Last week our family went on vacation. It was gloriously peaceful – well, mostly, because teens will be teens, even on vacation. Let’s just say my main goal was a whole lot of relaxing while soaking up sunshine. Oh, and we were in Mexico.

I’ll let that sit there a moment…



People reacted two ways when I told them our plans:

a)  “Oh! Is that…safe?” (in a tone insinuating I was strapping my kids to a rocket mid-launch)

b)  “Ah…well, that sounds…nice.” (in a tone that screams they’d rather tackle a plateful of steamed squid than head south of the border)

All that’s really neither here nor there since none of those people were actually traveling with me, but it did make me think. This seems as good a time as any for some Americans Abroad reflection.

1.  Can we talk about the clothes? Nothing brings me up short like seeing what some Americans wear while out of town. But how do you know they’re Americans, Laura? Well, that would be because they’ve decided being A WALKING BILLBOARD FOR THE USA is a good look. I’ve seen our flag splashed across every conceivable item: socks, t-shirts, tank tops, purses, even – – a freaking cowboy hat made of straw dyed in a flag pattern. Seriously, I can’t even find words to properly describe that one, you just have to trust it screams redneck out on the town. Y’all. Please.

2.  And how about swimwear? If flag tees irritate me, flag swimsuits give me the willies. Sorry not sorry, but watching your boobies bounce by in the stars and stripes is disturbing. I’m pretty sure the founding fathers wouldn’t approve of it cradling your kootchie either. Just sayin.

3.  We don’t travel to dangerous areas, but we also recognize it’s our job to minimize bringing danger to us. Safe travel practices and all that. One of which is don’t paint a giant target on our back that screams Clueless American Tourist (see points 1 and 2).

4.  Say it with me, people: volume control. Use it.

5.  I find myself wishing folks could muster up a bit of cultural sensitivity. Brash statements that pass as bold at home come off as blowhard abroad.

6.  Nothing screams obnoxious entitlement like a horde of angry Americans harassing immigration officers over pens.

7.  It has to be said. I don’t care what your politics are. Well, okay, I do, but that’s not the point. If you have come to Mexico for your vacation and are enjoying the hospitality of the Mexican people during your stay then For The Love Of All Things Holy keep your mouth shut about the wall. Not one word, and certainly not one word in front of someone local. I’m not even kidding about this.

8.  Pro tip: speaking English with a Spanish accent doesn’t make you easier to understand. It just makes you sound condescending.