What it is like Traveling Places With a Language Barrier
By Erin Lyman
Clueless in Costa Rica
¡Hola! and a few numbers were about the extent of my Spanish when I travelled to Costa Rica last January. I was confused, to say the least, when I overheard conversations in Spanish between locals. I was lucky enough to be with a large group so I was not the only one who did not understand Spanish. This did not make it any less difficult, though, when we were allowed to venture on our own. I struggled through how to manage this language barrier but learned the best strategies for future trips with language barriers.
Translating the Language
In Costa Rica I went to a market where we bargained with locals for items they were selling. Seeing as how the only language I knew was English and them Spanish it was quite the challenge! If your cellular plan allows, I highly suggest getting a translator app. Although it will not be perfect, it is better than nothing and helps when you are in tough situations! Since I had people who knew English and Spanish around me I asked them for help. For the market, I learned how to ask how much an item costs in Spanish. Then I asked the sellers the price of an item. I luckily know the numbers in Spanish up to twenty, so even though they replied in Spanish I knew the price they were telling me. I then would counter back a price I was willing to pay. If you are going to a Spanish speaking country, want to bargain and do not know the Spanish numbers, I suggest learning them. Also learn that country’s currency exchange rate with your countries! That way, if worst comes to worse, you can hold out how much you are willing to pay and see if they accept.
Problems in Paradise
When it came to conversing with others I felt a bit left out because I could not talk with people that I wanted to. I wish that I had known a few more words or phrases so that I could interact with more locals. Even having a little booklet with common phrases and responses would have been extremely helpful! I would have felt more confident in my abilities to speak to locals. I felt a bit uncomfortable at times because when you do not understand another language, you may say something you do not mean. Also, you probably will not know what they are saying. When I was zip lining I was absolutely terrified and it was obvious to those working there. I was the only one with the workers at times and I got nervous they were joking about me when they were speaking to one another. Now, I doubt they were but it is a legitimate fear when you cannot understand a language!
For the more serious issues, such as driving, I was very lucky that I was not the one doing this because I would not have been able to understand the signs. If you are driving remember that shapes and colors of signs usually represent the same thing from country to country. If this does not make you feel comfortable, get directions from someone who is bilingual. If this is not a possibility or if you prefer, print your directions in your language and their language in advance so that you know where you are going and how to get there! Being lost in a foreign country with a language barrier would not be an ideal situation. Essentially, in all situations it is good to prepare ahead. Bring a translation book, find apps, know someone who speaks both languages or try to work through the barrier on your own if you think you can. Whatever method you choose is good, but if you go unprepared you will struggle and it could affect how much you enjoy your trip.
Why You Will Not Regret Traveling in Your 20s
By Erin Lyman
In my short twenty-one years of life I have been blessed with many opportunities to travel. From Minnesota to Costa Rica, from Pennsylvania to Colorado I have experienced numerous different places. Although it is exciting, experiencing new places is not the only perk of traveling. I have gained more than just memories from my experiences. I have gained friends, life lessons, and most importantly an understanding of myself. Traveling is not something that I used to enjoyed, but I fell in love with all it has showed me. I will never regret traveling and will continue to do so until I no longer can.
Learning to Travel Alone
When I had traveled in the past I was usually with at least one other person. However, as I get older I have began to I travel alone. Usually when with other people I just followed what I was told to do and mindlessly made my way through the airport to my gate. However, once I was alone I had to learn how to conquer my fear of the airport alone. Getting through an airport is not as scary as it seems, although the first time you go alone you will feel overwhelmed. Eventually, you get in a routine and learn that you do not need to be with other people to do things. This may be one of the greatest things I learned while traveling. It gave me the ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable and accepting that I may need to ask strangers for help, and that is okay. I am thankful to have learned this now before I felt too scared to try things on my own. Having the ability to be alone and feel confident is something that I would not trade. I have traveling to thank for this.
What You Gain Traveling Alone
Another reason I do not regret traveling and will continue to do so is because I have gained so many friends from it. When living in Philadelphia for a brief four months I made numerous friends that I still keep in touch with. However, even with shorter trips I have made lifelong friends! I went to Colorado for a quick three-day trip and made a friend that I often keep in touch with via social media. About a year ago I went to Costa Rica for ten days and became very close with my tour guide. We talked just the other day. You can spend your entire life in a bubble and be okay. You can also break outside that bubble and meet people that you did not even know you needed in your life. Also, never forget- it’s not what you know it’s who! You never know when these people who are far and wide will be able to help you. In our 20s, at such an unsure state in life, each person you meet can be the connection you need to get you where you want to go. The more people you know the merrier!
Discovering the World
Every place I have travelled to have different cultures. Seeing people in these lifestyles has taught me a lot about the person I want to be. The South is a slower pace of life that usually involves a love for the outdoors, football and pretty dresses. The East is a much faster pace a life and it did not have all of the Midwest charm I am accustomed to. The North is cold with kind folks and it is beautiful in the winter and summer! Colorado, which is as far West as I have been, has such friendly people with a love for hiking, mountains, and being one with nature. Although I may like the South better for my future, I know that each destination is or is not for me because I experienced it. I am able to do this while I still have the chance to. I have nothing holding me to where I am currently and in my future search for grad schools, jobs and houses I will know where I want to be.
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