When I decided to quit my job and make my first cross-country trip, I could picture it perfectly: a mix of taking in beautiful mountain and water scenery, visiting monuments and museums, consuming unhealthy and fresh food alike, hiking through our national parks and walking through new cities. Transportation would be in my four-door sedan and accommodations in rented homes and motels. And right there, riding shotgun beside me, would be Reuban, my chocolate lab.
I love road trips. I've been crazy about them ever since the days when my parents loaded my two sisters and me into the Pontiac station wagon and went off to visit relatives or take a family vacation. On Sundays we would go for long family drives, and I always secretly wished my dad would aim the car toward the unknown and we'd be off on an unexpected adventure. Flying will never hold the anticipation and joy the highway does for me - but that doesn't mean the long and winding road can't be even sweeter.
Sometimes we want to indulge on a special vacation. We read "Zen-like ambience." How peaceful. "Oasis." Ah, yes. "Holistic therapy for body, mind and spirit." How rejuvenating. But how do those eat-your-heart-out amenities really stack up?
Ah, the language barrier. No matter how much you're looking forward to your trip abroad, you can't ignore that nagging worry about interacting with people who speak a different language - and potential situations ranging from difficult to ego-crushing. Rest assured, however, that no one expects you to speak in full sentences or be able to conjugate verbs. What you should know, even before you even arrive in another country, is how to be polite. "Hello," "please" and "thank you" go a long way.
Once when I was in Switzerland, I met a local woman who went out of her way to show me around the resort town of St. Moritz. She refused payment - and even my attempt to pay for lunch. When I finally had time to pick up a gift for her, it was Sunday, and all the shops were closed. Except, of course, the touristy one. So I bought her a box of chocolates. I gave a Swiss woman a box of Swiss chocolates! Fail.
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