A Magician Abroad
If you didn't already know, this DFW magician is obsessed with traveling. My wife and I use any excuse to take a vacation to a foreign country. We've racked up 30 countries together since we got married, and we're dying to visit more. Discovering what Planet Earth has to offer is such a humbling experience. From tasting unusual foods, to visiting gorgeous ancient structures, to experiencing a sunset in an isolated village- I love every minute of our travels together. When I'm faced with a language barrier, I find that magic and mentalism is a way to experience something together without the need for words.
Back in 2017, my wife and I spent some time in China. We decided to try out an AirBnb in Shanghai, and we happened to arrive during our host's 30th birthday party! They included us in a really interesting dinner, which included fish soup (a whole fish was in the soup, bones and all), cooked pumpkin, octopus salad, and other unique offerings. The dinner was completed with the traditional English "Happy Birthday" song and a durian cake with a tea light candle on top. The durian cake was not my cup of tea, but everything else was surprisingly delicious! After dinner, we played a few group games that didn't really require speaking. Everyone spoke mostly in Chinese. I did a little magic for our host, and then everyone started speaking English! We then spent several hours talking and playing other games that did require speaking. It was so cool that magic was the key to building those relationships. Before everyone went home for the evening, our host's friends even wrote down some things in Chinese for us to show to taxi drivers for directions, like their favorite places to eat, and a cool museum that we didn't know about. I'd call it a successful first day in China. We ended the long day of travel and partying by snuggling with the two resident kitties who had snuck into our room while we were brushing our teeth.
Also in 2017, we had a driver in Cambodia for several days and he spoke excellent English! He drove us around all day, taking us from site to site, and he even showed us an incredible mountain view and some scenic areas that he thought tourists would appreciate. We went out to lunch at one of his favorite restaurants and I showed him a bit of magic- he had never seen magic before! That experience alone was worth so much to me... to show someone magic for the first time. I've never had a guide go out of his way so much to ensure that we had a great experience. If we ever visit Cambodia again, I still have his information and I plan on hiring him to be our guide again.
I feel so blessed that much of the world speaks English. We do our best to learn the language basics of every country we visit, but I would love to be on the level of some of the polyglots I've come across. To be able to speak seven different languages fluently and beautifully is so impressive to me! The app/website we use is Duolingo. It's pretty good about breaking down information into small chunks that are easy to absorb. It's been a great tool for my wife, who is learning Spanish. She was pretty proud of the fact that she was able to speak a little Spanish during our 2019 trip to Madrid and Barcelona. A funny little sidenote about languages... on our 2019 trip to Berlin, Germany, I was attempting to order my food in German. I think I spoke decently, at least well enough for the lady to understand me. In German I said, "One currywurst with fries, please." She responded in crisp English, "Do you want ketchup on the fries?" Embarrassed, I quickly said in English, "Yes ma'am".
The only language issue we've ever had was in Paris in 2014. We spent the evening strolling around the Eiffel Tower while it was magically sparkling. On the way home, we didn't realize that our connecting metro train closed at 8pm for construction. When we reached that particular stop, a metro worker herded us towards a van and motioned for us to get inside. Not a bus, an actual van with 6 seats. Although my wife knew enough French to scrape by, she had no idea what anyone was saying about getting into this van! We got in anyway and just went with it. Thankfully they dropped us off at the connecting metro stop we needed to go to anyway, but it sure was awkward not having any idea where we were going to end up!
I really liked recalling a few of my memories of traveling! I may just have to do this every now and then- we have so many interesting stories from around the world that nobody ever hears about!