Travel Words

“What do you mean some people make money through traveling the world?”

“Why do I feel so tired, and we just got here?”

“Why do I feel so weird in this culture?”

These are just some of the questions that have come up from learning more about travel. Over my trips all over the world, it has been beneficial to know words that either help describe what is happening to me or describe the people I meet.

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15 Commonly Used Travel Words

“What do you mean some people make money through traveling the world?”

“Why do I feel so tired, and we just got here?”

“Why do I feel so weird in this culture?”

These are just some of the questions that have come up from learning more about travel. Over my trips all over the world, it has been beneficial to know words that either help describe what is happening to me or describe the people I meet.

The list I am giving is not exhaustive, but I wanted to give a guide for common travel terms that you may not fully understand. I also hope this list can help seasoned travelers explain these terms, ones you probably use regularly, to family or friends who do not understand.

15 Commonly Used Travel Terms

  • International

If you have seen any travel blog or are discussing anything with extensive travel, then you have seen this word. Just as it looks, this word is referring to anything happening between two or more nations or countries. When you are doing international travel, you are leaving your country to go into another country. When you are with a business and looking at international partners, you are working with partners located in a country different from the one the business is in. I think you get the idea.

  • Overseas

Overseas is a similar term to international. Though it is originally supposed to be used for countries not neighboring your home country, it is used more loosely today to mean a country different from your own. Again, when you are traveling overseas you are leaving the country you are in.

  • Passport

A passport is a form of identification specific to your country and the identification requirement for international travel. It is usually in the form of a book with pages that are stamped upon arrival to a new country. Some countries also offer passport cards, but those are not used for international travel.  

  • Visa

A Visa is the paperwork given to verify you can enter a country. How you get a Visa depends on the country. Some countries require you fill out paperwork and get approval before you leave your country, while others allow you to get one upon arrival. There are also different types of Visas, such as business visa or tourist visa, which can also affect how long you are in the country or how you need to apply for the Visa. When planning a trip, you need to research the Visa situation for your destination.

  • Jet-lag

When you are traveling internationally, specifically crossing time zones, your body needs time to adjust to the changes in going from one time zone to another. When entering a new time zone, when you are awake and when you sleep change to fit the time of the place where you are. However, your body is still accustomed to being awake or asleep on the previous time zone schedule. It usually takes time to adapt, which means you get tired or energized at weird times at the new location.

  • Locals or Nationals

Locals refer to the people who are native to a location. If you are born and raised in Bejing, China, then you are a local to Bejing, China. The same definition goes for nationals. If you are born and raised in Bejing, China, then you are a Chinese national. “Local” tends to be used with cities, and “national” tends to be used with the country.

  • Foreigners or Internationals

Foreigners are people who are not native to a location. If you were born and raised in London, England, but now live Bejing, China, you are a foreigner in Bejing. The same can be used for the term international; you are originally from a country different from the one you are currently in. “International” tends to be a term used with the country, but “foreigner” can be used with cities or countries.

  • Expatriate (Expat)

An expatriate is someone who left their native country and resides in a different country. Many expatriates refer to themselves as “expats.” Expats tend to face many unique challenges as they try to integrate into a culture different from their own. When you go on a short trip, you are free to see the differences but not have to adapt your entire life to those differences. It is good to remember that expatriates face many challenges, especially if you are the local to the area getting to know an expat.

  • Culture Shock

Culture shock is “a state of bewilderment and distress experienced by an individual who is suddenly exposed to a new, strange, or foreign social and cultural environment.” (link to the definition here) Culture shock is hard to explain, and everyone experiences it differently. Learning how you handle new cultures is an unexpected benefit to travel. Culture shock happens when you enter into a new culture, but it can also happen when you enter back into your native culture after being immersed in another culture. I have struggled with both types. I have found I respond differently to different cultures, and different cultures have me respond to my own culture differently! I am always fascinated when this happens.

  • Emigrant versus Immigrant

An emigrant is someone who leaves their native country or region, and an immigrant is someone who migrates to another country or region. (Yes, they are pronounced the same.) When you leave the country, you become an emigrant to the locals you left, and you become an immigrant to the locals of the country you are going to.

  • Home/host/current country

As you travel, you tend to pick up phrases that help you describe how certain countries fit into your story or your timeline. If you travel, you can refer to your native country as your “home country” or even your “passport country.” Your “host” or “current” country would be the country you have traveled to. These phrases help make distinctions in conversations, but if you do not know what someone is referring to, simply ask.

  • Bilingual (multi-lingual)

Bilingual means you can speak tw9 languages fluently. When someone is multi-lingual, that means they can speak multiple languages fluently. I speak English fluently, but only a handful of phrases in several other languages, so I am not bilingual. From my experience, many people from Europe, Asia, or Africa can speak multiple languages fluently. I think this is more due to the nature of the surroundings; there are more languages closer. Whereas in the Americas, I have not seen it as much. Of course, those are generalities, but in the Americas, it isn’t as necessary or common. I do not feel being monolingual (only fluent in one language) is right or wrong, however, learning another language expands your worldview because language is so connected with culture.

  • Immigration

Immigration is “the place at an airport or country’s border where government officials check the documents of people entering that country” (definition here). It can be the act of immigrating, but more travelers know this term when referring to having paperwork ready for going through immigration when you enter into a new country. Knowing this term becomes much more important if you are actually moving to a new country, but it is good to know.

  • Digital Nomad

A digital nomad is someone who works remotely and takes advantage of that in order to travel the world. As with any occupations, there are pros and cons to this. Though it has mostly been singles in the past, this is growing in popularity for families. With more and more jobs available, online flexibility for travel is more accessible than ever. Also remember, just because they work remotely does not mean they do not work. Balancing work and play is crucial for being a digital nomad, especially one with a family.

  • Worldschooler

Worldschool is a newer term because of the options for remote work. As its name implies, it is where you do schooling while traveling. Basically, it is a form of homeschooling where you do not stay put in one place. The world is your school. This term more accurately describes a digital nomad family than it would an expat family most of the time. Though expats travel much more than the typical family, most of the time they stop schooling for their shorter travel times and school when they are stationary. While digital nomad families who worldschool take their schooling with them. It is also a term that would probably be more specific to those who travel internationally. We know families that homeschool while in constant travel in an RV in the United States, but they would say they are more like mobile homeschoolers.

Again, I know this list is not exhaustive, but I do hope it is informative!

Let me know if you have any words you would add to this list or if you have wondered about another term related to international travel!

My International Neighbor

I was nervous as I walked up the stairs holding my very young children. She lived across the street from me, so we had simply walked over. This playdate was different than the rest, but I didn’t quite understand just how different it would be. I was taking a step outside of my comfort zone at the time, but pushing me forward each step was the excitement of something new!

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