Overcoming Language Barriers When Traveling

As exciting as traveling to a new country can be, the inability to speak the native tongue can be daunting. However, it should never be a reason not to travel. There are many ways visitors can get by in a country without so much as speaking a single word (though that certainly helps). I’ve brainstormed a few tips to overcome that language barrier and effectively find your way in a foreign land.

Download a Translation App

Perhaps the most obvious way to communicate with someone who speaks another language is to download one of the many language translation apps that exist today. While choosing one is based entirely on preference, many tend to work very well. Depending on the complexity of the language you are trying to speak, some apps may work better than others. These are great for deciphering menus or written text, and can even be used in conversation.

Utilize Body Language

If verbal communication is not an option, speaking with your hands and face is the next best thing. Be expressive with your body movements. Pointing, nodding, or shaking your head can accurately convey what you are trying to say to a local in that country, but be wary of socially acceptable and unacceptable gestures.

For example, signaling “thumbs up” may be seen as positive here in the United States, but in the Middle East, it is an extremely offensive gesture. In the United Kingdom, what we Americans call the “peace sign” is actually a very rude gesture when given with the back of the hand facing out. Do some research on the cultural norms of the country you are visiting beforehand to avoid any faux pas. It’s safe to say the middle finger is probably disrespectful anywhere.

Study the Basics

Even though learning an entirely new language can be time consuming and downright inconvenient just before a trip, it’s often seen as rude to not learn at least a few basic words of the native tongue you are about to be surrounded by. Simply being able to say things like “thank you,” “excuse me,” “sorry,” or “I only speak English” can effectively tell locals that you need their help in terms of navigation or translation. It’s also very respectful to show that you’ve taken the time to learn some of their language, which often translates to appreciation. In my experience, even saying “hello” in their native tongue can elicit a smile back.

Hire Assistance

If you’re visiting a country with an extremely difficult language to learn and are not comfortable getting around yourself, you have the option of working with a local travel agent for assistance. These professional guides know their way around the country and can step in to help translate certain situations. This is especially useful when you are trying to book a flight or lodging.

Local tour guides can be just as helpful, and are often much more in touch with their respective communities. Aside from being taken on breathtaking sightseeing tours, these guides can help you practice the local language and learn more about the layouts of the country. If you are staying at a hotel, oftentimes their concierge department can provide you with a trusty guide to join you on your ventures.

Get to know a local

Saving the best for last, by far my favorite method of overcoming language barriers is simply through meeting a local, or traveling with someone that speaks the local language. Having a friend who can interpret those tricky conversations can reduce a lot of confusion and frustration on your part, as well as the locals trying to help you. Plus, they can help you find your confidence with pronunciations, common usages, and cultural subtleties, which is difficult to learn through books alone.

Originally posted on LeonardRaymundo.org

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New Zealand’s Greatest Attractions

Commonly referred to as the adventure capital of the world, New Zealand is full of exciting activities and stunning sights that locals take pride in and tourists can enjoy on a daily basis. With a landscape beautiful enough to garner the attention of numerous film crews (see The Lord of the Rings trilogy), New Zealand has just about everything. From adventurists to food connoisseurs, nearly everyone who visits this country is sure to find something for them.

Hang Gliding

Being the adventure capital of the world, New Zealand’s enormous mountain ranges make for some of the most opportune hang gliding experiences. Beginning at Coronet Peak, the highest takeoff point in Queenstown, visitors are paired with an experienced instructor before flying over some of the most scenic landscapes you will ever see.

The Tamaki Maori Village

For one of the coolest history lessons you’ll ever receive, check out the Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua to learn about Polynesian culture and their practices. Guests can stay overnight, taste traditional food, and see traditional rituals and ceremonies dating back to the 13th century. These ancient warriors are of the most proud cultures in the world, and express their deep roots through some truly awesome dances and songs.

Zorbing

As weird as this activity may sound, it can be incredibly fun. Starting right here in New Zealand, Zorbing involves tumbling down a hill in a giant protective orb typically made of inflatable transparent plastic. They aren’t as dangerous as they sound. Their protective makeup is also buoyant, so they can remain floating in a body of water. Those inside are strapped safely with harnesses before they are sent rolling down various courses.

Rotorua, being the birthplace of this activity, has numerous courses visitors can check out, as well as plenty of hot springs to help you relax following the plenty of adventures you’re bound to have.

Whale Watching

Being a coastal country, New Zealand is home to many of the world’s sea creatures. In Kaikoura specifically, both humpback whales and orcas are spotted so frequently, that if whale watching groups don’t see any during their time at see, all guests are refunding 80% of their ticket money; a pretty confident, yet admirable gesture.

Originally posted on LeonardRaymundo.org

The Least Touristy Places to See in Europe

While seeing some of the most well known locations and landmarks in the world should be on everyone’s travel-related bucket list, avid, more experienced travelers rarely want to visit a place with enormous crowds.

