Finally! Your Freedom to Travel...

An American in Paris

 I think the American public is split into two categories when it comes to international travel: those who revel in it and those who are wary of it. If you fall into the latter category…you really don’t know what you’re missing.

 I would definitely not call myself a world traveler. Until a few years ago, my exploits outside the U.S. included only Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas…and all three of those countries are “Americanized” to some extent, certainly not too exotic. Then, I went to Paris for 10 memorable days, and that really gave me a taste of how broadening travel can be.

 We’re so used to the American way of life that it seems incredible that anyone would choose to live another way, but when you find yourself in a foreign city, you quickly realize “our way” isn’t the only way. Most Parisians, for instance, shop almost daily for food; they don’t stock up the way we do, so they can enjoy fresh ingredients…plus their kitchens are way smaller than ours.

 I did learn a few things about traveling abroad that it’s my pleasure to share with you:

  •  Unless you’re trying to emulate your usual experiences a la “The Accidental Tourist” (why?), stick to restaurants that don’t have their menus translated into English. We found those to be touristy, overpriced and non-authentic.
  • Don’t be an “ugly American.” We saw plenty of examples that made us cringe. Be respectful of local customs and at the very least, greet people in their language. “Bon jour” is not difficult to master.
  • Don’t expect all the comforts of home…and don’t complain about it. We were in Paris in early summer, and it was brutally hot for the last few days; we sweated along with the locals. Air conditioning is not a universal commodity.
  • Bring along great walking shoes. The car might be king in the U.S., but wonderful international destinations like Paris are best walked; remember, they were built long before cars were invented.

 I think many people shy away from international travel because they’re uncomfortable about having to communicate in a tongue other than English. The fact is, English is commonly spoken in many countries…but you shouldn’t count on it, especially if you have special dietary, health or other needs. (That’s when you need Rx: The Freedom to Travel Language Series.)

 Grab your passport and get out there!  Gotta Love Gene Kelly!