And the list of my top ways to be a good traveler continues…
6. Brush up on the local language.
Even if you’re someone who travels to many different countries, each with their own unique languages, it’s a good idea to learn to say even a few basic words. I’ve found the most important ones are “Hello”, “Thank you”, “Excuse me”(like if you bump into someone on the street by accident), “Goodbye” and “Do you speak English?” or simply “English?”. I think learning to say a little bit shows respect for the culture, and also doesn’t give you away so obviously as a foreigner.
In the case where you must speak English it’s relatively easy throughout Europe to find at least one person who speaks some English in case you need some help. In many countries, especially in the south of Europe, English has only been recently integrated into the curriculum in the past 10-20 years, so you will most likely find that the younger people speak well, while those older than 40 or so probably won’t.
7. Be comfortable being uncomfortable.
It’s completely natural (and normal) to feel unsure of yourself or out of place in a new place (duh, Sarah). The best way to deal with this is to just simply be comfortable with discomfort. Don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed that you don’t understand what anyone is saying, you have no idea where you are going or the food is completely different than anything you’re used to. This is all to be expected. When I first started traveling, I looked for things that were like what I would have at home, things that were familiar. The more time I spend visiting new places and learning about new cultures, the more I look for things as different from what I’m used to as possible. Good travelers will always challenge themself to try new things.
8. Buy local.
Please, please, please, don’t go to Italy and eat at McDonalds, or the Hard Rock Café for that matter (okay, I’ve done it, but I’m not proud about it!). Look for local restaurants, shops, things to do, etc. Supporting the local economy will ensure that this magical place you’re visiting can keep thriving. Plus, local food is fresh, delicious and something you can’t get at home-like this authentic Neapolitan pizza from one of Naples’s most famous pizza restaurants- da Michele.
Also, it can be fun to visit some local farms outside the city like this one with strawberries and raspberries that we found on our way to a lake last summer.
9. Learn to like football (If you don’t already).
I don’t mind watching football (soccer for us U.S. natives), but I also wouldn’t seek out a game on my own either. With that being said, some of the most fun times I’ve had in Europe have revolved around watching a football game.
The fans are diehard and the atmosphere, even in hole-in-the-wall bars in some tiny little village, are going to be wild even if there is a relatively unimportant game on. If you are so lucky to be in Europe during a very important match (like I was in Germany during the last World Cup) consider this your golden opportunity. Find a local sports bar (or maybe even public viewing location) and join in with the festivities. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
10. Write postcards, don’t buy souvenirs.
Does your mom really want a small little figurine of a Spanish Matador? Perhaps not. Writing postcards to family and friends back home is a much more personal memory that can easily be stuck on the fridge or kept in a scrapbook, for example. Plus, you won’t add any extra weight to your baggage!