A man walks up to a museum ticket window with his family waiting behind him. This scene plays out daily throughout the world. The leader of the pack is purchasing the tickets, braving the cultural confusion and language barriers for his family. However, this man is not your ordinary traveler.
As he leans back on his heels to see the prices, he smiles at the man behind the glass window saying, “Let’s see, we have one student and three adults, and I’m 16, so student for me as well”. He says this with salt and pepper hair and clear hints of age older than 16 years. The twenty-something behind the counter laughs, beaming a smile from ear to ear. Daily, people come up to this glass case confined guy, probably just whizzing past his existence to get inside the museum, saying “two please” like he could be replaced with a machine. This exchange was unique. This man made him chuckle, giving him some small piece of entertainment for the day, while making him feel like a real person. That jovial exchange gets a response from the ticket man. He remarks, “So one adult and four students then”, and gives the man and his family an unwarranted discount just for being funny.
I often look for travel role models, those travelers you see that take advantage of every exchange, every moment they are in a new place. They can walk up to anyone and strike up a conversation, language barriers and cultural ways aside. They have fun with their travels, seizing travel as an opportunity they may not have again. Their way of travel is magically universal, something few possess yet many want.
That goofy, getting deals with a smile, man is my Dad and travel role model. His talent for traveling is something I strive for on my solo travels. I recently joined a family vacation to Scandinavia and revisited traveling with my Dad and family. Here are a few things I have learned from traveling with my Dad over the years that anyone can practice.
Talk To People
It sounds simple enough but everyday traveling, there are exchanges to be had. If you just walk up to the ticket window or food stand and only order, you have missed a travel opportunity for conversation that could change your entire experience. My Dad is a master at this one. Last week in Copenhagen, he proceeded to have a 20-minute conversation with the guy behind the hot-dog stand. From quizzing him about US presidents on American money to intricacies of life in Denmark, their exchange seemed meaningful to me. I’m sure sitting behind a hot-dog stand all day has its ups and downs, mostly downs. You might as well leave locals with a bit more, perhaps even reverse a few stereotypes about your country. Talking to anyone may be the best travel activity.
Wear A Smile
No matter where my Dad is going, hotel lobby or a restaurant, he may butcher the language of the country, but he always begins any exchange with a smile. I noticed on this last trip how much better people treat you if you always greet them with a smile. This can be a challenge for me as sometimes my redheaded temper gets in the way of pushy people. The best way to travel and enjoy your experience is not to get angry or upset when someone overcharges you or hits your shoulder walking down the street. Just smile and move on.
Travel Like You Won’t Return
This can be a debatable point for many. I often like to think I will return to places I wanted more time with, strolling its streets or getting a better impression than just a 2 day stopover. I am not talking about traveling like it is a marathon and trying to see everything in two days. Rather, my travel role model has taught me to treat every place with the respect of a first time acquaintance. Perhaps it is the doctor in him, seeing life and death daily, but you really don’t know if you will return. Make the most of your experience in any way you find enriching.
While travel creates an individual, a confidence and personality only you possess, it seems to be an experience that you need models or guides to aid the process. If you consult a guidebook for where to go, you should also pack a guide of a traveler you admire. Especially with solo travel, you will step outside any introverted tendencies and use your model as your guide rather than just that heavy 500 page grouping of advice and tips in your backpack. Much like growing up and having celebrities, authors, sports figures, brothers and sisters to look up to, travel like you are a baby. Grow up along the way, but always carry your travel role model’s guide for travel in your pocket.
Do you have a travel role model? What do you admire most about your travel role model’s way of travel?