Given the sheer number of popular destinations located in Europe, visiting any country within this continent may seem like a tourist trap. However, if you know where to look, you can find a number of roads less traveled. Below are a few spots to check out that rarely see hordes of people reminiscent of the zombies from World War Z.

Latvia

It’s surprising that this neighboring country of Scandinavia is not visited more frequently given the sheer beauty of its capital Riga. With German architecture boasting some of the most colorful buildings you’ll ever see, the gardens filled with impossibly vibrant flowers are even more accentuated. As an added bonus, hotels and Airbnb’s here are often much cheaper than those within surrounding countries.

The Gauja National Park is another visually stunning Latvian destination that should be included on your European itinerary. Here, guests can see the natural beauty of local nature, take historical tours, ride horseback, kayak or raft, and much, much more.

Calabria, Italy

Visiting Italy to get away from the crowds may seem counterintuitive, but the town of Calabria (otherwise known as the “toe” of the boot) is often left unvisited due to the huge number of must-sees throughout other regions of the country. It is a gorgeous cliff-side city with some of the best beaches in Europe, the only downside being you are less likely to find an English-speaking local within its boundaries. But, the food and ambiance alone is enough to convince you to stay for at least a few days.

Salema, Portugal

This is a fishing village exposed to the Atlantic Ocean that is perfect for travelers that want to experience the reality of life in a quiet town. Salema is unlike its neighboring resorts that attract so many tourists. Its beaches and serene community are a nice break from the noise and liveliness contained within an all-inclusive. Visitors can relax on the sand, dine in local cafes, or hike along the cliffs while enjoying the silence accompanied with the quaint little village.

Lofoten, Norway

Located in the county of Nordland, Lofoten is a visually stunning district with one of the highest temperatures relative to latitude in the Arctic Circle thanks to the Gulf Stream. The amazing weather here is the icing on the several-tiered cake that includes scenic hiking and outdoorsy spots such as Trollfjord, the Lofotr Viking Museum, and an up-close-and-personal look at the country’s nature via the Røst Islands.

Check out LeonardRaymundo.org for more!

The Friendliest Countries in the World

Traveling to various parts around the world is something that everyone needs to experience in their lifetime. As I’ve discussed before, traveling is not only really fun, but the ultimate way to broaden your horizons and gain perspective in life. Though it is almost always an enjoyable experience visiting a country you’ve never been to, interacting with the locals is really what it’s all about.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to parts of the world where I have felt accepted and welcomed.  Below are a few countries I recommend where you are almost guaranteed to be greeted with open arms.

Ireland

This should be a surprise to very few people. Ireland is renowned for its fun-loving locals who are regularly willing to include travelers in all of their activities. Taking pride in their breathtakingly scenic countryside, Ireland is honored to have visitors from all over the world. Aside from a thoroughly entertaining downtown Dublin, tourists can visit Cork where they can kiss the Blarney Stone and be blessed with the “gift of gab.”

Portugal

This small coastal country bordering Spain recently saw a record number of tourists in 2015, reaching 10.18 million visitors, and is one of the most popular destinations for avid travelers in the world. Lined with stunning beaches, cliffs, and villages, Portugal sees ideal weather throughout the entire year. The only thing warmer than the temperatures are the locals. Due to the high quality of life, people here are well known for their openness toward visitors. Be sure to take advantage of the delicious Mediterranean cuisine, and music and dance festivals held throughout the year.

Austria

Popularized by the visually stunning movie The Sound of Music, Austria is much more than just breathtaking scenery. The towns and villages within this country host amazing architectural feats, as well as luxurious ski resorts that get you up close and personal with the Alps. Being the birthplace of a number of classical composers like Mozart, Joseph Haydn, and Franz Schubert, the nation regularly celebrates its culture in the form of parades and festivals. A smile and greeting when passing a stranger is commonplace here, so a warm feeling of welcomeness is sure to be included.

Morocco

As one of the most economically thriving countries in North Africa, Morocco is a hotspot for tourists. The country’s Islamic roots offer an alluring culture, in addition to its stunning coastlines and fascinating cities. Finding your way around Morocco should be of little difficulty, as locals often enjoy guiding visitors throughout the country, and offering their famous Moroccan mint tea. Some of the more popular activities available include visiting historic mosques, embarking on adventure tours that involve camel rides, and experiencing the nightlife of Marrakech.

Iceland
Sightseeing in Iceland is truly unlike any other experience. Green hills, volcanoes, geysers, and lakes can be found throughout, with locals taking pride in their country’s scenery. Visitors should expect to be welcomed in the utmost friendliest manner, as those residing in this beautiful country actively seek new friends. Invites to hiking trips, nights out, or even just friendly banter are regular occurrences here.