THE EDUCATED TRAVELER: Foreign Travel Advice From An Expert

By: Sandra B. Wilkins, M.A
Senior Agent,

“I don’t know where the shame of being a tourist comes from.  I’ve heard many friends in full touristic swing say that they don’t want to mix with tourists, not realizing that even though they don’t mix with them, they are just as much tourists as the others.  When I visit a place and haven’t enough time to get to know it more than superficially, I unashamedly assume my role as tourist.  I like to join those lightning tours in which the guides explain everything you see out of the window—‘On your right and left, ladies and gentlemen…’  one of the reasons being that then I know once and for all everything I needn’t bother to see when I go out later to explore the place on my own.”

—Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I confess my pet peeve when traveling out of the United States is hearing many times over “well, they don’t do it like this at home!”  Certainly not, my dear sir from Des Moines, if you want life the same as it is at home, by all means stay there, and stop wearing those dumb Bermuda shorts with tacky black knee socks and brown sandals.  In fact, go home, you’re spoiling my enjoyment of the delicious differentness of it all.

Foreign travel, while often taxing and frequently difficult, has brought me the most wonderful pleasures.  It has expanded my sensibility, made me humble, reduced my self-centeredness, and taught me I always have a lot to learn.  What can be more civilized than cooking like the French, savoring theatre like the English, emulating the manners of the Spanish, admiring art and architecture  like the Italians, taking great joy in small things like the Mexicans, meditating like Tibetans, and generally acquiring beautiful new layers of sensibility with each new culture we experience?  To my thinking, nothing is more rewarding.

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