My Robot-Like Approach to Travel and Life

My Robot-Like Approach to Travel and Life

By |2016-07-01T10:21:41+00:00November 10th, 2015|Perspectives|74 Comments

Travel and Life
If you dare me to do something, I’ll do it, whatever it involves. I might not like it but I’ll show zero emotion whatsoever, pretend that nothing could possibly bother me at all and I’ll face the challenge at hand.

If you told me I won a two month trip to the South Pacific, to bounce around from island to island, all expenses paid, I’d probably nod once and say, “Alright.”

If you told me that my leg is broken and as a result I can’t travel for a year or more, my reaction would also most likely be, “Alright.”

Many people tell me that I’m a mystery, that they have no idea what I’m thinking at any time, what I’m feeling or what’s going on in my head. They tell me that I don’t display my emotions and that I react the same – or don’t react at all – to any kind of information or situation.

They also tell me that while this behavior is all somewhat intriguing, it’s also somewhat annoying.

Thank You, Travel

I think travel has done this to me. I’m quite sure of it actually.

But it’s not exactly what you might think.

Some might immediately conclude that after so many years of travel and life experiences, of memorable sights and activities, of meeting people and learning about the world, travel would just get boring to the point where I no longer react because I literally don’t have any reaction.

Perhaps I’ve ‘seen it all before’ and suffer from travel monotony, so nothing excites me any more.

However, I don’t think that’s the case.

I’m more inclined to think that this constant equanimity is a survival instinct of sorts.

It is something travel has taught me to do – without me really knowing it – in order for me to wander the world in a way that I think is best in terms of having the kind of travel experiences I want to have and also in terms of safety.

When I travel, I generally prefer to ‘fit in’ than ‘stand out’ as I really enjoy observing and interacting with the local culture in a subtle, non-fabricated manner. For example, walking around a random neighborhood, talking with a few local people, going into a small cafe, just being present in some ordinary part of town in order to get a glimpse of how life might really be, is something I try to do often.

Being somewhere without standing out too much, in my opinion, yields some of the most interesting, rewarding and educational travel experiences possible.

And so, as I’ve traveled over the years, I figured out the best way for me to try to fit in when in a destination where I clearly don’t fit in was to go around as unnoticed as possible.

How does a foreigner in a foreign land go unnoticed?

I keep my reactions even, always appear as if I know what I’m doing, always give the impression that I’m confident and that I’m supposed to be exactly where I happen to be at all times. I show no confusion. I show no fear. I pay attention to what’s happening around me, always.

This way, I’m not immediately labeled as an outsider that simply wants to have general tourist experiences, something that can create a barrier between travelers and locals, limiting the types of interactions that can be had as a result. Instead, always maintaining an outwardly confident, unemotional appearance in any setting breaks down some of those barriers, allowing a traveler and local to interact as mere human beings, not as a tourist looking for photo opportunities or a ‘cool’ experience and a local who simply needs/wants something from the tourist.

Old City in Sanaa, Yemen

As a bonus, when it comes to safety while traveling, keeping my reactions equanimous and giving the impression that I know what I’m doing at all times, makes me less of a target, less likely to be taken advantage of. You don’t attempt a scam on or try to rip off someone who looks like they know what’s going on around them.

In fact, in 15 years of travel, I’ve only had my wallet pick-pocketed once (my fault though) and have rarely fallen victim to any major scam or been ripped off beyond the usual ‘foreigner paying a little more than locals’ type of rip off. I could probably list the number of times I’ve been truly taken advantage of as a tourist on one foot, even if I count my two webbed toes as just one toe.

Life Without Reactions

All of this ‘training’ has impacted my life in general as well.

By not outwardly reacting to situations that occur, I don’t give anything away. I can blend into any setting and I can fade out of any setting quite easily too. Nobody can figure me out, nobody can gain an upper hand (so I think, of course) if they don’t know what I’m thinking or feeling.

The additional benefits, in travel and life as a whole, are interesting. I’m able to remain calm at all times, to see things clearly even in the middle of a chaotic and difficult situation and to overcome obstacles simply because I won’t allow myself to appear as if I can’t do something.

I also tend to believe that everything is possible and I venture out into the world with an outward confidence that helps me navigate even the trickiest and most uncomfortable of situations. Again, by not letting myself appear unconfident and incapable, I have no choice but to be confident and capable.

Driving a tractor in India

Downsides also exist of course. I won’t pretend they don’t. This ‘wall’ I put up ensures that few people can get too close to me. That’s something I’m well aware of. Also, my excitement, sadness, disappointment, happiness and on and on are often all internalized, only for me to know about, giving the appearance that I don’t actually experience excitement, sadness, disappointment, happiness or anything else, at least to those who don’t know me well.

