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July 14, 2009

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I have to agree Colin: travel is awesome. And all the crappy generalisations that holds. Your generalisation about the vocabulary of travellers holds true too, but I wouldn't extend that to depth of character or perception.

To personalise at little...

Travelling for an extended period of time (we left home in February 2006 and are still travelling) also means extended periods without English language speakers to talk to. Seeing "Puppy" with two English speakers and three non-native speakers, your ability to communicate is somewhat diminished: you fit your vocab to your group. And that memory remains. The same thing when you're funding your travels by teaching ESL: your active lexis doesn't so much crumble as dissolve.

Compare that with our backgrounds: both leaving high school in the top 2% of English scores and one of us getting a scholarship to University. We both studied English literature at Uni and have since tutored at that level. Linda studied psychology and sociology alongside English. I double-majored in film, TV and media studies and got enough points in philosophy to be able to minor in it, if the University allowed. Since then we've completed teaching, counselling and various other diploma studies. We certainly didn't have a limited vocabulary and certainly don't lack the mental or spiritual skills to consider deeply and meaningfully.

So how does Puppy become "enormous" and "weird"? Why is it so difficult to wrap words around experiences? For myself, I'm an introvert. I'm not good at coming up with stuff on the spot: I'm always the last to speak and only if I've found a gap in the conversation (although I must admit lately I've been trying to learn to interject myself, even if I'm talking rubbish...it's a skill to learn). To avoid a scripted podcast, I risk sounding ill-informed or uncultured. That's a risk I'm willing to take.

I've also become adept at changing my tone for the group I'm communicating with -- ESL teaching will certainly teach you that skill quickly! I know that University students listen to our show: people that know much more about art, architecture and history than me. People that have travelled much more fully than myself also listen to the show. However, one of our key goals is to make travel practical and possible for people that have never left their own country...and that's a wide demographic. We're speaking to high school students, people who are finishing their careers and everyone in between. What's interesting and introspective for someone bores another to death. We try and find balance in all things, and may invoke disdain on occasion.

In the balance, I agree with you. Well-spoken people often lose their vocabulary over great adventures. Perhaps you just need to be there yourself.

I've lived in South America for over a year now and many of the backpackers I've met experience a lot but reflect on little.

However, I want to add that often the questions I get aren't worth a good answer. My last time in the States, a lot of people would ask, "So what's it like?"

How do you answer that? Where do you start? A better question would be "What's it like to do business?", "What's dating like?", "How's the food?", etc.

Those short, vague answers sometimes come from unreflective people. But sometimes boring answers are given to boring questions.

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