If you love to travel (and if you’re reading this you probably do) then you love to talk about your travel experiences. You have plenty to share: sage advice, crazy stories, heart-breaking moments, proud accomplishments … But are you the most interesting person on the block or a giant blowhard?
Newsflash: some people already think you’re a blowhard. I know, that makes you sad, but as fascinating as your travel life is, people don’t always want to hear you talk about your trip. Don’t worry, you can change their minds. I’ll give you tips for talking about your vacation without turning into Braggy McBraggerson. It’s easier than dodging motorcycles in Hanoi. Safer too.
- Think about who you’re talking to
You’re going to talk about your traveling to a variety of people: some you know, some you don’t; some are travelers, some aren’t. Set your default travel comments to ‘general’ and then figure out what kind of a person you’re talking to. Non-travelers aren’t interested in details, they’ll be happy with sweeping statements (ex., the food was spicy, the streets were narrow). Travelers (or people who are genuinely interested), will want to know the small stuff that made your trip special (ex., the restaurant on the river with snake skins on the wall, whether shopkeepers or street vendors are more helpful when you’re lost).
Bonus: if you’re talking to someone for the second time, try to remember what you already told them. Nobody wants to hear about how you met a Tibetan monk for the 14th time, no matter how moving it was.
- Make it about them
Most people are more interested in their lives than about your trip. When someone asks about your latest jaunt around the world, they expect your answer to benefit them somehow. This is human nature, we can’t get around it. Conversation is a two-way street, but as a human you’ll want to give your two cents about everything. I’ll bet you’ve butted in when you’ve overheard someone talking: “You went to Moab! I’ve been there too! Let me tell you about blah blah blah” and then the two-way part is over and it’s all about you.
First, quit butting in (it’s rude). Second, make the conversation about them and you’ll have their attention much longer. The way you do this, is wait to be asked a question (yes, this requires patience, and an incredible amount of restraint). If people are genuinely interested they’ll have more questions for you. If they don’t, assume they’re not interested in talking about your travels. Shut your trap and deal with the fact that life goes on even if you don’t get to tell your story about how the bear ate your ice cream. Yes, it would be hilarious (and ironic, after someone else’s story about how a seagull ate their ice cream), but don’t do it. Instead of telling your story, ask questions about theirs.
Quiet people have interesting experiences, but you need to draw it out of them. Learn to talk about your travel experience without delivering a monologue, and everyone will appreciate it.
- Be humble (even if you’re awesome)
You’ve learned to keep quiet until someone asks you a question rather than bragging your ass off. When someone finally does ask what you’ve been up to, don’t take their experience and go one better. They’ve hiked Kilimanjaro? You’ve hiked Base Camp Everest! They’ve tried snorkeling? You’re a SCUBA diver! They tried ziplining? You tried sky diving! Nobody wants to be one-upped every time they open their mouth. I don’t suggest you lie, but don’t rattle off a list of all 17 Aztec ruins you’ve seen if someone asks if you’ve been to Chichen Itza. They’ll get it if you say “Yes!” and tell them you like ruins.
Being outdone just makes people feel bad, a conversation about travel isn’t just blurting out a list of what you’ve done.
- Keep it positive
Whining about your trip makes you sound like a jackass almost as much as excessive bragging. You had a bad experience, boo hoo. Travel enough and you’ll have trips that you don’t like, you’ll survive and life goes on. Be honest, but careful about being negative, because you might insult someone who loved something you hated. You don’t want to get caught in this situation:
Not you: “Hey, how was India?”
You: “It was awful. The food was terrible and everyone was so rude! I don’t know why anyone would want to go there.”
Not you: “Oh, I really liked it…”
Awkward. Since you’re trying to improve your travel conversation skills, avoid being negative. Even if you hated a place/experience/food, find something good to say. You can do this if you try. Yes, begging in Morocco exists; yes, you got sick after eating in Cuba; yes, your hotel in Thailand was full of roaches (and now you know about some of my experiences). Follow each of these statements up with “but…” and slip in something you liked. Unless you spent your vacation in a prison cell, there’s got to be something good you can talk about. Tough times can make for great conversation but don’t let it degrade into a gripe-fest.
- Parade your shame
Self-deprecation makes you approachable, which is good for winning people over and making fast friends. Don’t hide your mistakes when you talk about your vacation, embarrassing stories are one of the best ways to fit your adventures into a conversation. People can have a good laugh, and learn from you at the same time. You forgot to reset your watch and missed your flight? Admit it. You bargained like a sucker? No harm done.
Don’t be afraid to tell people when you did something stupid, but don’t take it too far. You want to come off as interesting, not moronic.
Conversation takes practice, by using these five rules, you’ll be on the path to mastering the art of travel talk without being a total jerk. People will want to talk to you about your travel experiences, eyes won’t glaze over when you mention “that time in ______”, and (trust me) you won’t be a blowhard. You will be the most interesting person on the block.[/td_text_with_title]