Hence the reason why so many people tell me I’m a mystery, which is usually accompanied by a semi-frustrated shaking of the head and a sigh, as if to say, “Well, I have no time for this.

The reality though, is that I most definitely do react to everything. I do find myself in awe as I wander the planet, staring out at the Himalayan Mountains or finding myself in the middle of a fascinating cultural experience. I do find myself dealing with frustration and thrill and fear and attachment and all of that…it’s just happening in a place that nobody else can see most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all of this is healthy. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I just find it to be an interesting result of my life of travel and how my brain has handled and adjusted to the situations I’ve faced over the years. It has undoubtedly brought me benefits and helped me tremendously to experience and learn from this world in a way that I want to experience and learn from it. But it’s also a bit odd, I understand that.

And in the end, I’m neither happy nor unhappy about it, or so I outwardly say.

How do you handle your emotions when traveling and in life? Do you try to display an outward confidence in certain situations to help you through? I’d really be interested in hearing your thoughts.


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  1. Alex July 13, 2016 at 6:33 am - Reply

    Jesus Earl, it was like reading a blog post about myself! But I’ve never been able to put it into such a clear observation as this..

  2. Izy berry June 2, 2016 at 1:54 am - Reply

    Earl I really like this post and I really belite that the best thing of traveling is that you have the opportunity to travel with other people

  3. Sakai April 21, 2016 at 9:56 am - Reply

    Many people and many travel companies grade their travel experience on their interaction with local people… I believe that the best travellers observe rather than interact. They notice idiosyncracies or nuances that are unique, they listen to the rhythm of a language in each situation. I dont think travellers are necessarily robotic, we learn to mimic and we take our cues from our surroundings. This is what keeps us safe, earns us respect and when we do engage with people – we meet them on their terms. Like Sofie, my facial expression will often betray my thoughts in a one on one situation but I think that is a good thing… travellers are generally humanists.

  4. Katie April 11, 2016 at 7:49 am - Reply

    It’s interesting — you describe your lack of emotional displays both as a “wall” and as being present. Someone like Eckhart Tolle would likely call the latter healthy — maybe even enlightened. But a psychologist would likely describe the former as an unnecessary measure of self-protection. So which is it? A wall, or just presence? 🙂

  5. Jay Zantos April 9, 2016 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl, cool post. It makes perfect sense to keep your thoughts and feelings somewhat guarded. I’ve found myself doing this more and more when I first meet people. I used to put people off by getting too excited when talking about travel.

    I try to ask more questions than I answer, and if they want to know more about me then I’m happy to jam. Leading in with “I’m traveling the world, and its great!” doesn’t lead to meaningful conversations, and it took me some time to realize that.


  6. James M. Coyle March 28, 2016 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this piece, Earl! It looks like there are quite a few of us who like to blend in when traveling. A local coffee shop is a great place to do that. Which is why I want to travel and blog on the state of coffee shops, and the people that frequent them. I follow your blog avidly, and your blog has been a recent model for my upcoming blog. Keep doing what your doing, Earl!

  7. Adam February 29, 2016 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    Don’t separate yourself entirely from your emotions … being able to feel is what makes us irrevocably human.

  8. Izy berry February 25, 2016 at 9:11 am - Reply

    Earl I love this article I can see me in your story thanks for share all this with us

  9. Trisha Velarmino - P.S. I'm On My Way February 19, 2016 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    I think one practical thing that traveling has really taught me is keeping my guard up at all times. It’s neither a bad thing nor a good thing. It’s a practical trait whenever you find yourself in a new and unfamiliar environment. Being on the road for as long as you have, having experienced countless of unexpected turn of events, you have probably been conditioned to be perpetually “alright.”
    After three years of being on the road, I now have this nonchalant approach to any situation. My car broke down? It’s okay. I lost my wallet? No biggie. I think traveling allowed me to see beyond my own personal problems and woes. Seeing vast landscapes, various terrains, getting to know different cultural traditions and practices, tasting, smelling, feeling, hearing something strange and foreign has humbled me enough that hardly anything can surprise me. It’s like I always expect the unexpected now. I have been forced time and time again to remain calm and collected when confronted with an unfortunate predicament. I take things as it is and work my way from there. I am more efficient this way. I get things done this way.
    Sometimes though a person, a place or an experience reminds me that I am not completely desensitised.
    More power to you, Earl!

