Language Shouldn’t Be A Barrier

Last week I was catching up with a friend who recently returned from spending a year in New Zealand. The trip was only her third time out of the U.S. and her first solo adventure, so I was really interested to hear her thoughts on the experience. It sounded like she had an excellent time and would have likely not come back but for family commitments here. Our conversation next strayed (naturally) towards future travel and where she would like to go next. Imagine my surprise when I heard she was only interested in opportunities in English-speaking countries!

Now I appreciate the ease of communication that comes with traveling within your native language. However, I’ve also seen enough to know that things can pretty much always get lost in translation no matter where you go! (I mean, accents anyone? Weird slang? Same word, different meaning?) I tried to encourage her to branch out and brave it, but to no avail. Her main concern was in traveling solo, which I can definitely understand. But I’m still a bit sad for her and all the great opportunities she’s missing – hopefully she’ll change her mind as her travel confidence grows!

Wales, Welsh, English, Language, UK

I’ve written some tips on this topic before, but as the conversation has really been on my mind this week, today I thought I’d share a few more reasons why language shouldn’t be – and isn’t – a barrier to seeing your dream destinations, solo or not.

  1. It’s a small world – I suppose there are some places left on the planet that have not been exposed to foreigners, but they are few and far between. Most people are fundamentally good – and understanding. They don’t necessarily expect you to be fluent in their language and customs. As long as you keep a positive and respectful attitude, someone will do all they can to help you out with whatever you need, big or small.
  2. It’s a big, beautiful world – There is too much to see in the world to let language get in the way. The only true barrier to travel should be safety because, well, you want to live to tell your tales. Unless your safety is at risk, #1 will get you through.
  3. Preparation is vital – Presumably you will have some amount of time to research your destination and the means to do so. No matter where you’re going – language barrier or not – knowing the basics is definitely conducive to a positive experience. Search for key words, common traditions (especially greetings), and easy offenses (especially hand gestures). And if you find yourself somewhere on a whim, pay attention to those around you. You should be able to pick up a few basics from observation (though I recommend investing enough time that you hear/see the same thing more than once – then you know it’s more likely a custom and not something you don’t want to repeat).
  4. Map it out – Buy a map and become familiar with the local geography. If you become lost, have someone point on the map – you don’t necessarily have to know how to pronounce the road signs, matching them up visually will usually get you where you want to go. Does this get you branded as a tourist? Yes. Is that a bit dangerous? Potentially, it’s good to be discreet where you can. But is it worth it? Totally.
  5. Miming is fun – Much like math, I have found miming to be an almost universal language. Sure you feel ridiculous, but if you can keep a smile on your face it will all be just fine. I will warn that you should do a search for inappropriate hand gestures for the culture you’re visiting. You don’t want to inadvertently offend anyone! Visual aids (such as pictures or a map) are also super handy for speedy resolution.
  6. Currency considerations – It is generally safe to assume that the price is in the local currency unless otherwise marked. Know the local currency and a rough exchange rate so you can be prepared to do some quick and dirty math. If all else fails, numbers are universal, even if the words for those numbers are not. Write it out or count it out with your fingers.
  7. Lookout for groups – Sometimes you just need to hear a familiar word, so be sure to look for opportunities to find other speakers of your language (you are rarely alone in this small world). Book a day tour, stay in a hostel, find the expat community – any option that exposes you to a group of people will likely help you find a familiar language. It’s also a good chance to make friends and learn some of their tips and tricks.

What would you say to a friend afraid of crossing the language barrier??
(Other than “I’ll be happy to come along and assist!” – that one’s a given 🙂 )

Travel Tuesday: Glastonbury Tor

Happy Travel Tuesday everyone! I feel like I’m finally getting back into the office groove after a few short weeks in a row. I tell ya, those short weeks can be a blessing and a curse! Over this past weekend I finally got serious about tagging my photos now that they’re all in one spot. While doing so, I came across so many fond memories, including a trip out to Glastonbury during a work-study stay during law school. Glastonbury is a small town in Somerset, England known for its annual festival as well as its myths and legends.

Glastonbury Tor

Welcome to the Tor

I must admit that when I insisted on making the pilgrimage out to Glastonbury (which it sort of was given my dependence on public transport) I only knew about the Tor that dominates the skyline. It was only once I arrived that I discovered the associations with the Holy Grail and King Arthur.

Glastonbury Tor, St Michael's Tower

I was going through an “awkward angles” phase

Tor is a local word of Celtic origin meaning “conical hill.” I first heard about this mystical place on a History channel special about “energetic spiritual places,” such as Sedona, Arizona and Machu Picchu, Peru. The St. Michael’s ley-line passes through Glastonbury Tor and is “marked” by St. Michael’s Tower, which sits at the pinnacle. I won’t attempt to explain the concepts and meanings behind all this, but suffice it to say I was intrigued. I suppose some people would label it all a bit “New Age,” but I find any kind of religious mythology/history fascinating (even if I adhere strictly to nothing in particular).

