Pretty early on in our Europe trip last summer, my friend and I started dreading coming home. Of course most of that was because we were living a fantasy and didn’t want to return to real life. But we also were dreading the inevitable question: “How was your trip?!” We knew there was nothing we could say, no pictures we could show to adequately encapsulate the complete wonder with which we experienced life in those five weeks.
We would take a photo of the view outside our hostel window, and quickly think, “Oh, that doesn’t even begin to do this place justice.”
We would stay out all night and watch the sunrise in Rome or attend a 4th of July party in a Parisian penthouse overlooking the Eiffel Tower, and we would just laugh and think, “No one will believe this. No one will understand this.”
In the course of my travels over the last little-more-than-a-year (is that all it’s been?), there are a couple of things people have said to me that…well…just aren’t good to say to someone whose truest passion is traveling. Here are my top three, and three things that might be a better way of saying what you’re trying to say.
Terrible: “How was your trip?“
Totally great intentions. How do you even know what else to ask when the person has been somewhere that you can’t even imagine? Except, I never know how to respond to this. Usually I’m so overwhelmed with my recent experiences that all I can do is breathe, “Amazing,” or “Great.”
A question like that also implies that I have only about two minutes to give you the highlights. Nope. No way. Most of the time, a question like that renders me speechless, as I can’t even think of where to start.
Better: “Can I hear one story from your trip?”
One of our coworkers asked us this when we got back from Europe. When we were working, we only had time for one or two minute conversations anyway, so she would just ask us for one story at a time. This made us more open to sharing because we didn’t feel like we had to explain the glory of the entire trip in one shot (impossible). On top of it, telling just one story will certainly spur the memory of another, and another, and if you have the time, the person may very likely end up telling you about the whole trip after all.
Terrible: “You’re so lucky!”
This one really irritates me. Sure, we had some lucky punches in Europe, but us being there in the first place was definitely not luck. I worked to earn money to go there. A plane ticket for Phuket, Thailand did not fall out of the sky a couple of weeks ago. I researched it and bought it with my own money.
Sure, I’m fortunate to be at a place in my life where traveling is fairly easy. I’m single, young, have a semi-flexible job, and live in Asia. But I kind of think that traveling is feasible in nearly every person’s life, and that it’s just a matter of what you value. When I have money, rather than buying a house or a car or spending it on a wedding or a baby, I’m going to spend it on traveling. My choices are not any better or worse than anyone else’s; it’s simply a difference in priorities. But I am not lucky. I built my life this way on purpose.
Better: “Good work!”
Because my life of travel is a carefully crafted endeavor for which I worked and fought quite hard.
Terrible: “Sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime trip!”
I understand that you’re just trying to say that my trip was unbelievable. And it totally was unbelievable, even to me. But you are literally saying that I will never have a trip this amazing again. Frankly, I think it’s a really depressing thing to suggest to anyone, even if they just did get back from a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I was discussing this with a new friend in a hostel in Thailand, and he said, “Yeah, maybe more like a once-in-a-year trip! I hope!” That’s what we’re all aiming for.
Better: “Where are you going next?”
Let’s focus on future adventures. Because there absolutely, definitely will be future adventures for people like me.
Fellow travelers: what other things have people said to you that belong on this list?