When I travel I always come across someone who gets upset when they don’t see tacos on the menu in Cambodia, that complains about a restaurant being out of something, that tries to argue by talking louder to people that can’t understand their language and then complains that they don’t speak English. If you have ever traveled abroad I'm sure you've seen it...or perhaps even been it.
I realize that the comforts of home are always helpful when traveling to faraway lands.
Sometimes when feeling especially homesick a familiar comforting meal, a toilet that flushes, or dependable wifi are just what we need.
Fair enough, trust me I’ve been there.
What I’ve learned over my 6 years of travel though is:
In order to get the full benefits of travel it’s essential to experience the country for what it is. To at least give it a try.
On my various travels around the world I’ve seen the same 3 things get in the way of travelers being able to fully experience the adventure of a new country. When I first started vagabonding I allowed these things to get in my way too. Seriously, it's easy to do because we like things to be comfortable and familiar but that just isn't part of adventure!
To get the most from your travels and your trip keep these 3 things in mind. Often.
Try the native cuisine...more than once.
Trying new things, especially foods, can be a bit scary but food is a huge part of a culture. It’s history, tradition and it is life. Maybe it’s not time to try the stewed intestine (although why not?!) but do eat some of the local food. All our favorites at home are just waiting for our return, promise. Yes, sometimes people get sick but we can get food poisoning at home too.
PRO TIP: The best way to stay safe is to focus on cooked over raw foods. To be extra safe bring digestive enzymes and probiotics with you.
The local joint always have the best food anyway. Tourist restaurants are all generic and boring. Channel your inner Anthony Bourdain and dig in.
Customer service is different, and that’s okay.
The customer is often not always right once you get outside of America. So, things may not go exactly in our favor, or as we want. In addition, at times things get lost in translation making communicating wants or needs even more challenging. Oh and guess what? No one cares about your Yelp review in New Delhi so don’t bother.
PRO TIP: Do your best to make yourself understood, to speak your needs, and then let it go.
Sometimes letting it go can be tough, but stewing over these things and allowing it to spoil our entire trip isn’t worth it. I know this from experience. Culture shock is real and I'm embarrassed to admit I held onto a lot of frustration during large portions of my time in SE Asia.
There’s no need to get loud or angry when things don’t go our way.
It doesn’t make things go any faster abroad. It isn’t America, that’s why we are there.
One thing that is almost guaranteed during travel is that things will not end up as planned. Especially when traveling to developing countries. The cultural norms and the way business works can be polar opposite to what is normal back home.
PRO TIP: Yelling will most likely get you absolutely nowhere, so please save your breath for a deep long inhale and relaxing exhale.
I’m not the type of person who get’s loud when I’m angry but I’ve seen it dozens of times and I’m always embarrassed for the person. It does no good and it looks a bit foolish to be honest.
Seen as ignorant, loud and needy, people often make snap judgements about Americans. When we forget these 3 travel guidelines we can easily slip into the American stereotype. Not only that but we end up miserable, and resentful.
By keeping an open mind, remembering where we are and being fully aware of these 3 things we are building a solid foundation to an epic trip. Do you really want to go home and tell everyone how you ate cheeseburgers for every meal, how angry you were the whole time or how you had to yell at someone? Doesn’t make for the best adventure story.
Now go and explore! Make memories, create stories, meet new people, try exotic food and enjoy your freaking life.
>> Tera <<
PS. Have you ever been guilty of one of these things? It's okay, no judgement....as long as you recognize it and work toward shifting! hehe. Like I said I've been guilty as well. Tell me about an experience you had while traveling in the comments below! Travel stories are the best stories :)