When you’re traveling and don’t speak the language, you have to rely on instinct, gut, and the ability to read people’s body language and facial expressions to get yourself through situations. After all, most communication is nonverbal anyways.
And that is a skill — no matter how judgmental it may come off to some people — that will help you through life. And it’s a skill any traveler can — and will — learn.
Travel teaches us and changes us in ways we never really realize.
It wasn’t until after a conversation with my friend Happy Hotelier that I realized that this is the one thing I can say I only learned from traveling. Yes, I have learned other life skills, but this one thing — the ability to read people and situations — came solely from my travels.On the road, you can’t always understand what people are saying, so nonverbal communication becomes really important. How people act, move, express emotion on their face, and carry themselves, plus their tone of voice — all of that can help you figure out what the heck that Italian with three words of English is really trying to say to you. Or figure out how a person really feels about something.
The longer you travel and the more you interact with various people, the better you get at this. It’s a skill.
A lot of times, saying you can “read” people is viewed as something bad. It makes you seem like you are casting a snap judgment. I don’t think that is true.
Knowing how to read people can help you determine if that cab driver is really “taking a shortcut” or if that shop owner is giving you the best price or if the people you just met at the hostel are being serious or funny with that joke they just said.
We project ourselves and how we feel during our interactions with others. I wouldn’t call someone a nervous person because they were anxious walking up to a girl or meeting the new boss. But, in an everyday setting, if someone seemed anxious and nervous and jittery, wouldn’t you think they were a bit like that? Could I be wrong? Maybe. Maybe not. Usually not.
Traveling around the world has taught me a lot about how to read people and situations, because you see so many different people in so many different interactions on a daily basis.
And if you travel, it’s a skill you’ll develop too. It’s one that I’ve found useful at home and abroad, that has helped me navigate questionable situations and break the ice when meeting new people. It’s been invaluable.