  10. Allie January 31, 2016 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    I’m glad that you’ve talked about this. My approach to travel appears indifferent to a lot of people, but serene according to my aunt. I like her word for it better. I play the “I’ve totally done this before” card a lot. I only show confusion when I want to show confusion. I haven’t gotten to travel much, but everybody keeps telling me that if I work hard at it, I’ll be going all over the place in no time (I’m excited. I flip out about it when I’m alone, it’s so awesome when I get to go somewhere).
    I feel emotion. I feel emotion intensely, but I’ve always had trouble showing it, especially in public, when it sometimes works in my favor. When I travel, I just feel serene, even when things are going wrong or people don’t understand my broken Spanish or I don’t understand their broken English. It’s the only time I feel graceful.

  11. Maria January 22, 2016 at 11:09 am - Reply

    I’m an expat and I think my story doesn’t really count as a “travel” experience per se, but your story made me reflect on myself and the years I’ve lived abroad. I’ve been living in Barcelona, Spain for 8 years now. In the beginning I made lots of friends and had a ridiculous amount of fun together with them. But eventually, after a few months, my new found (also ex-pat) friends began moving back to their home countries. I cried a lot of tears for each one. Until one day when I stopped crying when they left. I started avoiding the good-byes and coming up with excuses why I wouldn’t join them on that goodbye dinner or drink. I then realised that I had began to harden myself with all those goodbyes. When I met someone new, a potential friend, also ex-pat, the first thing I would ask was how long they had lived here and how long they would stay. If they had set date for leaving I would quietly excuse myself and simply avoid that person. Maybe not so nice of me, but it’s just simple self-preservation. I don’t want to lose any more good friends.

  12. Anandan Iyer January 21, 2016 at 12:02 am - Reply

    Very nicely written article! Your emotions very well pour out from your writing. Many of your readers could relate to your story. Thanks for sharing such an emotional piece of writing with your readers.

  13. Rory O'Callaghan January 20, 2016 at 8:31 am - Reply

    Hi Earl, thanks for a wonderful post and blog. I wonder if you notice the connection between this post, on your own imperturbability, and the one from 2011 in Kolkata, where you observed a coldness among the long-term volunteers at Kalighat? What struck you there, among the many other aspects of the place and people that might have, is something that you now seem to recognise in yourself: a lack of response when ‘normal’ people might react compassionately to the feelings and needs of the other. As if the capacity to co-emote has been compromised, or not switched on. The reasons are manifold. It’s quite a journey before you, and behind. Enjoy.

    • Wandering Earl January 21, 2016 at 1:07 pm - Reply

      Hey Rory – That’s an interesting observation for sure. I think for me, it’s mostly my outward appearance that comes across as robot-like but I definitely have feelings inside and typically react internally to what I am observing and experiencing during my travels. While I’m sure that I don’t react as much these days to many things that would have affected me before, simply because I’ve experienced or witnessed them so much, I do like to think that I’m aware of the importance of not becoming ‘cold’ on the inside. When I was at Kalighat, I noticed that upon talking to these long-term volunteers, they had no feelings towards the people they were helping, it was just a ‘job’. And I can honestly say that’s not my approach to my travels. But again, that is a very interesting observation and I certainly appreciate you bringing it up!

  14. Luke Mitchell January 12, 2016 at 9:06 am - Reply

    All I know is that I go numb when I have to fly for more than 15 hours. Totally numb, because to not become numb is to slowly and inexorably lose my mind. Is that the same as what you’re doing? Probably not, but it IS a survival mechanism just as much as the one you’ve developed and if you created it to help exist in a constantly changing world, where you’re forever having to adapt, it has probably served you well. Nothing wrong with using your survival instinct to become a better human being 🙂

  15. Stacey January 9, 2016 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    Interesting post! I’m someone who wears what I’m thinking all over my face, but I would definitely say I’ve gotten better as I’ve travelled, particularly as a woman in Central America.
    I’ve definitely connected more with locals when I’ve expressed my feelings, but when it comes to safety, I think acting like I’m unconcerned and using my “resting bitch face” has kept me out of trouble- at least a few times, so I can see what you mean!

  16. Ben January 5, 2016 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Great piece. I can relate in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to traveling for work.

  17. Zascha January 3, 2016 at 8:16 am - Reply

    Hey Earl. Nothing wrong with being ‘robotic’ at all. We all respond to situations in different ways and as someone else mentioned: maybe at certain times it’s a defence mechanism. I don’t know. Hope you have a wonderful 2016 🙂

  18. Daphne December 25, 2015 at 11:51 am - Reply

    To be honest, it seems a little adversarial. Maybe like a defense mechanism… Is it good to constantly on guard? But if it works for you then it works for you.

