21 Comments

I spent my working life living in countries other than where I had citizenship. Most were troubled places and were difficult to live in while accomplishing a job.

Once, while escorting a Scandinavian delegation to visit a project deep in the desert northwest of Sudan, we saw a sandstorm (haboob) rising in west and the temperature was at least 50C. The air conditioning in our Landcruiser was straining to up with the heat, and our guests were going off about how international staff didn’t understand the living conditions of local people because of air conditioning, washing machines, and other “luxuries “ we provided to our staff.

As they explored the idea of how cushy our lives were, I glanced at my colleague who was driving and nodded my head. He reached over and shut off the A/C. A short time later, a rear tyre went flat just as we were at the leading edge of the haboob. My colleague and I exited the vehicle and changed the tyre in the heat and blowing sand. When we resumed our journey, I noticed our guests’ faces were bright red and they were sweating profusely.

After a long period of silence, one meekly asked if the A/C could be turned on “a little.” We took the opportunity to explain to our guest that our job in Sudan was not to prove we could endure the hardships like a local must, but to complete our work as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

“Now we understand,” said one our guests.

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May 30Liked by Samantha Childress

This was one of the first essays I read from you, and an eyeopening experience. It still is that one year later.

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May 30Liked by Samantha Childress

I lived in the Middle East for over six years and raised my children there. Never did I feel a “local” but always a welcomed guest.

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May 30Liked by Samantha Childress

Hey that reading on the podcast was great! Your mouth was intended for Italian, baby, I could listen all day

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❤️ thanks, Trilety! I think I'm going to start experimenting more with audio...

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I like the idea of striving to be a good guest. That's what you are when you visit someone's home, which is what a country is to the people who live there.

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I'm not sure how I've been traveling full-time for seven years and have never heard the term "travel like a local." Not sure how I missed that one! I love how you point out that a) ain't nothing wrong with being a tourist and b) ain't ever gonna be a local, maybe not even if you live in a place for twenty years.

And that's okay. Just be a good person and acknowledge there are pros and cons to everything and that precious little in life is black and white.

BTW, I had seen that video before and it's hilarious!

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Exactly--just be a good person is the best mantra! (And Laura Ramoso is such a great satirist, I love all her videos.)

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May 30Liked by Samantha Childress

Liking again because it was worth the reread

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Jun 20Liked by Samantha Childress

Fully agree with this wonderful piece. I still can’t get over the fact that the term “tourist” somehow became an insult.

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Thank you, Burcu!

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I spent some time in Spain, working for a few months, putting together money to come back to the States. The day before my flight home, I was wondering around Madrid, getting some trinkets for my cousins. I was wearing clothes I had bought in Cadiz, and breaking in a lovely pair of Spanish shoes. This nice midwestern couple stopped me and tried to ask directions in rusty high school Spanish, and they were so relieved when I spoke to them in American. The woman said, “But you look like a local!” Wear local clothes to blend in! LOL!

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It's funny how many cues street clothes can give us to someone's nationality. For example, I find it weirdly easy to pick out French people outside of France because of the specific brands and styles they wear. Obviously this is also a good way to fool people, ha!

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Yes, con artists know how to dress the part! What is that movie with Michael Caine and Steve Martin running cons? Funny movie.

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Samantha, this is really well said. Travel like a good guest. I will keep that with me in my travels. Thank you.

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Thank you for reading, Holly! ❤️

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Still love this post so much! Yes, yes, yes to all of it.

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Oh my goodness, yes!!! Beautiful piece. Being a good and gracious and respectful guest - and trying not to impinge on actual local people trying to live their lives in a space that's been marked out for tourism as a way to try to support a local economy.

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May 30Liked by Samantha Childress

Heard your voice on the podcast, wonderful and moving, Sam.

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Thank you, Jolene! I had a lot of fun playing around with recording.

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Brava! Best from Rome♥️

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