The Wild Pair

You Are A Travel Ambassador Every Time You Hit The Road

In Travel Tips on June 22, 2008 at 6:56 pm

There doesn’t seem to be any way to discourage people from traveling. The Wild Pair is delighted to discover that no matter how many annoyances and inconveniences travelers face, they don’t stop buying tickets. Even when the price of airline seats goes up and services go down, planes are flying at capacity and airports are jammed.

The benefits of travel are obvious to all of you–expanding your mind, having thrilling adventures, meeting people, changing your habitual environment, taking time out from work and responsibility, challenging yourself, enjoying life–but have you ever thought of yourself as an ambassador without a portfolio? Here are some tips from the Wild Pair about how to step into that role.

1. Being Label Conscious

None of us like to be typed, and certainly not stereotyped, but people do it all the time. They label you by your country of origin. “He is an American,” or “She is Brazilian.” It’s important to be aware of this, because your behavior helps others to determine what they think about your country. If they like you, they tend to generalize and think Americans or Brazilians as likeable.

2. To Err is Human

Everyone makes cultural faux pas. It is inevitable, even if you are well-meaning. So it always helps to find out about cultural norms in advance, and apologize if you make a mistake and are chided.

Instead of getting defensive, apologizing shows you are willing to learn. It earns you good will points, and makes people think well of the culture you come from.

3. There Is No Comparison

People want to think their city or country is admired by others. Even if they are plagued by poverty, crime, natural disasters or manmade disasters, they love knowing that you find good things about the place they live. Try not to make comparisons to “what we have back home.” A compliment to one’s city or country is, to many people, like a compliment paid to them.

4. Investing in Bonds

The more contact you have with locals, the more they have an opportunity to get to know something about your country. If you’re eating around a campfire at night, sit next to someone you don’t know. If you’re hiking with a group, don’t just stay with your mate or travel partners. Get to know people in the place you are visiting. They will really appreciate it.

5. They Like Me, They Like Me

There has been a lot of ink lately about the bad image America has abroad. It doesn’t matter what end of the political spectrum you are on–but you can be patient, explain your point of view, ask people what they think. Every time you engage, share your opinions and really, truly listen, you allow folks to look behind the headlines and see that Americans are real people, with awareness, conscience, patience, interest in others. If they like you, they will begin to see that they may not like American policy, but the American people are a different story.

6. Sharing is Caring

Wherever you go, you can’t assume that people know a lot about where you come from. They may know a lot about American music and movie stars, but your home town is probably off their radar. Bring photos from home. The more they learn about you, the more they are apt to like you and the country you come from.

7. Turn the Other Cheek

If you encounter people who are hostile to your country, don’t get angry. Listen. Listening is the most powerful tool you have, because it shows people you respect them. Present your views in a clear, reasoned way. Remind them that you may not agree, but it is good to hear each other out and learn from each other.

8. You’re Not Mrs. or Mr. Moneybags

Some people may assume that all Americans are rich, because America is a wealthy nation. You are never obliged to give handouts or cough up money because it is expected of you. You may wish to buy from people who really need money, or make donations to charities. You may choose to return home with souvenirs and gifts for friends that you purchase during your travels. What you can always give–whether you buy or not– is attention, fairness and respect.

9. Be a Blender

If people greet each other with folded hands, try to do the same. If they cover up, make sure you are not showing a lot of skin. If they don’t drink alcohol, try to forego it. If they speak quietly, adjust the volume of your voice. Your blending behavior is an unspoken way of telling people you respect their ways. It reflects well on you and your country.

10. So There You Are…

If you follow the tips above, you are already an ambassador for your country. You will create good will wherever you go, and show what generous, open-minded people your countrymen and women are. If enough of you are ambassadors, it can affect the way America is perceived in the world, and create opportunities for peace and cooperation.

Bon Voyage!


ABOUT THE WILD PAIR: Ellen Barone and Judith Fein,

They’re smart, sassy, savvy, award-winning travel journalists and photographers and now they’ve joined forces to become THE WILD PAIR, bringing you cutting-edge information and tips on how to turn your next vacation into a life-enhancing experience.

© Ellen Barone and Judith Fein. All Rights Reserved.

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