Are we a good fit?
My first trip abroad was solo in 1992 at the age of 27. I devoured Rick Steves’ book Europe Through the Back Door and followed it through France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. A passion for traveling was born. And with it, a passion for connecting with locals, as I knocked on doors and made phone calls from telephone booths to introduce myself to my future husbands’ friends and family. If that sounded confusing, just know that while living in Los Angeles my French boyfriend at the time later became my husband (but he was not on the trip). That’s another story, though.
Let’s make sure we’re a good fit.
Ever since I began offering small group travel in 2006, I have espoused Rick’s Travel Philosophy which reflects my own travel values. It boils down to “When in Rome …” but it’s deeper than that. It comes from a respect for other cultures and the curiosity to open up and embrace another way.
If large and in charge is your preferred mode of travel, then we’re probably not a good fit. Read below and determine for yourself.
Read my France Travel Philosophy below to see if we’re the match for you.
We travel all the way to Europe to enjoy differences and to become temporary locals. You will experience frustrations. Traveling is often stressful, as we don’t always have everything at our fingertips to feel comfortable and at ease. For instance, eating between meals is often inconvenient in France; most restaurants close between 3-7pm. Certain truths that we find “God-given” or “self-evident,” such as friendly waiters, ice in drinks, bottomless cups of coffee, long hot showers, and bigger being better, are suddenly not so true. For the overall well-being and enjoyment of the group, it is essential that politeness and discretion be maintained at all times, even, or rather especially, during times of distress.
One of the benefits of travel is the eye-opening realization that there are logical, civil, and sometimes, even better alternatives.
Travel, like the world, is a series of hills and valleys. We are fanatically positive and militantly optimistic. If something’s not to our liking, let’s change our liking.
If there is a negative aspect to the image the French have of Americans, it is that we are big, aggressive, impolite, rich, loud, superficially friendly, and a bit naïve. Americans can tend to be noisy in public places, such as foyers, staircases, courtyards, restaurants, and trains. Our raised voices can demolish France’s reserved and elegant ambience. Talk softly. It’s considered courteous. This is particularly true in Paris, less so in the provinces.
While the French look bemusedly at some of our Yankee excesses (and worriedly at others) they nearly always afford us individual travelers all the warmth we deserve. France is an understandably proud country. To enjoy its people, we celebrate and lean into the differences.
Slow down and have patience. We are so rushed as a culture.
Connecting with locals brings meaning to travel. It starts with a willingness to extend a “bonjour/bonsoir madame/monsieur” and “au revoir”, offer eye contact and show respect. And it feels good to both giver and receiver. That is the ultimate exchange.