  19. Fenris December 23, 2015 at 6:58 am - Reply

    Always exiting when I’m reading your story Earl.It’s make me want to start my trips again

  20. Caroline December 19, 2015 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Living like a robot has worked for me – until recently. I’ve come to the realization that I am in fact human and need to let myself feel feelings. I still employ it with regard to work, but it feels good to have rejoined the human race. No offense or anything, of course!

  21. Hey Earl,
    Interesting post. I love reading your blog as they’re always quite thoughtful and inspiring even in the face of adversity e.g in Romania.

    I’ve only met you once. At TBEX this year, and it was a pleasure to do so! I saw you as friendly, polite, open-minded but shy and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    When travelling, I’m quite the extrovert and ooze confidence in everything I do (I think) and that’s because I tend to travel to destinations where I can’t blend in anyway either due to my sex or my skin-tone, and that’s perfectly acceptable too. It’s not going to stop me from going wherever I want to! In that wise, I don’t try to hide but bring things to the open. (I once went to the 5-star Adlon Kempinski Hotel with no shoes on. It’s a long story…!) I shake hands, I talk to strangers, I walk into people’s homes and ask for help or advice and I bring things to the open. Yooo Hooo. That’s pretty much me!

    In personal relationships, I’m quite the opposite. I’m thoughtful, quiet, sometimes percieved to be arrogant or cold. And that’s alright too. It’s still a part of me. We’re all a mixed bunch of different emotions in different situations and the trick is to be able to see through the mirror and accept both or the many parts, of who you are. So what, if you’re slightly robotic in your approach, do people who know you agree with that definition? I’m betting that they don’t. And that should be enough. As a high flying blogger, you’re bound to meet thousands of people and other bloggers who will approach you like a film star and how do film stars protect themselves, not by showing their real selves? That’s for sure. It goes with the job.

    p.s. Someone once said that I walked and acted like a man. Personally, I took that as a compliment!

    • Wandering Earl December 21, 2015 at 10:21 pm - Reply

      Hey Victoria – Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I think the key is that as long as what we do works for each of us, then that’s perfectly okay. Seems like your extrovert ways work well for you and that’s awesome to hear! (And it was a pleasure to meet you at TBEX!!)

  22. sreekanth December 10, 2015 at 6:22 am - Reply

    Dear earl,
    Sincere appreciations of creating this web site ,
    all these days when i read about the experiences about the people you had travelled around the world ,it was really somewhere in my mind that one day i should either register one such and say to the world what travel life is .
    wishes on all your future 2016 .

  23. Alana December 3, 2015 at 10:18 am - Reply

    I understand. You’ve adapted to your way of life.

    I’m pretty different. I’m very facially expressive and accidentally so. One can usually tell how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking by the look on my face, although I rarely verbally express my thoughts.

    For religious reasons I dress differently than most women, so I don’t particularly care about “blending in.” It’s a given that people are going to know I’m not a local. But, I tend to stay in the same place for a little while before moving on, and I prefer to frequent same cafes, etc, to establish a routine (for safety) and make friends… so I ultimately get recognized as a “new local.”

    Happy trails!

  24. Izy Berry December 2, 2015 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    I love this post i think you are just like that some people dont show alot their emotions and some people show alot their emotions!!! But i think you need to show more your emotions you need to learn how to do it

  25. Veronika December 1, 2015 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Hi Earl, that’s perfectly fine and something that helps you to cope better with life. I only met you once briefly, but I guess you’re a bit introverted, aren’t you? Well, I am too, and it’s just a fact that we deal with things more internally, not necessarily letting the world know what’s happening inside us.
    Hehe, I’m also always trying to blend in, but sometimes my face expression gives me away! Oh, and the camera often too 🙂
    Btw. what a fun photo on the tractor! 🙂

  26. Adrian November 26, 2015 at 7:50 am - Reply

    I think that’s what travel is. Experimenting new things and showing other people that you can adapt and respect their culture! I like your outfit!

  27. Shannon Ullman November 21, 2015 at 9:25 am - Reply

    At first I thought this was going to be an article about becoming emotionless when experiencing travel. But, I’m glad you’re still feeling em on the inside. Sometimes I find myself completely emotionless when seeing views I know are supposed to garner a reaction of”awe” or stoic when seeing culture differences that cause others shock. I was kind of hoping, just a little that the article was about that so I could read about other travelers who felt the same. I guess the biggest emotion that I have while traveling is frustration, and during those moments…as pathetic as it is…I usually cry, lay around for a while and then mentally slap myself in the face until I get back control over my life.

