There are a couple layers of comfort that are shed when you travel to a country where English is a second language or is barely spoken. It forces you to step outside of that comfort zone created by a common language and face the unknown; let yourself feel vulnerable, it will encourage you to dive into another culture. Even if you attempt to speak the native language and someone speaks back to you in English, there is now an immediate level of respect and appreciation that connects the two of you. Whilst traveling the country sides of Thailand and Laos, where the English language is only used by seasoned tour guides, using basic head & hand signals were our best option to communicate. Traditional means of communication like bowing with our hands together at the heart was always warmly welcomed. And smiling is a universal language. It was easy for me to hide behind my husband's knowledge of the French language in France, or even Morocco. But In Berlin I forced myself to get out for a solo lunch date … Ordering a pizza & beer using the only German words I knew, eins, bitte & danke, (one, please & thank you) just made that beer & pizza taste that much better!

In Madrid and in the rural regions of northern Spain I used the Spanish skills I learned growing up in Arizona - a language my husband doesn’t speak. At first it scared me - then it empowered me. Letting go of the English speaking safety net will show you a world that only exists to those who dare to step outside of their bubble…

I encourage everyone to choose their next adventure not based on whether or not you share a common language. You'll be embarking on a journey of the unfamiliar, but it might just turn out to be your favorite adventure! 


Article by Erin Whiteley

HERstoryErin Whiteley