Two Girls Talking
© Anna Levinzon

How to Tell Travel Tales People Will Actually Listen To

Most travelers have experienced this scenario: return home after a trip and feel like you are overflowing with stories to tell, but nobody gives you the time of day, let alone ten minutes to hear one of your favorite experiences on the road.

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I remember all too well that after returning home from six years abroad, a significant number of my friends and family couldn’t actually name which three countries I’d been living in and certainly didn’t ask any questions about them.

But I’m sure many travelers are just like me — itching to share their experiences! Over the years, I’ve found a few ways to be able to tell travel tales that people will actually listen to. At least some of the time! Hopefully, these tips will help you get some of those travel stories out of your system.

Relate It to Them

Pick a story that seems relevant to the friend or group you’re talking too. For example, if I’m talking to a friend who loves wine, then I tend to drag up some of my tales of the vineyards I lived close to in southern Germany.

We’re all basically pretty self-centered creatures so if you can tell a story that hits a topic your listener is genuinely interested in, you’ve got a much better chance of keeping their attention.

Lone Man on a Bench in Tehran, Iran
Alone in Tehran, Iran © hapal

Relate It to the Moment

Like many people across the world, my friends and I were watching the Olympics recently, and chatting about it in between. During some of these chats, I remembered some of the former Olympic venues I’ve visited and mentioned some of those stories.

The same principle works for any place that shows up in the news or current affairs shows. Although you’d like to think you hear about it for a good reason, it’s often a disaster or crime that gets places on the news, so it’s nice to them to be able to share a (hopefully) more positive travel tale to counterbalance the bad news.

Tell Tales of People

A story about you going to a famous sightseeing spot is not particularly interesting. A story of you meeting a local politician at a famous sightseeing spot and chatting to him about the state of the country is much more interesting.

People like people and in my opinion one of the best parts of traveling is the people you meet rather than the places you see. So use some of these encounters as a basis for telling your travel stories and you’ll often find people are more interested. Have a photo of the person in question and you’ll be even more likely to get a willing audience.

Use Objects for Prompts

On the whole, the most I’ve talked about my travels is when someone’s asked me about some object I’m carrying that happens to be something I picked up on my travels, whether that’s a bag, a pen, a piece of clothing or something more strange. Because I tend to buy “useful” objects as souvenirs — that is, something I can use in my daily life rather than put on a shelf — then I’m often carrying something around that I’ve collected in some faraway place, and that means these kind of conversations happen all the time.

It certainly doesn’t have to be a flashy souvenir, either. A simple woven pencil case that I bought in Vietnam and then used constantly when I was teaching English was often enough to have my students ask me where I’d got it, and to then ask me more questions about my travels in Vietnam.

Cozy Sunset, Indonesia
Cozy Sunset, Indonesia © Riza Nugraha

Make Fun of Yourself

Over my years of teaching adults, if there’s one lesson I’ve learnt time and time again, it’s that the best way to make adult learners feel comfortable about contributing in class is to make fun of yourself! Or at least to let them have a laugh at your expense.

The same applies for telling travel tales. Rather than making yourself sound like a travel god who cruises around exotic places without issue, remember the bits where you did something silly or even stupid and mention these in your tales. Have a laugh at yourself and your friends will join in — and ask to hear even more about your travels. I promise it works!

Tell Strangers Instead

If you’re really having trouble getting your friends interested in the stories you have to tell about your travels, perhaps your friends are just never going to be interested! You could consider telling a bunch of strangers instead — not by bowling up a group of people you’ve never met and just blurting out your travel tales but perhaps by doing it online, by starting a blog for example. Starting a blog to tell a few travel stories means that your potential audience is multiplied by a huge factor, plus you can share your blog posts with your friends — some of them might then be the ones who want to ask you more questions about your travels when you catch up for a meal or a drink, just because they’ve had a chance to read a bit more about your trip at their own leisure.

  1. I love this list! I’ve especially found people are more interested in hearing about places I’ve traveled when they can relate to an object (“Hey, where’d you get those earrings?”) or an encounter with a person. And I’m ALWAYS more than happy to launch into a travel story when given the chance.

  2. Some great ideas! I must admit I am always a bit cautious about regaling people with my tales as I have been on the receiving end a few times and it doesn’t take long to start glazing over!

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