  28. Rene November 19, 2015 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    Interesting topic, a get the same response from people often, they say that I don’t look happy or sad or whatever they expect. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything but my face rarely matches my inner feelings.

    I appreciate your advice on doing that very thing to stay safe, I will consider it and be more aware as I go various places. Thanks for sharing, and no I am not quite sure why I have been that way all these years, I would love to say it was an inner calm that I seek still.

  29. Yussef November 19, 2015 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on something pretty personal. This psychological element of travel seems a less discussed part of travel.
    Adding my reaction to your article, up until recently I would describe myself in a similar manner. I would say some of this mindset comes from this idea of not wanting to insult, impose upon, or seem ignorant of another culture. Recently, after years of being in East Asia, I just found myself a bit tired of the cool, I’m prepared for everything outer persona. The reality is it isn’t true. I asked myself, what would happen if I dropped my guard a bit more. Opened myself up to making mistakes and looking like the confused foreigner (which ironically, I know I’m constantly doing despite my steely persona)?
    And you know what I found? Everything became a lot more fun, more relaxed, and opportunities and interactions with locals and other travelers increased (Also, helped me to stay way more chilled out). Personally, I am enjoying the idea of stumbling through other countries, as opposed to the stealthy cultural observer. My thought is that none of these approaches are any more right or wrong than another. Part of it is a reflection of personality mixed with life experiences. Part of it is also change we experience as we go through life. We get bored without ourselves, we want to see how the world looks and feels if we change our approach.
    Thats been my personal take on attitudes while traveling.

  30. Lindsay November 14, 2015 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Hi Earl,
    I do think that it’s important to not display upset or negative emotions, but it seems to me that confidence and vulnerability are not exclusive. Asking for help is such a great way to connect with other people and learn.

    I don’t see how putting on a “cool” act when traveling helps you. Some of my best travel memories are from when I was at my most vulnerable and someone stepped in to help or show me how to do something.

    Even small vulnerabilities create moments of connection, like the time I shadowed an elderly man across a multi-lane, very busy street, stopping when he stopped to wait for buses or rickshaws to pass. He noticed I was following him, that I was relying on his knowledge of how to cross the road in order not to get smushed. He stood up straight, smiled at me, beckoned to me to come closer, and then put out a hand like a traffic cop and we crossed the rest of the road. I will always remember him.

    But then, I am a woman, so perhaps society allows us to express more vulnerability. But I don’t think so.

    I do hope you regain your ability to feel excitement. I love showing my home and favorite places to visitors– seeing them get excited helps me feel more appreciative, proud and excited too. If they were to play the “been there, done that” card I’d be sorely disappointed.

  31. Goshee November 14, 2015 at 7:11 am - Reply

    I made a comment on this article, but it disappeared ; (

  32. Amy November 14, 2015 at 1:22 am - Reply

    I have always found it interesting to observe how differently people can react to the same stimulus. It sounds as if you have found an approach that really works for you, and based on several of the comments above you are not alone. For my part, I tend to be all-out with my emotions. Interestingly, I have found in my years living & traveling abroad that it is this openness which has actually helped me to connect with locals. Perhaps that is due to spending most of my time in “passionate” cultures, where big emotions are considered more the norm? Or perhaps there is a gender element… not to say there is necessarily a difference in how men & women experience emotion, but rather there may be a difference in what level of emotional response is accepted by others (a restrained man, for example, may be perceived as coolly confident, while a woman exhibiting the same behavior might be thought aloof and distant). On some level, I believe that as long as you have a genuine interest in others, people can sense it. I certainly agree that there is no point in getting one’s feathers ruffled over silly little inconveniences, and confidence is definitely part of the secret sauce of life! But I find that confidence is linked to being comfortable in your own skin, and staying true to who you are, in whatever way that manifests. We are all different, and isn’t that a wonderful thing… as I like to tell my children, the most beautiful gardens are filled with flowers of every color!

  33. John Mayson November 13, 2015 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    Are we twins? 🙂

    People I work with have commented on how nothing seems to faze me. I have traveled a lot and in some ways believe I’ve seen it all. I’ve walked into a hotel lobby at midnight to learn my reservation was cancelled. I’ve had more than my share of credit car snafus, cancelled flights, missed connections, bad food, and illness. Yet I get up the next morning as if nothing had happened.

    I’m glad I’m not alone.

