“What do you mean some people make money through traveling the
“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
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 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.
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.
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
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Again, I know this list is not exhaustive, but I do hope it is
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!