Lost in Translation: What to Ask when You’re Lost

Getting lost in a foreign country is common enough. If you haven’t ventured off the beaten track, you don’t know how much fun it is to find your way with the help of the natives.  The locals are sympathetic as it happens often and a few words out of your mouth lets them know to help you find your way home. You can squeak a few words in the language such as “ayudame” (Spanish for help me) or “aidez-moi” (the same in French).  Sometimes it comes out an English garble of mishmosh words but you manage to get the message across. You should know the word “lost” in at least ten languages: perdu or perdido for two common ones in French and Spanish. This sends a clear message. People in foreign lands are nice and they want to help. If you have an address on you, the local native will send you on your way and get you reasonably close to home. You don’t want to ask the wrong person however. If he or she looks malevolent, forget it. They will steer you wrong or try to grab your purse. This happened to me when I was invited into a car for a personal ride home, but ended up in some nearby forest. Even harmless people will enjoy a prank or two at your expense. When you are asking for help, also ask where you are so you can use your own maps. I remember walking miles and miles into town from outside Munich because a local told me to take the wrong bus and it had stopped running. We have all had our trials and tribulations at the hand of foreigners who don’t understand us, even if they do want to help. It is best to take your dictionary and guidebook and not leave yourself at the mercy of others. Plan in advance where you are going so you won’t get lost in the first place. It is rule number one of traveling to use your maps and keep them close at hand. Don’t be a novice or amateur traveler. Be a good boy scout and “be prepared.”

If you are in a country where you know not one single word, and you think you may be off the beaten road, try sign language or a bit of mime. It is easy to denote hunger or thirst. When looking for a particular restaurant in an out of the way corner of Athens this worked well and I even got taken back into the kitchen so I could point to what I wanted. The simplest form of communication often works best. Keep notes, however, for every country you visit and you can’t go wrong. Surely someone will hear you out. On the other hand, getting lost can be fund and can lead to many new adventures. In a small town on the coast of Turkey I wandered into a home where I was politely served tea and cookies. My presence was a major novelty even though we spoke nary one word.

Helpful Apps to Download

Travel apps are plentiful and you can download them onto your cell phone to help make your traveling go smoother. You can get the North American or European train schedules for example, airline information to the minute, and ways to access tickets and boarding passes. Travel is complicated enough so when we have little helpers […]

Useful Travel Terms to Learn

Those who like to travel inevitably learn new language about their experiences, especially those that happen in different countries. There seems to be a lexicon about travel, words you might find in a personal journal or a guide book. Some of the common words we all know are journey, trek, voyage or voyager, sailor, seafarer […]

Sometimes Dumb Luck Gets You There

I was in Madrid trying to get to Toledo, a small town out in the countryside of picturesque renown. I realized how small when I was told that the only mode of transportation was a rickety old bus that hobbled over a country lane. I stumbled upon one of these by sheer dumb luck. I […]