  34. Goshee November 12, 2015 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Hey, It’s very interesting what you wrote. My partner and I are just about to set off for the travel with “one way ticket”. He is more like you, even without traveling, somehow he developed this attitude of sobriety and calmness in all situations. I know already that his attitude will be very helpful during our travels. I however am completely different – I get excited easily, I speak loud and gesticulate, that’s my background I guess. I laugh loud, and probably stand out… I am totally respectful though. I hope my personality won’t get us into trouble…. *a little worried now, after reading your article haha 😉

  35. Karin November 12, 2015 at 2:14 am - Reply

    I have never really thought about it the way you have written it but I do more or less the same. I also have come to realize that I feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations, if that makes any sense. I have found that my smile is the most useful tool when travelling.

  36. Turner November 10, 2015 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    I’m pretty much the same way, taking everything in stride. While it has made me more flexible and overall better, I still wish I could feel more on the positive side; being so used to traveling to random places and experiencing the unknown, I’m not as excited as I was first stepping foot on foreign soil.

    • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 3:20 am - Reply

      Hey Turner – I understand that and I think it comes down to changing what you’re doing when you travel. When I started feeling that, I examined why I travel and what I hope to gain from my experiences. As soon as I realized that it was the human interactions that I seek, that became my main focus everywhere I went – meeting new people. Suddenly, things were more positive again because I wasn’t doing the ‘same old thing’ any more, I was mainly concentrating on the one thing that brought me the most happiness…and luckily, no two people are ever the same, so everywhere I went I was having new, unique interactions with those around me.

  37. Olivia November 10, 2015 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    This clarifies so much about you. While all of this reigns true, you forgot to mention that your sarcasm is much easier to read.


    • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 3:21 am - Reply

      Hey Olivia – In that case, I must have been programmed incorrectly 🙂

  38. Karl November 10, 2015 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    I like how you included a picture of you driving the tractor in front of a crowd of 40 people. Why did they want you to drive a tractor? Who know but just roll with it.

    You’re a go-with-the-flow type of guy, that’s for sure. Part of the trait is just from your personality (I imagine) and I’m sure part is also a by product of your extensive travel experiences.

    Two other strategies you might also mention that may allow one to blend in easier and relate to local people are 1) not carrying a backpack/daypack and 2) limiting photo taking and avoiding large cameras.

    I’ve found my large DSL camera too distracting to carry often plus it conveys a message to people that this is my first time visiting this place and I’m here to take pictures.

    Receiving gifts, especially at Christmas and on birthdays, always makes me uncomfortable as I feel I’m offending the giver if I don’t obviously and outwardly express joy and delight. That’s just not me.

    • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 3:25 am - Reply

      Hey Karl – Thanks for that comment and I agree with those ‘blend in’ strategies, both of which I noticed you take full advantage of yourself during your wanderings. I stopped using a daypack a few years ago as well and it does make a difference. As for the camera, I’ve thought about getting a DSL a few times over the years but always decided against it in the end, and what you mention is one of the main reasons. It does convey that message that you’re just looking for photo opportunities and therefore creates an immediate barrier. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to take photos. Everyone has different interests/goals while traveling.

      Hope you’re doing well!

  39. Travis November 10, 2015 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    I can relate. People have told me the same. That I’m robotic… Ha. Ha. Ha. Well, actually you said it – it’s a good tool. For travel. For understanding your environment. For understanding other people. Emotions may be fun, but they tend to cause a lot of problems. Not just anger, but the whole spectrum. How often is an emotional decision a good one? Maybe once in a while… if we’re lucky. Introspection is a dangerous thing. More often than not we ask ourselves how we feel about something when we should be asking, “what is the reality?”

  40. Anca | Globaloud November 10, 2015 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    “I keep my reactions even, always appear as if I know what I’m doing, always give the impression that I’m confident and that I’m supposed to be exactly where I happen to be at all times. I show no confusion. I show no fear. I pay attention to what’s happening around me, always.” – This is exactly how I travel, and yes – it reflects in real life too. There was a time when I was trying so hard to look as confident as possible that after years of trying I realized that people think that I’m one of the most confident persons they know which led to actually becoming confident. It’s great how doing something on purpose at first can become your way of reacting to situations later in life. And I like it, cause it means you can change according to your needs and according to how you want people to look at you.

    • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 3:27 am - Reply

      Hey Anca – It sure is interesting and I’ve always believed in that ‘trick’ method where if we simply don’t allow ourselves to accept something (lack of confidence), we have no choice but to enjoy its opposite (confidence).

