Travel

Ten travel questions better than ‘How was your trip?’

Sweet home, Chicago. In my favourite terminal.How lovely. A world full of jet setters, nomadic as ever. But, after tasting new salts, seeing new mountains and hearing new languages, is it possible to share the journey when simply asked, “How was India?”  Only a paralleled response is possible, “Great. Beautiful country.”

But in this instance, you’re not looking to learn about the city of Delhi or nation of Denmark, you want to know, who and how was this person in this place? Here are 10 better ways to start a travel conversation:

  1. What did you wear?
    What you wear is reflective of the kind of travel (business, play, adventure). It can uncover stories about worn out shoes, local fashion behavior, a new street market belt acquired or challenges packing from the trip.
  2. What did you eat?
    This is asks more than “what foods is this place famous for?” but can uncover stories  about what did you choose to eat, in what parts of town did you find yourself, were you eating in a hurry, did you find yourself in grocery stores, were you adventurous with new delicacies, how did eating change your budget, did you meet new people over meals, was it like something you had before, is there a new recipe you want to try at home?
  3. What hours did you sleep?
    Asking about sleep patterns relays stories about accommodation, daily schedule, day and night time activities and may even share some light on travel philosophy.
  4. How did you get around?
    If it is truly about the journey, not the destination, then what happened while getting from place to place and how it happened is truly telling. Adventures on bicycles, sketchy cab rides and wonderful discoveries while lost on foot are the joys of travel.
  5. What was the weather like?
    Weather can distinctly change the course of a trip, be it influencing the local culture, health, happiness and daily activities. It’s not much for water-cooler talk, but makes for an ideal question for a place that’s anywhere than here.
  6. What did you leave behind?
    Did you buy the local-flavored toothpaste because you forgot your own?  Were you longing for someone at home? There’s story here, something is always forgotten.
  7. What kind of people know you now?
    Ah, the tales of human encounters create stories for days. And those people, who now know you, whether or not you stay in touch, or if you ever got to know them back, are prime and fresh for sharing upon returning from a journey.
  8. What did you drink?
    Local or bottled water? Liquors, spirits? Fresh squeezed juice from the tree? These are all narratives about specific taste experiences, environment and choices made.
  9. What did it smell like?
    This question begs the questions about immediate experience of this person creating a construct of that place. It gets very close to asking how it felt to be there.
  10. What kinds of shoes did you wear?
    This question is closely related to what did you wear and how did you get around. But the shoes that get worn during travel are like the walls of a room. They hear and see all and judge nothing.  

These questions are best for initiating a conversation. The more insightful questions ask about who and how were you there. “How are you different since you’ve been to [Beijing, Berlin, Botswana, Bolivia]?” my favourite question is for another post. More research to do, more travel to do!

Thank you Samantha Merritt for traveling to Copenhagen so I could ask nice questions.

Nina Mehta is an Indian American writer and product designer in San Francisco. She started writing online in the 90s and began her career in journalism near sweet home Chicago. Nina has since lived and worked in Berlin, London, and Tokyo.

5 thoughts on “Ten travel questions better than ‘How was your trip?’”

  1. Kevin Burke says:

    You asked me a few of these on Tuesday!

    This is a great list and I’ll try to start using these. I also like “Who’s the craziest person you met?”

    Sadly it’s possible too a lot of people just ask “How was your trip” to be nice and aren’t really looking for a better question to ask.

  2. Samantha Merritt says:

    Thank you for the post and asking the questions! As another answerer of your traveler questions, I have to say that I am thankful for the kind of reflection it caused. Sometimes after a trip we are thrown too quickly back into routine and work-life that we forget all of the wonderful insights and experiences of the trip–thereby losing a lot of the value of taking the trip in the first place! Having this conversation with you put these ideas freshly back in the center of my mind. I’ll be a more grounded person for it and my vacation has more impact because of these reflective questions. These questions weren’t just good for you, they were good for me! Thanks again!

  3. Brittany says:

    I really like these (and I will choose to ignore that “favourite”)! They evoke strong memories of many trips just thinking about them.

    It’s so true.. “how was your trip?” “Good.” The end. These Q’s require a lot of show-don’t-tell. Your J200 teacher would be so proud.

    1. ninamehta says:

      Aahah at least I didn’t mention the charming city of “Londin”! I hope I get to ask you these questions soon about your visit to San Francisco. Did you like the Beijing shout out?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *