to make friends while traveling in Europe or elsewhere and somehow managed to communicate with locals, even if he had to play a game of charades or draw pictures on a paper place mat in a restaurant.
Of course, in America or points beyond, grumpy, unfriendly people exist everywhere, and at some juncture we are all going to encounter them.
But, just like in life in general, The Golden Rule applies to travel. Give it a try. It works.