Glastonbury Tor, St Michael's Tower

Once I arrived in Glastonbury I discovered that the Tor (apparently) had been called the “Isle of Avalon” by the Britons and is believed by some to be the Avalon of Arthurian legend. There are several other sites in the area linking Glastonbury to Avalon, but I’ll save those for next week. The Tor has also been associated with the first Lord of the Underworld (Gwyn ap Nudd, Celtic mythology) as well as the King of the Faeries.

So is it a magical place? I don’t know that magical is the right word, but it certainly gives off an old-in-an-ancient-sort-of-way vibe. The most popular place I can think to compare it to would be Stonehenge. You get the feeling that something happened there that left its mark on the atmosphere. Even if you believe in none of this or detest such theories, the Tor is still a beautiful climb and a worthy place for sitting in the air while reading a book (as my trip companion can attest). If you are interested in more background on the Tor’s myths and legends, I strongly encourage you to have a little pow wow with Google – and to take most sites with a grain of salt. The sheer variety of tales ensures that there’s a little something for [almost] anyone (smile).

Come join Bonnie and her co-hosts Courtney, Cynthia, and Yalanda for more fun adventures!!

Travel Tuesday

Isle of Islay

Since I was – appropriately enough – traveling on Travel Tuesday, I missed my regular post. Sad day. So I thought I’d make it up with a combination Travel/Throwback Thursday (#tbt) to this time last year. For my 30th birthday, my brother and I traveled to Scotland to visit my spot. And exactly one year ago today, we were drinking our way around the beautiful little wonder that is the Isle of Islay (phonetic: aisle of eye-la).

Isle of Islay, Scotland

Clear morning views

Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides off Scotland’s southeastern shore. The island is home to around 3,000 residents primarily engaged in agriculture, whisky distillation, and/or tourism. It’s a relatively easy island to get around, which is great given that it boasts somewhere around 10+ distilleries. The island’s malt whisky is so distinct, Islay is actually a distinct region for Scotch.

Unfortunately, due to some rather windy weather, we were only able to spend one full day on Islay instead of our original two. We still made it to 4 distilleries though, so not too shabby (smile)! It’s a gorgeous place, even in the off season. I would love to see it in the summer months with the wildflowers blooming. (sigh) It’s certainly on the shortlist of places I really want to return to – there was just something so relaxing and inviting about the land and the people. Islay certainly stood out as one of my favorite places we visited on our Scottish road trip.

Isle of Islay, Scotland

I wouldn’t mind having one of these myself 🙂

Sitting here in the desert sunshine today, I can’t help but wish I was back there. I’ll definitely be having myself a wee dram this evening to celebrate those beautiful memories…and making plans (smile).


Travel Tuesday: 12 Seoul-Searching Hours

You guys! I am on a roll with these post titles lately (smile). Sometimes I just can’t resist a little corny to brighten up the day. When I can do so on a Travel Tuesday it’s just the proverbial cherry on top! Okay, I’ll try to stop now…

This week’s themed prompt is all about layovers. I’ve only really experienced one layover that allowed adequate time and sunlight to justify leaving the airport for true exploration. When we took our Asian adventure a few years ago, my travel buddy and I decided to purposefully schedule a 12-hour layover in South Korea so we could explore Seoul. After a short nap (we had arrived at around 4am), we found a place to store our backpacks and headed towards the bus area. One of the key things we didn’t know – and later failed to properly respect – is that the Incheon airport is a good hour outside of Seoul!

Seoul, South Korea

I was a little skeptical of my less than detailed map

We found the express bus to our desired stop and decided to take one of those hop on/hop off tours in order to see as much as we could in a short amount of time. We did get to see a lot of the city and, I imagine, we would’ve been fine had we not decided to venture forth on our own vs waiting for the next bus. I broke one of my cardinal travel rules – never travel without a good street map handy. We didn’t wander into any trouble – Seoul seems to be a very pleasant city on the whole – but when time is finite, it’s best to stick with the plan.

We wandered through gardens, toured the National Museum of Korea, and even fit in some shopping. By the time we found caught up with the hop on/off bus, we were cutting it awfully close to finish the loop back to the airport bus. My friend is one of those incredibly lucky people born under a special star. She’s incredibly, ridiculously type B and perpetually late. Even so, she’s somehow never missed a plane, train, bus, etc. because of it. I just try to stay in her orbit and hope for the best when these things come up (smile). Needless to say, she insisted we finish the tourist loop instead of trying to find a taxi back to the airport. So we did.

Knowing how it all turned out, I’m really glad we made the decision to see those final few places. Seoul has a personality all its own- trendy and classic all at once. I’m happy we saw what we did, but I would love to return some day and really explore without such a time crunch. As it was, once we got back to our starting point, we couldn’t find the bus stop for the airport bus. And we couldn’t find anyone else who knew either – we saw the bus drive by, but never where it stopped. After many frantic pantomimed conversations, we finally found an incredibly nice older businessman who helped us into a cab. He told us what we should pay (so we wouldn’t be completely taken advantage of) and wished us well. We only had half an hour in rush hour traffic to make an hour long trip. That taxi driver was one of the kindest and most efficient drivers I’ve ever known. He offered us oranges, music, and as much reassurance as he could manage – and miraculously got us to the airport with zero time to spare. The fact that there were no lines – anywhere – and that we reached the gate just as our zone was called is nothing short of a miracle. My companion’s special star at work (smile).

