Introduction: My Travel Background
In an attempt to introduce interests beyond those of cooking, I discussed my multilingual background, and in this post, I discuss my travel background. For me, language and travel conveniently intertwine. I’m a firm believer of learning as many languages as you can and to learn at least the basics of a language before entering a new country instead of insisting on or expecting others to speak English. With each language I learn, I am exposed to more cultures and ways of seeing the world. The more exposure to new perspectives, the more I can empathize and exist with people ostensibly different from me or my background. Also, as a physically perceived Black woman from the States, the more I can educate (and surprise) others with my linguistic prowess 🙂 and educate them about being unique and about following passions no matter what society expects of you.
Where and why I’ve traveled abroad
In future posts, I will delve more into my travel background, experiences, and lessons. However, in this post, I provide a brief summary of where I’ve been and why.
So, I first left my home country in around 2002 and went to Mexico City and Huamuxtitlán (a small pueblito in the state of Guerrero). I went there to accompany my ex, who is Mexican, to handle family business. Fortunately, I had learned Spanish already, so I felt fully comfortable speaking the language there. Because this trip wasn’t a vacation, it wasn’t very fun. However, it did create a spark in my traveling-abroad spirit. It was lovely to see everyday practices different from those I normally experienced at home. It also felt satisfying to depend on my newly acquired Spanish skills to get by every day and to not hear hardly any English for almost 2 weeks.
To date, I’ve been to Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto. The first time I went to Canada was for New Years with my mom. It was the first time I had ever experienced EXTREMELY cold weather. It was brutal! I didn’t know any French at the time, but English, of course, is the co-official language in Quebec, so I was fine. Nevertheless, going to Montreal really made me first want to learn French.
FIRST EUROPEAN TRIP: SPAIN, FRANCE, ITALY
Oh man! This was the first trip of all trips! While studying Spanish Linguistics in graduate school, I was surrounded by so many colleagues from around the world who had traveled to so many countries. And I had only been to 2 neighboring countries. I had always dreamed of going to Europe, so I finally made it happen in 2007. Accompanied with my mom, I went to Madrid and Paris (I have a funny story about my flight to Paris! Stay tuned!). Then I went to Florence, Pisa, and Venice on my own (I was so terrified of traveling abroad alone, but it worked out!).
Of course, I spoke Spanish in Spain, so that was no problem. My French was still minimal, so in Paris, I greeted and asked “Do you speak English?” (Bonjour. Parlez-vous anglais?) before asking for anything. [TIP: Please don’t automatically assume people speak English in a non-English speaking country. Try to at least greet the person in the country’s language and ask if he/she speaks English first, preferably in the official language.]
Thanks to Spanish and to studying Italian on my own before going to Europe and during my flight, I was able to greet, ask for directions, and get around Italy pretty well. Being understood in my nascent 4th language (I had learned Portuguese by this time already), really made me want to learn Italian. So once I returned Stateside, I took Italian courses at the university where I was studying.
SECOND TRIP TO EUROPE:
Earlier I said the first trip to Europe was the trip of all trips, but this trip to Rome and to the south of Italy was the BEST trip I’ve ever had to date. After a nasty breakup in a 13-year relationship, I bought a one-way ticket to Italy without any idea of where I would live. By chance, I ended up in Reggio Calabria, a rather large but neglected city (by tourists and most of the government at least) near Sicily. There I met many people including my 3rd “mother” and my friend/ex-boyfriend of now over 5 years. Thanks to my university courses, I was able to speak adequate Italian, and by the end of my 6-month trip, I became pretty fluent in the language. I continue to speak the language on a daily basis with my exbf. Look forward to this “Eat, Pray, Love”-esque story soon.
Because of the Schengen Law, I was only able to live in Italy for a mere 90 days at a time. So I stayed in the UK (north of London) for 90 days and returned to Italy afterward. (I was detained at the airport for a few hours for doing this, but they eventually let me go back to Italy under the condition I did not return to England 90 days later.) While in England, I visited Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Another amazing trip! After my 2nd visit in Reggio Calabria, I stayed in Paris (2nd time) before returning to the States.
THIRD TRIP TO EUROPE:
So, you see the pattern? Yes, I’m a proud Europhile. Besides Bora Bora or Maldives, Europe is the only place I want to be. I love this continent so much and still have so much to explore.
On this 3rd trip, I spent the summer in Lisbon, Portugal with an Italian friend I met while living in Reggio Calabria. She is also multilingual and speaks Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and English (and maybe more!). We spoke to each other primarily in Italian and spoke Portuguese in the presence of her Portuguese boyfriend at the time. It was great speaking so many languages and seeing a different country. While in Portugal, I also visited the beaches in the Algarve (Portimão) and other places like Sintra, and Porto. Yes, another great trip!
FOURTH AND LAST TRIP TO EUROPE:
By this time I was done with graduate school and teaching Spanish at one university in the States and another university online. So, I decided to finally move to Europe for good. Since it’s quite difficult for people from the States to find jobs in Italy, I decided to accept an English-teaching job in the center of Germany, in an unknown-to-me city called Erfurt. Every time I travel to Europe, I go to another country or city before going to my destination, and this trip was no exception.
So, in December 2015, I flew to Dublin, Ireland (great tip about flying from Ireland coming up!) to get to Brussels, Belgium and spent Christmas there. Magical! I was able to speak more French there, so that was great! Then I went to northern Italy and stayed with a friend in Brescia for New Years. While there, I also visited Milan, Verona, and Bergamo. It was lovely there and nice to speak Italian with locals again. From Bergamo, I flew to Cologne, Germany and then took a train to Erfurt, where I live now.
While in Germany, I’ve traveled to many countries, including Hungary, Austria, Czechia, and Holland/The Netherlands. Also I’ve returned to England (London) and France (Strasbourg).
ADDITIONAL TRAVEL BACKGROUND AND FUTURE TRIPS:
Lord willing, I will be going to Paris (3rd time) this Christmas 2017. I’ve booked my flight, hotels, and tickets to visit Versailles (1st visit!).
I would like to take a day trip while in Paris, maybe to Mont St. Michel or Rheims. (I didn’t have time to do any day trips :(, but I still enjoyed myself and have lots to share!)
Next summer, I would like to go to Athens and an island somewhere in Greece. The plan is to go there with my mom and aunts! I’m super excited!
Surely there will be other trips before summer, so stay tuned.
“Have you ever traveled abroad? Where and why? While abroad, do you learn or speak the language of the country if it is not your native language? Why or why not? What are your future travel plans for the NEW YEAR?”
I look forward to reading your answers below! HAPPY NEW YEAR!