When it comes to traveling, and learning, most people say you don’t truly know someone until you travel with them. Now that I’ve been outside the US, I agree. You learn a lot (maybe too much) about your travel companions, but I didn’t expect to learn just as much about myself.
I didn’t travel as a child; I took my first international trip at twenty-four. I was nervous; it was hard. I had all these fears about traveling abroad: Am I ready? What happens if this doesn’t go smoothly? What if they lose my bag? What if I get kidnapped like the movie Taken? What if…? What if…? My imagination ran wild and drove me crazy.
Well, I was ready, no bags were lost, and most importantly, no one got taken. The trip was incredible. I learned so much about the country I visited – Chile – and perhaps even more about myself.
I’m hoping these next four lessons will inspire any of you who are on the fence about traveling overseas to just do it; book your ticket and figure out the rest after.
Before my first trip, I was nervous about being in an unfamiliar place with people who don’t speak English. How would I communicate and interact? How could I travel around the country? What if I offend someone unintentionally? What are their customs around tipping? Am I supposed to haggle with the local merchants? The questions never stopped coming…
Once outside the US, I quickly learned that my fears had gotten the better of me and that navigating unfamiliar territory was easier than I thought. Communication with locals was a mix of English, Spanish, and hand gestures. I used Google Translate on my phone and taxi apps to get around the city. I observed people in the markets were not haggling, so I didn’t try, and I read about tipping customs before my trip. When I needed help, I approached people with a smile and even if we couldn’t communicate, they smiled back. Using simple words and speaking slowly helped a lot.
My advice: If you’re also nervous about communicating abroad, go somewhere that speaks a language you’re comfortable in. If English is your only language then you’re in luck because most Europeans learn English in school. Even if you only speak un petite-peu (little-little) French, go to France (!); you’ll be shocked to find how proficient your language skills quickly become. Especially in France, there are opportunities to work with American companies like Americanconcierge.com who will do everything to ensure you enjoy your trip!
It’s easy for many of us to adopt a “them vs us” mentality. But by traveling outside the U.S. I quickly learned that when you make the effort to communicate with people you quickly realize you have much more in common than you may have thought. In fact, I learned we are more alike than we are different because we all want the same things: a home for our family with food on our table, the ability to work and the opportunity to educate our children so they have opportunities. Just like here in the U.S., most people want to have a positive impact on the lives around them, which makes me hopeful about the future and reminds me of this Maya Angelou quote”
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
People in the U.S. often refer to our country as a global superpower and while I associated these notions with the size of our economy and the strength of our military, I never really knew what that meant for people living outside the U.S. After a couple trips, I started realizing how little I know about other countries’ political, economic, and military situations and how much they know about ours. Some examples of this are in your face as you walk down the street past a McDonalds or a Starbucks …and there’s mostly American music on the radio.
You’ll find American influences in lots of other places too. For example, English is often taught in schools and American politics are followed by their local news. When was the last time you saw a President or Prime Minister address their country? It’s hard to imagine CNBC airing a speech from a foreign leader unless it was directly addressed to the U.S. In other parts of the world, American Presidential speeches are just as televised as speeches given by their own leaders.
My Advice: I’m amazed at how much people outside the US know about our country; don’t be surprised if they ask you questions about politics. Before traveling research their population, political system, and main exports so you have a few talking points. A little research will go a long way towards an engaging discussion.
Growing up in the South it was commonly taught that America is the greatest country in the world, which begs the question, “if I live in the best place on earth, why go anywhere else?”
Once I started traveling though, I saw things in other countries that I liked better than in the U.S. For instance, I like Iceland’s lack of wage gap and two extra years of primary education. In other countries, students are required to learn second and third languages, which I think helps them better understand the people who speak those languages. In Chile, I appreciated their artisanal culture, which permeated their parks, shopping malls, and historic sites.
Social programs are important to me and it was interesting to see how other countries deal with healthcare, poverty, and their prison systems. I honestly believe this added perspective makes me a better American because I’m better equipped to make informed decisions.
My Final Piece of Advice: Travel outside the U.S. Expose your family, children, and friends to international travel whenever you can. Once abroad, keep your eyes, ears, and mind open so you can truly learn about another culture. In most instances, I’m confident you will learn more about yourself as an individual, as an American, and as a citizen of the world.
Written by: Hallie Snow, friend of AmericanConcierge.com
Your concierge will pick you up and take you to the top of Montmartre for its breath-taking views of Paris. You’ll visit the beautiful Sacre Coeur basilica and see the artists who still gather to sell their wares in the Place Du Tertre, stroll through cobblestone streets where Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, Renoir and Picasso painted their famous works and see the oldest working vineyard in Paris.
