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Don’t Be “An Idiot Abroad”

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Imagine having the opportunity of a lifetime fall into your lap: see the Seven Wonders of the World and visit international destinations from a travel bucket list, all expenses paid. Of course there’s a catch, and if you have watched An Idiot Abroad, you know that the dynamics of the show revolve around poking fun at England’s ultimate anti-traveler.

Karl Pilkington is the star (or rather the guinea pig) of the television program, and Ricky Gervais (the show’s producer and also a famous English TV and radio personality) is Karl’s good friend. The two met while working in radio years ago, and their bantering has been nonstop ever since. On any given day, Karl would prefer be in the comfort of his own home, and he views world travel similarly to a child’s appreciation of Brussels sprouts’ nutritional value. An Idiot Abroad is hilarious, and if you enjoyed the series, you won’t want to miss Pilkington’s latest work, The Moaning of Life. It is scheduled to air in autumn 2013 on Sky1.

No one truly wants to make a mockery of themselves while vacationing. The following five travel suggestions would certainly destroy the show’s absurd spirit, but these tips could help you save face the next time you journey to a foreign country.

Keep an Open Mind

Very little impresses Karl Pilkington, and this is evident right from the start in the season one, episode one trip to China. While visiting the Great Wall of China, Karl flatly remarks “The fact that this one [World Wonder] is called the ‘Great’ Wall of China annoys me. I’ll decide if it’s great or not. It might end up being the ‘All Right Wall of China’ to me.” It is much easier to reject something new and unknown to you than it is to embrace it. Try to approach unfamiliar situations with an open mind, and you’ll likely find that you will take away much more from the experience.

Filter Your Actions and Responses

While abroad, you are inevitably going to encounter an aspect of the destination that you dislike; it’s just part of the journey. So when this happens, don’t follow this Karlism: “I find that if you just talk, your mouth comes up with stuff.” Just as you wouldn’t tell Grandma that her dry Thanksgiving turkey tastes like sawdust, use common sense and some manners when you come across something that doesn’t culturally enthrall you.

Research You Destination Ahead of Time

Gervais is clearly entertained by his friend’s uncomfortable reactions to extreme cultural encounters. When Karl went to Uganda to see the rare mountain gorillas, he found that the journey through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to the site was much more enduring than he had expected. When he later recounts this venture, he describes it as “a 10-hour trek in bad weather, up hills, covered in mud, with mosquitoes everywhere and when we got there the gorillas just sat there doing nowt. I couldn’t even enjoy it because I knew we had to walk back.” While Karl may not have been given this option, be sure to thoroughly research the places you’ll be visiting prior your trip. Join an online travel forum, and chat with other travelers about their trip highlights. Also ask if there is anything they would’ve done differently.

Trust You Instincts

If something doesn’t feel right, question it. Don’t land dive head-on into a pile of mud like Karl did in Vanuatu. It’s much easier to walk away from a potentially dangerous scenario than to spend the rest of your trip seeking medical attention or trying to deal with a foreign legal system.

Use Reputable Travel Companies

“I went all the way to Australia to swim with dolphins,” explained Pilkington, “That’s what I thought I picked on the list. Got in the cage … shark.” Karl won’t be making this mistake again, but this shark ordeal could’ve been entirely avoided. Booking travel plans with an unknown or untrustworthy company is the equivalent to giving Ricky Gervais permission to plan a pleasant trip abroad for his best bud Karl.

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