I’ll admit it … I’m a bit of a travel snob. Having moved so much growing up, including living in Japan and Germany, I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen some of the most beautiful places on Earth, but unfortunately, I have also witnessed some poor behavior from people.
To help you avoid embarrassing yourself on your next trip, here are the top five things to avoid:
1. Don’t Insult the Local
You know what they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” On a recent trip to Jamaica, I encountered a man trying to speak Spanish to a Jamaican. Of course, he turned red as a tomato as soon as she informed him that Jamaica is an English-speaking country. Know thy language! Not insulting the locals also means you should leave your political t-shirts and hats at home. Our taxi was held up for an hour by a group of guys who thought it might be funny to display a bold political statement on their hats. It wasn’t.
2. This is Not Your Mother’s Airport Anymore
One of the things I learned early was to never mess around at an airport, and that could not be truer than today. Do not, and I repeat, do not leave your car running at baggage pick-up to run in and go to the bathroom. Do not forget to take your knife or scissors out of your backpack before entering security. Never argue or crack jokes of any kind with a customs agent in another country — answer only the questions they ask you and do not proceed until they tell you. I once saw a guy with a ripped-up re-entry form tell the customs agent to just “tape it together.” Bad move.
3. Be Plane Courteous
When flying, avoid nail polish, taking your shoes off, wearing heavy perfume, letting your dirty air pillow fall on your neighbor’s lap and trying to use a poor credit card to pay for your third Bloody Mary. Yes, this was all the same person! And please, please do not “split the middle.” If you don’t know what I am talking about, good. Splitting the middle happens when you or your significant other sit in the window and the aisle seat, leaving the middle seat for an unsuspecting passenger. On a flight to Seattle last year, I was forced to sit between a couple who passed tuna sandwiches over me. Oh yeah, never eat tuna on a plane — ever!
4. Don’t Be a Leader
That’s right; forget leading, unless you’ve planned the trip. Leading is for leaders, not armchair travelers who don’t know what they are doing, or where they’re going. My husband, who is generally geographically challenged, once walked halfway to the wrong train in France before realizing where he was. Luckily, I stopped him before he got on. If I had let him lead, he would be in Spain right now. c’est la vie!
5. Represent with Pride
When traveling abroad, have fun and enjoy what each country has to offer, but remember you represent more than yourself. Take pride in the image you leave behind of your own country. Enjoy your cocktails and have fun; you’re on vacation after all, but always leave some “goodness” behind. The golden rule still applies: treat others as Aretha Franklin would like to be treated, with R-E-S-P-E-C-T.