Experience the Paris jazz scene with a Paris jazz singer/musician. Learn about the history of jazz, from its origins in the deep south USA to its sensational arrival and enthusiastic reception in Paris, France. You’ll be picked up from your hotel and escorted by our Jazz expert to a cool locale (bar/ cafe) for an enlightening discussion over a round of drinks. After that they will take you to a Parisian jazz venue where you can enjoy live jazz for as long as you wish. You’ll also receive directions for a second venue should you want to extend your evening into the wee hours.
A self–proclaimed foodie, Debbie has been living in Paris for 20+ years and offers a unique opportunity to go with her to her favorite Paris cheese mongers. Together, you’ll select a handful of cheeses for a tasting lunch, which she hosts in her lovely apartment in the 16éme arrondisment. In addition to cheese, lunch includes fabulous breads from Desgranges, meat from a local charcuterie, salad, fruit, paired wines… and lively conversation all about the history of French cheeses from the various regions.
Learn how to select top quality produce from the market and meet local merchants while your chef purchases everything from starters to dessert. Back at the school – aprons, chopping boards and chef’s knives provided – you will cook together from start to finish and enjoy the delectable gourmet meal together with your fellow sous-chefs.
If you’ve already experienced the grandeur of the Louvre and the D’Orsay museums, you will appreciate the calm ambiance, elegant surroundings and private collections offered at the Jacquemart-André Museum, the Marmottan-Monet Museum or the Nissim de Camondo Museum. These ‘maison-musées’ hold extraordinary private collections in 19th century mansions.
Discover the charming Ile St Louis with its splendid river views, famous ice cream and lovely shops, and hear stories about those who lived there, from Voltaire to Hemingway. Crossing over to the Ile de la Cité, with its atmospheric backstreets, you’ll visit the majestic Notre Dame cathedral, the flower market and gilded outdoor clock. Afterward, we will take you to the lively market streets of Les Halles, the Pompidu Center and whimsical Stravinsky Fountain.
Jefferson & Franklin… Relive Paris at the end of the 18th Century and imagine the influence these American Founding Fathers had over international politics at that time. Visit historic sites they frequented and hear the stories of 1778 and the American struggle for international recognition of independence, first by our French allies in Paris, just prior to France’s own bloody Revolution.
Paris is called the city of lights and there is no better way than to see it than at night. Your personal guide will chauffer you to the all the best vantage points: Trocadero, for the most sparkling view of the Eiffel Tower reflecting off the Seine; Pont-Neuf for views of Notre Dame; and Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre, one of the highest points in Paris, to see it all in one gorgeous view. [antique car available]
Your concierge will guide you to the main Palace, the ornamental gardens and Marie Antoinette’s getaway residence at the other end of the park. After touring the Palace, your concierge will walk with you through the gardens and stop at a restaurant halfway to the Petit Trianon called “la Flotille.” After lunch, you’ll go on to the Petit Trianon where Marie Antoinette held her private parties and where she built a little village of cottages as backdrop for her picnics.
Begin your tour with a rendezvous at Angelina’s to enjoy THE best hot chocolate in Paris in its original Belle Époque decor, followed by a skip-the-line, 2-hour tour of the Louvre. Once inside, your private guide will get you up close and personal with sculptures and paintings by world renowned artists.
Looking for a specific collectible to add to your home furnishings or curious to see another kind of previously owned treasure? An abundance of French antiques from furniture to jewelry and everything in between can be found in one of the many alleyways and stalls in the infamous Paris Antique Markets. Explore the limitless rows of unique treasures at Marche aux Puces with your private guide.
This is a twice a year opportunity to view Paris exactly as our founder envisioned it. To participate in this one-of-a-kind experience, fill out the form on our website with a comment about “Six Shades” of Paris.
Day 1: Airport Pick Up
– Introduction to Paris
– Walking tour of Montmartre
– Paris Night lights Tour
Day 2: Shades of Architecture
– Notre Dame & St. Eustache
– Discover the Angles of Paris
Day 3: Shades of History
– Liberté, Egalite, Fraternite: Their revolution and ours.
– Le Marais
Day 4: Shades of Gourmet
– Food Markets
– Wine and Cheese Tasting
– Jazz Night Out
Day 5: Royal Shades
– Walking tour of Versailles
– Moulin Rouge Dinner and Show
Day 6: Shades of Art
– The Louvre, The D’ Orsay, and Musee de L’Orangerie
– Lunch at the Eiffel Tower
– Contemporary Art Crawl
– Dinner at le George
Day 7: Shades of Fashion
– Inspirational women from Marie Antoinette to Coco Chanel
– Artisanal Chocolate
– Farewell Dinner Cruise on the Seine
P.S. Sharon hosts this for only 10 guests, we recommend inquiring and reserving your spot ASAP.