Come join Bonnie, Camila, Jessi, and Amy for more adventures!!

Travel Tuesday

Travel Tuesday: Rocky Point Wedding

Happy Travel Tuesday!! This week has been so cr-aa-zy it’s hard to believe it’s only Tuesday! In the spirit of imagining my happy place, I figured a recap of this past weekend’s wedding would be perfect (smile).

Mexico, sunset, beach


The wedding weekend took place in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico (aka Rocky Point to the gringos), which is located on the western coast of mainland Mexico along the Sea of Cortez (aka Gulf of California). It’s known as Arizona’s beach due to its relatively close proximity (only about 4 hours – closer than the California coast line). We all stayed at Las Palomas, which is a owner/rental resort along the shore. It’s a beautiful location and the staff at the resort are absolutely amazing!

I’ve been going to Rocky Point for several years now with a coworker who owns a condo at Las Palomas (#lucky). Her family has been going down for years and are very active in the local community. They sponsor some of the local children at school and have helped build homes for the locals, one of which I was able to help with – such a rewarding experience! Needless to say, it felt a bit strange going down with a completely different group of people just to celebrate (I’m not good at this “relaxing” thing).

Mexico, wedding

Beautiful Ceremony 🙂

The bride and groom were kind enough to sponsor shuttles for those of us who didn’t want to make the drive. We had plenty of time to relax and get to know everyone in the group in between various wedding activities, which was really nice. And then it was time for the main event…which unfortunately had to be moved inside due to high wind gusts (sad face). Nonetheless, the transition indoors went smoothly and the ceremony went off with the usual hitches (smile). Part of the ceremony was a poem from their dog (who couldn’t attend sadly) and a friend took the liberty of blowing up a life size photo to act out the poem – it was so true to the couple, everyone was in tears (of laughter) by the time it was over! The reception was super nice and even the staff got in on a bit of the fun (smile).

Overall it was a fabulous weekend and welcome memory during the craziness of this week. I have my fingers crossed that maybe I’ll get some additional officiant requests from some of the engaged couples who attended (smile). If it’s a destination wedding, I’m definitely there! And if you’ve never been to Rocky Point – I highly recommend if if you ever have the chance!!

Come join Bonnie, Camila, Jessi, and Amy for more adventures!!

Travel Tuesday

Travel Tuesday: That Time I Caught Crabs In Mexico

Happy Travel Tuesday everyone!! I hope your week is off to a good start! Sorry for the radio silence this weekend – the post I wanted just wouldn’t come out, so I spent the time drafting other posts instead – at least it was productive, right? I’m heading down to Mexico this weekend for a wedding (happy face). In the spirit of both the location and the occasion I thought it would be fun to share a story about that one time, in Mexico, when I caught crabs, then took photos!

Okay, I apologize for the somewhat cliche title – I have to do something to peak interest! I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Puerto Penasco, Mexico (aka Rocky Point) several times since moving to Arizona. It’s about a 3.5-4 hour drive from Phoenix and a popular beach destination for us desert dwellers. My co-worker owns a condo down there, so I’m incredibly spoiled (#sorrynotsorry). Every trip down is a little bit different, and there’s always a variety of interesting people to meet up with – both American and Mexican. On this particular adventure, we met up with a mutual friend who’s been visiting the area for….well, quite a while (smile). He’s a biologist and insisted on taking us all crabbing at a nearby “secret” spot. When this guy’s involved, you never turn down the opportunity – he’s always an adventure (smile)!

So we all crammed into the truck with nets, buckets, and coolers to head to this “secret” spot. Once there, we alternated between chasing crabs with nets and drinking watching on shore. These little guys are incredibly difficult to spot in the water and super quick! There’s a special art to catching them, but I’m not allowed to share (smile). Even the dog got in on the action!

Once the tide came in we were forced to give up the good fight and head in for the day. We took the crabs we did catch back to the condo for super yummy softshell appetizers (smile).

I think it’s fun anytime you can participate in the gathering of your own food (I think it’s a by-product of my upbringing), and this was a special treat. It was quality entertainment and educational – the biologist loves to share any random knowledge on pretty much any topic. Sun, surf, and seafood – win all around!!

Rocky Point, Mexico

Sunset on an amazing day 🙂

Have you ever been crabbing??

Come join Bonnie, Camila, Jessi, and Amy for more adventures!!

Travel Tuesday

Travel Tuesday: Travel Animals


Happy [Travel] Tuesday!! I had originally planned on sharing a bit of Yellowstone today, but I may have gotten a little carried away with photo ops during the trip and there’s a small chance that it may take me a bit longer to sort through/process the best ones (only the best for you guys after all – smile). Since a large portion of Yellowstone is the animals themselves, I thought it would be fun to share a few snapshots of the animals I’ve met throughout my travels. Some are pretty, some are just pretty scary, but they are all pretty cool (smile).

North America

South America

Southeast Asia

What’s your favorite animal encounter??

Come join the fun with BonnieKaeleneSammy, and Van!!

Travel Tuesday