Advice I Would Give A New Solo Traveler

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 Advice I Would Give A New Solo Traveler

“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”  Aleksander Solzhenitsyn

I didn’t  know 13 years ago that when I got on a plane to fly to Europe alone for the first time to visit friends and family that it would be the beginning of my world travels. Looking back, I should have been wearing a sign that said ”I have no idea what I am doing.” Here are some things I have learned in that time. 

  1. Just Go.
  2. Don’t be afraid. Fear is a powerful deterrent. You aren’t exploring uncharted territories.  
  3. Plan. 
  4. Be flexible.
  5. Things will be different.
  6. Manners are universal. Use them. 
  7. You represent your country. Leave a good impression.  
  8. Learn a few words of the language of the country you are in- or at least Thank You. 
  9. Buy travel Insurance.
  10. Stay hydrated.
  11. Talk to locals.
  12. Bargain but do not over bargain.  Fifty cents to you may mean a meal for them.
  13. Don’t rely on technology.
  14. Pack light. Still working on that.  
  15. Ask for help when needed – even if it is with hand motions and charades. I can turn into Marcel Marceau if I need to be understood. 
  16. Blow your budget on that once in a lifetime experience.
  17. Eat the food. 
  18. Be adventurous. Challenge yourself.  The fried tarantula actually tasted good. 
  19. Don’t think you are super cool because you don’t do touristy stuff. Do it all. 
  20. Travel for longer to fewer places. I rarely go to more than two countries on a trip- usually one. 
  21. Learn how to squat on a toilet. You will need that. 
  22. Always know where your passport is. 
  23. Smile and say hello.-especially if you are an introvert brought up in New York City. This will change your travel experience.  
  24. Don’t be afraid to say No.
  25. Don’t be afraid to Yes. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

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The American Half Smile

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The American Half Smile

“Peace begins with a smile.”Mother Teresa

I’ve perfected it. It is known around the world as the American half-smile.  It is a smile that does not reach your eyes. It is faking kindness for a second to be considered a polite person.

I grew up in New York where you don’t have eye contact or smile at anyone – just in case they suddenly have the urge to lunge at you, steal your money and slit your throat. I had to learn the half smile when I moved to California. It is a dead giveaway that you are American. Most cultures do not have this.

In China, Russia, and Eastern Europe , people don’t smile on the street. It is impolite to show emotions in public to strangers. Smiling at strangers make others question your motives or your sanity. 

Before  the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese authorities wanted to get more people to smile . Their approach was to encourage Olympic stewards to clench a chopstick between their teeth to develop their smile muscles.Russian border guards were also instructed to be less intimidating and smile more to be more welcoming to visitors. The  French tourist authorities also occasionally attempt similar measures. In Norway and Finland they say when  a stranger on the street smiles at you, he is insane, drunk or American.

 When I was younger and spending a summer on Mykonos, I moved into a house with other people. I immediately introduced myself. I was going to be living with them. “You’re American yeah?” said the very cute Australian guy.  “Yes, I guess you can tell by my accent.“ He replied that only an American would walk into a room and introduce themselves to everybody.

Studies blame our friendliness on the immigrants. They say that countries with less homogenous populations learn to smile and get along with all different kinds of people. 

Also Americans love their white straight teeth. By and large, the American dental care is far superior to most countries. Not everyone in the world flosses. We flash our smiles  around like the Amex cards that a few non-American businesses take. Un-naturally white, perfectly straight-toothed smiles have “U.S.A.” written all over them.

Fly safe,

JAZ