  41. Patty November 10, 2015 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    Earl… I can totally relate to having walls up and keeping people at a distance. I’ve done it for years, but honestly I’m tired of it. I’ve spent the past year slowly chiseling away at my walls. Having and expressing feelings is important and essential to our evolution as individuals. I’ve found when I hold too much in, for too long; it hurts me mentally, physically and spiritually. I want to be at peace, so as time passes…I make little changes and open myself up (even just a little) to people I feel safe with.
    There is a time and a place for our walls keep safe. Being in an unknown place, observing our surroundings, is part of self preservation. Today you took a chisel to your walls and let us see a glimpse of the man behind the walls. Baby steps…

    • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 3:30 am - Reply

      Hey Patty – That’s the thing, I do share my emotions with those that I am very close with and I’m actually very much at peace. For me, it’s less holding my emotions in as it is learning how to avoid unnecessary reactions.

      Of course, with that said, I’m sure I can do a little better opening up in some circumstances. I appreciate your comment and thoughts!

  42. Steve C November 10, 2015 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    Hi again Earl; I like to think that different situations require different responses and everything to moderation can be dull at times. What to do?

    I tend to walk the fence line, not going overboard emotionally either way most of the time. However, going all the way can be quite exciting too! Sunny days and rainy days are a good example of how life in general has it’s opposites (yin/yang). Both have their pros and cons. All said, I’m also of the opinion that blending in while traveling is way better than standing out as the ugly tourist. Learning rather than teaching.

    Do you ever take up the dare of discussing Religion or Politics with either other travelers or locals?

    • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 3:52 am - Reply

      Hey Steve – Great to hear from you and great to hear your thoughts on this one! And yes, I discuss religion and politics quite often with other travelers and locals, that’s something I enjoy doing. They tend to be conversations that everyone, for the most part, has strong opinions about so they often seems like good topics if you really want to learn how people think or what life is all about in a particular destination.

  43. Joanne Joseph November 10, 2015 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Although I greatly admire your blog and excellent writing, I found today’s post made me a bit sad. I get your desire to fit in and blend in with the crowd to be able to observe. But in doing so, keeping your feelings and emotions masked prevents you from truly letting others get to know the “real” you. It can also cause the very people you are wanting to observe be less open and authentic. As much of this big, wonderful, beautiful world as you are exploring, I fear you just may be missing one of the greatest gifts you could get – truly, deeply, movingly connecting with others. So, as per your opening line, “If someone dares me to do something, I’ll do it, whatever it involves.” I officially dare you to remove the walls, let out your feelings, be an open book, laugh, cry, sing, dance, be vulnerable, let the little boy inside be free to come out and play. Try it for six months. Your world view just might change dramatically. I wish you nothing but the best!

    • Susun November 10, 2015 at 12:31 pm - Reply

      I’m with Joanne! I double DOG dare you…
      Keeping a certain understated confidence about you is great in most situations, but showing and sharing emotion with others is a way to make deep connections. You don’t want to sacrifice one for the other. It’s all good!

      • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 3:57 am - Reply

        Hey Susun – I do agree and I do share emotion with others. It’s just that I choose when to do that based on the circumstances and for me, at least with the lifestyle I live, there are many times when holding back seems to come in handy. But I accept Joanne’s dare nonetheless!

        • Marie November 23, 2015 at 5:59 am - Reply

          It really do comes in handy. Most especially if you’re in a place where in they take advantage of your innocence. Being foreign in a strange land is not as easy at it looks.

    • Patrick November 11, 2015 at 7:52 am - Reply

      A great advice Joanne. I agree with you. Truly the real you will show once you won’t hold back on your emotions.

    • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 3:55 am - Reply

      Hey Joanne – Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this one 🙂

      With travel, I’ve actually found the opposite to be true though when it comes to locals. In my experience, blending in with these methods creates a bond between me and the locals that I interact with, allowing them to be even more authentic and open. The reason is that one comes across as someone who truly wants to learn from them, to understand their life and culture as opposed to coming across as just another foreigner who wants to take their photo or look at the one historic building in their neighborhood and then move on. The locals I meet appreciate that I just want to be there, that I want to hang out with them as if I live there and not ignore them in search of that cool experience or great photo opportunity. This is tough to achieve without that outward appearance of confidence. So in the end, we have those genuine interactions without the barriers that I mention in the post. That’s definitely one of the main reasons I do this – because it does lead to more genuine interactions.

      And it’s definitely not as if I don’t laugh, cry, sing, dance…I certainly do all of those! I just do them when the time is right, not necessarily every time I feel like doing so.

      But, I’ll take your dare, that is what I do like I said, and we’ll see how it goes 🙂

  44. yara coelho November 10, 2015 at 11:03 am - Reply

    Yep, totally normal….. specially after the honeymoon phase fades 🙂

  45. Elaine Axten November 10, 2015 at 10:32 am - Reply


    I spent 10 years learning and teaching meditation. Equanimity is worth cultivating.

