Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

A beautiful perk to living in or visiting a metropolis is a euphony of various languages, a din of voices uttering gorgeous vowels or harsh consanents, but nonetheless transmitting the most precious of all human inventions–culture.  But why learn these conduits of varying societies?

Pickthebrain.com articles “5 Great Reasons to Learn a Foreign Language”, and starts with the idea that it will improve your English…or whatever language is most familiar. Granted, not all ideas are parallel between societies, but to understand the uniqueness of a language and its reflection of culture ultimately makes one a more authentic and careful speaker. This continues the idea that knowing a language deepens cultural learning, teaching more than just vocal sounds, but instead a very human experience.

But strengthening one’s familiar language is only the beginning. Any avid traveler will note that knowing the local lingo can not only enhance the experience, but keeps a traveler safe as well.  Without knowing the behind-the-counter conversations, one can feel excluded from the local culture, relegated instead to buying over-price cheaply-made souveniers and eating at the local McDonald’s. Opening with at least an attempted language exchange increases the chances of a receptive and positive interaction, thus increasing the memories and deepening the experiences. When last I visited Paris, I attempted my worst pronunciation of French. Though I was ribbed for my terrible French, the Parisians were still quite happy to help me with whatever I needed. And possibly flirted with me a little bit, too.

Actually learning the language, though, can be the challenge. Two of the most used on-line language courses are livemocha and Rosetta Stone. However, which one to use is an even more of a challenge. LiveMocha allows learners to interact with fluent speakers and other learners. This community makes learning not feel so isolating, and gives almost immediate feedback as to the quality of responses. LiveMocha also has many free courses, though the most common languages (like German and Spanish) do cost. The downside is that LiveMocha has many translation errors, and behaves more as a review of a language than an initial learning tool. Rosetta Stone, however, has proven strategies that work, though at a high financial price at roughly $300.

Whatever language learning software you choose, just experiencing a new culture enhances the human experience. Challenging yourself, stepping out from your comfort zone, makes life more meaningful. Larga vida y prosperidad!


Read Full Post »

Mark Twain once said that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Though many travel regularly, for most it is to get from point A to point B or merely for employment. The travel Mr. Twain referred to, though, is the travel that pushes us beyond our limits of comfort, travel for pleasure and for experience, rather than altered physical geographical state. Travel of this kind offers more than entertainment: it offers health benefits multi-fold.

Tripbase.com published an eArticle “5 (Less Obvious) Reasons Why Travel is Good For You” to prove exactly this point. Of the five, the first is that travel “makes you more employable.” To backpack through a foreign country (not pay for a tour or only stay at 5 star hotels) offers opportunities to problem solve and balance a tight budget, for example, which all can be turned into viable skills in the workplace. Why stop there? Through my own world-wide solo adventures, I’ve doubled my ability to use financial restraint and discover solutions to problems on my own without freaking out.

These same experiences also lead me into the second reason: independence. Starting with an experience traveling suddenly alone in New York City when I was 22, I quickly learned how to take care of myself, instead of relying on another person to make plans and decisions. Three years later I applied these same skills to a United Kingdom adventure, and every year thereafter slowly making may way further and further across the globe.

Each time I returned from my lengthy adventures I found myself more content to be at home, which Tripbase claims as the third support for travel. When I return from a trip–whether just a few hours away or a few countries away–I find myself ever more thankful for what I have and where I have it. The first thing I give thanks for each time? My bed.

This reason leads into the fourth: therapy. To remove yourself from current and consuming issues helps attain perspective. With each excursion I go on, I find myself more and more content, able to renew my view of life, my job, my home, my friends with a wider perspective. In fact, a new genre of travel has arrived with the advent of books regarding travel therapy such as this: http://traveltherapytrips.com/book-2/

The final reason to travel, as per the site, is “consolidating relationships.” Though I rarely travel with friends, when I do, I find myself getting to know the other(s) on a level “just hanging out” could never afford. Simultaneously, I’ve never learned so much about myself, my patience, my communication, my expectations as when I have scurried around other lands with a companion. Though I prefer to travel alone, I certainly am open to the right person to join me. I realize I should approach all relationships in such a way, whether family, friend, or romantic. Being upfront about expectations, honest when things go awry, able to give each other space while simultaneously using empathy, are all relationships skills.

So these thoughts in mind, I am currently planning my future trips, which include Chile in July to snowboard, Hawai’i the following summer to surf, and Japan the winter after that to snowboard again. I’ve put off travel long enough to pay a mortgage–now removing said mortgage, I am excitedly and nervously stepping outside my comfortable home into new adventures!

Read Full Post »