The best part of a textbook is the little cartoons they sprinkle throughout, to show that learning is fun: the silly illustrations in a grade-school textbook, the New Yorker-style gags in a more adult text, or the angels and mammoths that play around in The Way Things Work. Malachi Ray Rempen’s Itchy Feet, a webcomic about travel, is like the cartoons-only version of those books.
If you’re not well traveled enough to relate to every strip, you’ll end up learning about different countries and travel experiences, and even pick up some tips. Itchy Feet has run comics on kissing etiquette in France, sushi etiquette in Japan, the strength of coffee around the world, and even how to call emergency services in continental Europe. And that’s just in the past 12 months; there are weekly strips all the way back to 2011.
Rempen tells Lifehacker that he’s a fan of travel hacks, like rolling your clothes instead of folding. He also points out the real reason to learn some key phrases in the local language:
There’s a chance they’ll come in handy in practical use but actually what they’re best for is getting on the good side of the locals. Often just saying a greeting or expression in the local language, even if you’ve mangled it, is so entertaining and charming to locals that you’ll become immediate best friends. It just shows respect and interest and that’s enough for some people to completely open their doors to you. And you get more out of the trip, culturally!
The strips featuring language are my favorite, for the way Rempen symbolizes different languages, accents, and speaking abilities with illustrated speech balloons. See how he visualizes Italian with a Mexican accent, Quebecois French, “Denglish,” French pronunciation, and mangled English. Each visualization teaches a little lesson of its own.
The entire comic is published in several languages (listed at the bottom of the feed), so you can even use it to brush up on a written language. So go read Itchy Feet and broaden your mind.
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