• Guest Writer

Growing Experiences from Traveling

Guest post by Mara Yule

I would like to share 3 awkward encounters I have had in my travels. They aren’t necessarily related, but they have struck weird and or uncomfortable for me in my memories. In each experience, I learned something and was able to grow from it. Which is what traveling is supposed to do- help you grow and learn!

1. Rubber in Spain

I was 16 when I attended a language school in Sevilla, Spain. I was a shy teenager and felt

uncomfortable being with "older" people. Older being 20 plus.

It was a weird "fear," but after my month of studying in Spain, I went back home with a newfound confidence in myself.

One moment I remember with clarity was we were doing a writing exercise. My Italian classmate leaned over to ask me for something to erase his paper with.

At this point, I was not very familiar with differences in British English and American English. As he grew up in Europe, he learned British English and I, American English.

"Do you have a rubber?"

Being an American teenager, I blushed thinking he was asking me for a condom.

He realized my silence and started laughing. He made an action of erasing with his hand on his paper.

"Oh, an eraser!" I handed him one.

He smiled, "You thought something else."

I haven’t made this mistake again.

2. Ballerina bodies

I was in a bus from Bulgaria to Macedonia. It was late at night and I was one of the two tourists on the bus, and the only woman one at that.

I had my guard heightened of course.

At the bathroom stop, a man from the bus approached me asking me where I was from and how long would I be in Macedonia.

He ended up being a local who had traveled a lot through America and just wanted to repay the kindness he received by being helpful to other travelers in his country.

Wearily I agreed to meet him, in a public place, for some local insights into the city later that week.

It was a really fun night! He bought me all sorts of traditional foods and drinks and we had a good conversation. We agreed to meet another night.

That second night was also fun, until the end. We were sitting and talking and I mentioned how I did ballet when I was a young girl.

"That’s funny." He said.


"You don’t look like a ballerina."


"You know." He holds up his pinky finger- skinny.

I push it aside and continue mentioning that I cant wait to settle down somewhere again in order to get back into running every day.

"Don’t worry, you will be back in shape soon." This second rude comment was enough and I said goodbye and walked away.

3. China Charades

Many Chinese don’t speak English and I spoke no Chinese. It wasn’t an easy trip. This was one of my last nights in China as a solo traveler, I went back with a friend a few months later. I was spending this night alone in a hotel room rather than a hostel sharing a room. I needed the space.

The room was clean, not the most modern, but clean. There was a private bathroom with a European toilet....but no toilet paper.

I went to the reception and asked for some. He blinked a few times and shook his head in a lack of understanding.

I took a breathe preparing myself for what I was about to do because it was rather embarrassing.

I reached behind me and reenacted me wiping myself. He blushed and nodded and ran to get me a roll.

I smiled embarrassed as I just reenacted a toilet moment in the middle of the lobby and walked back to my room.

I hope you found these stories funny, or at least interesting. These types of stories make traveling interesting and I have for sure learned something from all of them.

I learned more about British English and speaking with English as second language persons. In fact, I now teach English as a second language.

I learned that people have their stereotypes, but that is more a reflection of them and not me. In fact, I have joined the community of pole dancing where there all body types and personalities are accepted.

I have learned to be fearless in my questions: to ask for toilet paper or to ask about equal rights or justice. When you want something, be bold in asking for it.

In total, all three taught me confidence- in my language, in my body, and in my communication.

About the author:

This article was contributed by Marinella Yule of www.myopenpassport.net travel blog. She has traveled throughout North America and to over 40 countries. She is currently working on improving her third language (French) and sometimes writes blogs in Spanish as well. You can learn more about her work through her website: marinellayule.com.

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