What better way to become intimate with another culture than to become intimate with another culture? If you know what I mean… How better to take in the sights and sounds and taste of a new country than to… take in the sights and sounds and tastes of a new country? If you know what I mean… What better way to learn a foreign tongue than to learn a… Oh, Thiago behind the camera is giving me a dirty look, so let me just move on. What I’m saying is: a little romance on the road can be a great experience. But it can also be a minefield. Sex is complicated enough in your own country, or it certainly is in the United States, I don’t know where you are. But add to that the misunderstandings that can come with different moral codes, and family relationships, and language differences and, more than anything else, economic imbalances between a traveler and a local. And things get very tricky. And in my view it is the traveler, not the local, that has the bulk of the responsibility here as you flit in and out of someone’s life, likely never to be seen again. Look, I have way less experience with this topic than I’d like to, but I do have a few stories and a few hard lessons learned about the pros and cons, and ups and downs of being Globally Curious. If you know what I mean… Hey, I’m Seth Kugel! Welcome to season two of my channel Globally Curious. On my show, you won’t see gauzy scenes of me on a daybed at a beach resort in the Caribbean, or having some really pricey meal that some publicist paid for, or dressed in a diaper at Brazilian carn… Oh yeah, okay, maybe that. Occasionally I’m on the road, but mostly I’m right here in my home in Queens, New York, talking about real hard travel issues. And this is a really exciting day for me because my book, Rediscovering Travel: A Guide for the Globally Curious, is out today! Exactly today! It is a collection of everything I’ve learned about travel in five years working as the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler columnist. The light just changed… I just wanna make sure it’s… It’s a collection of everything I learned about travel in five years working as the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler columnist, and it covers how to really see places, how to save money, how to stay safe, how to use travel apps and sites without being used by them, how to plan a trip. And, from pages 209 to 220, how to hook up. And I don’t mean how to get that Greek guy or land that Latvian lady. I’m really the last person you want to learn romantic strategies from. What I mean I’m gonna talk about is how to be ethical about hooking up when you’re traveling. And to be clear, I’m not talking about your personal values about sex. I’m also not talking about romances with other travelers – although I will note that if you’re staying in a hostel, don’t do it in the dorm room, please. That is totally disgusting. I’m also not going to distinguish whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you sleep with men and women, or both. What I’m really gonna talk about is my opinions on sex, and money, and power on the road. Okay, first I want to share a personal story with you about the first time ever hooked up with a local on the road. I was 23, she was 19, and we were in a small city in the Dominican Republic. You should know as background that I spoke Spanish, and even pretty good Dominican Spanish. ??????? So, anyway, there was pretty good communication between us. You should also know that we did not actually have sex. She was a virgin when I arrived, she was a virgin when I left. But a thing or two did happen. Okay, so the night I was gonna leave I thought that it had been a super romantic three days. We had talked for hours, we had fooled around in the park. She showed me the town. But my first clue something was wrong came when we were saying goodbye, and I was like, “That was fun! You were really cool! It was a great experience!” And she started sobbing. And I’ll never forget the word she said. She said, “I finally learned what love is, and now you’re leaving me.” And I was like, “Whoa, love. What just happened there?” And then I got home and I went back to my normal life and kind of forgot about it. She kept sending letters. I still have these letters. And she would tell me how much she missed me and how we’d be together again. And then she tried to convince me to buy a house down there so I could come anytime I wanted. And then she begged me to please call her, and when I did, she said she was having money problems, and could I send ten dollars? So I did, and then like a year later she wrote me one last time that she’d gotten married and was pregnant and I never heard from her again. I don’t know for a fact how her experiences with me affected her life. Maybe it was positive. Maybe it was negative. But it was definitely not what I intended, and I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t have done it. Or maybe done it in a different way. Just by the very fact that I had been able to fly from New York to her country, it was clear I was from a different universe and held the extreme upper hand. And we had obviously had really, really different expectations. So, from then on when I was in poorer countries, I always treaded very carefully. I was really concerned that something like this would happen again. When I was 30 I went to Cuba and, while I was there, I met this extraordinarily smart and savvy woman. And I was really interested in her, but I was very, very wary about getting involved. The Cuban economy, at least back then, I haven’t been there recently, lived off of squeezing money out of tourists however people could, and I had had black market cigars offered to me, and liquor offered to me, and renting illegal apartments offered to me, and prostitutes offered to me, and child prostitutes offered to me every step of the way. So I was really paranoid and uneasy. So I told this woman that I was not interested in a relationship. I don’t like going to fancy touristy places, but she still wanted to hang out with me. So I was like, all right, and you know, we had a great time. But there was still a surprise. The day before I left she got all serious. She said she had something to ask me and I was like, “Oh, no.” And then she asked me to research Italian divorce law when I got back to the US. What? So she told me she had this Italian “boyfriend” who would come and visit her every six months. And he wanted to marry her and get her out of Cuba, which she really wanted to do, as long as she could leave him as soon as she could get permanent residence in Italy without risk of being deported. So I got home and I did research Italian divorce law and found the information. But I also started reading about this strange world in developing countries, where poor women rope in rich foreign boyfriends tourists for what seems like romance – to them -, but then they convinced them to buy stuff for them and even send them money after they get back home. It’s kind of like the international version of a sugar daddy. This happens to both genders. If you’re interested, check out the German movie called “Paradise: Love”. You can rent it on YouTube. So, much as we like to think about romance and love in contrast with prostitution and sex tourism, there are really a whole lot of gray areas in between. As an elite traveler, which no matter how ratty your harem pants look, and how many cents a day you’re traveling on, it’s exactly what you are compared to many of the places you might be traveling to. you need to tread very carefully, and realize it’s often very hard to understand what’s going on in other people’s minds in another country. I think it all kind of boils down to one rule. If you’re thinking about everything I just said, if you’re talking openly with the person about it, and if you have any inkling that what you’re doing might be wrong, It probably is. I should also say that I’ve been traveling for like 20 years. I have had other short-term romances in other parts of the world with women who are sort of more my socio-economic equals, and those were great experiences for me and I hope they were for them. I think maybe they were. So if you do it right, if you’re open about what’s going on, if it’s clear you’re probably not coming back, romance can be a great way to learn about another culture in a way that is very hard to do in the short term, just by, like, making friends with a guy at the cafe. And what I mean by that is learning everything, from improving your language skills to finding out about other people’s values, to what their houses are like, to local underwear styles, which can actually be very, very weird in other countries. Now, of course you could find out about foreign underwear in other ways. You could lose your suitcase and have to buy some emergency skivvies, or you could go snooping around the underwear section at local clothing shops, which is actually not that bad of an idea. But the best way of all is to see some underwear in its natural habitat… If you know what I mean. Anyway, I talk a whole lot more about this in the book, which you can get from the local book store, or monstrous multinational corporation of your choice. All the links are at and in the descriptions. I’ll see you in the comments.

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