    However, I do get excited about things, and also upset. And I find things on my doorstep as interesting as things that are far flung. Which is just as well, since writing about my daily life is what I do.

    • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 4:04 am - Reply

      Hey Elaine – I also find that benefit in equanimity as it has helped me tremendously to avoid things like anger in situations where anger really wouldn’t help anyone at all (and have a negative effect on me). And of course, being equanimous doesn’t mean you can’t feel any emotions…I think it just teaches us how to maximize certain emotions and how to avoid the negative effects of others.

      • Elaine Axten November 12, 2015 at 5:34 am - Reply

        You’ve hit the nail on the head. There are a lot of misconception about Buddhisty type things – karma, equanimity, etc. The practitioners are human and have emotions the same as anyone else, but they may not look like they are doing so because they don’t repress them or act them out.

  46. Amrita Das November 10, 2015 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Frankly, I see it as a talent and I wish I could wear a nonchalant or a non-reactive look on me. Like you said, it is essentially a ‘safety measure’ and it does help navigate through a new place. May be someday I’ll master it. May be.

    • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 4:05 am - Reply

      Hey Amrita – With safety, it most certainly helps. But it’s definitely not something I managed to do overnight…took some time and experience dealing with all kinds of situations. You’ll get there!

  47. Aleta November 10, 2015 at 10:10 am - Reply

    I can relate to your equanimity .. I have been fortunate to travel as much as you have without any major issues in the many countries i have visited/lived..
    I agree to try and look like you know where you are going and what you are doing..
    Never look lost..
    Another wonderful article Earl!!

    • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 4:09 am - Reply

      Thanks Aleta!

  48. Mark November 10, 2015 at 9:02 am - Reply

    Wow, in the little time I have known you, I think your article is fairly accurate of you. You once told me Vipassana Meditation might have given you that edge? I am a bit of a open book myself, but feel when I am alone I deifnetly practice walking with confidence. I also use your tip of getting your bearings (15 mim) in a strange airport/bus station before heading out after a 18-25hour sojourne. I also find if i get lost, want to use my phone or I’m bothered by someone I’ll just step into a shop/store/tienda if possible, pass a minute or too and move on, seems to work for me?

    • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 4:11 am - Reply

      Hey Mark – That last one is a good method…sometimes we just forget that we can stop for a moment (in travel and in life) in order to refocus and re-energize. And yes, the meditation definitely helped me create this foundation of equanimity…once I saw the benefits, I think I transferred it over to certain travel situations. Hope you’re doing well as always!

      • Mark November 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm - Reply

        Doing well for sure Earl, I was in Peru for 5 weeks taking Spanish, and now heading out again to Sri Lanka and parts South and unknown, (Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines)?? this Friday and no return ticket. India still intrigues me and I will go back, but plan on going with one of your tours (just too easy with you) had a talk with Queenly & Anastasia and Oliver a couple weeks ago and were planning a reunion tour!! So far your dates just haven’t worked for me, but not to worry your never far off my radar. Take care

  49. Alyson November 10, 2015 at 8:55 am - Reply

    I’m all about emotion! I cry when I see beautiful things ( like a flock of sheep, this morning), I scream at crowds in India when they’re all pushing and shoving ( sorry India!). I also cry when I’m lost and confused. But it all works out. No worries, as we say in Australia.
    The thing I tell the kids to do is “Smile and wave boys, just smile and wave.”
    Yes, you’re weird.
    But thanks for sharing 😉

    • Mark November 10, 2015 at 9:03 am - Reply

      Great….. that makes me laugh……you made my day!!!!!

      Smile and wave Ha ha

      • Mark November 10, 2015 at 9:11 am - Reply

        One more!
        I just tell the touts in perfect english “I don’t speak english” and it least stops them for a second, or puts them off there game, that is until you meet a 12 yearly that speaks 5 languages.

    • Sandara November 11, 2015 at 7:56 am - Reply

      I thought I’m the only one in here who is so emotional. High five to you there Alyson. Smile and wave boys, just smile and wave 😉 LOL

    • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 4:12 am - Reply

      Hey Alyson – That’s the beauty of life – we’re all weird to each other 🙂 And that’s something I most definitely appreciate!

  50. Sofie November 10, 2015 at 8:10 am - Reply

    You know I’m all out there. My face is an open book. That’s good and bad at the same time:)

    • Wandering Earl November 12, 2015 at 4:13 am - Reply

      Hey Sofie – Nothing wrong with it at all of course. That’s why I love reading these comments, to once again be reminded that everyone approaches life in different ways and the variety is what makes life interesting and special!

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