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  • Dr. Vin

Communication Tips for Travelers



We are 6 days into a loosely organized road trip to visit family and friends, driving along the coast of California and up to Oregon. So far we have attended a family wedding, a baby shower, helped move furniture, and have gone swimming and hiking. We have spent a day or two in the home of different relatives. I just overheard my husband say, “our schedule is loose” to which my sister in law responded, “that’s what this kind of vacation is all about.” Even though our schedule is “loose” I find there is a need to clearly communicate our plans and needs to our hosts.

Here are some communication tips for being a guest in other people’s homes.

  1. Ask for what you want and need.

It was very hot in Sacramento and I needed to open a window in the middle of the night, while staying with relatives. When I opened the bedroom window a house alarm went off, waking up the family at 3:30am. They had to rush to turn off the alarm before the police came. OOPS! It would have been better to tell them before bed that I like to sleep with a window open at night.

  1. Respect the household norms.

Some examples are: come to meals when called, offer to help with tasks, don’t make noise after others are in bed at night or before they awake in the morning.

  1. Apologize when you offend someone or cause him or her extra work.

For example, as I did when I triggered the house alarm (see #1).

  1. Take time to ask your hosts and others around you about their lives

  2. If you do not know them, ask (like at a wedding), “How do you know the bride or groom?” Or, “What kind of work do you?” Connect to children with what is happening to them. At the baby shower I asked the older siblings what they thought about the new baby that was about to be born.

  3. With people you know you can ask for an update on their lives and then give an update on your life (if they seem interested).

Sometimes I move too fast and go from one activity to the next without pausing long enough to really visit with people. Because the goal of this trip IS TO VISIT, here are the results of my slowing down and taking more time to connect and communicate this week:

  1. Two people shared in detail about some health concerns.

  2. My sister’s partner, whom I’ve known for 8 years, shared fascinating details of his life story for the first time.

  3. I spent two hours visiting a roommate from my college days in San Francisco, whom I had not seen in many years. She had been an only child and I came from a family of 14. When I met her in my early 20’s, I had not lived away from home very long. I had no idea how to spend time alone and enjoy my own company because I was always with others. She patiently taught me how. 35 years later I was able to thank her for that gift.

In summary, visiting etiquette includes asking for what you need, respecting the household norms, and apologizing when you do something wrong. Most importantly, take the time to connect with others by asking questions and then just listen. This deepens your connections and enriches your life.

Right now I am being called to dinner at my brother’s house, so I better follow my own rules and join the group!