Australians are known for being frequent travellers and we tend to go for a while. I’m not sure why. I takes a long time to get to most places. I laugh when I overhear people in the US speaking about a long plane trip and then find out it was only about five hours across the continent. I think most Australians consider anything under half a day short.
Travel can teach us so many things. Especially when it involves experiencing different countries and cultures. Do it solo and the lessons are even greater. I’m not just thinking of the obvious ones like architecture, food and landscapes.
If it’s something other than a structured tour, you are continually being forced outside your comfort zone. You land at an airport for the first time and not sure where to walk. You learn very quickly to follow the crowd. You will end up at immigration or baggage collection. Depending on whether you are flying domestic or international.
Smiling, pointing, stumbling over a few words in a foreign language and you can usually get an answer or find directions. Of course it is all much easier now with translation apps on your phone. It has made us a bit lazy though. Learn a few words and people will appreciate the attempt, regardless of how poorly you are pronouncing the words.
The important thing is you are doing something unfamiliar and rising to the occasion. You can walk away with a sense of achievement and the second time will be much easier. That is the lesson. Accept the fear, meet it head on and it will disappear. Fear is only in your mind. You can decide if it is going to limit your life.
Exposure to new things helps you recognise what you like and don’t like. What you can accept or not accept. You will encounter many new things and with each one you are subconsciously making a decision about them.
I sort of already knew I’m not very good with loose interpretations of time. If something is to happen at 1:00pm then it better be at that time. Think more Swiss train time than South American bus time.
It helped me realise many places are vacation only destinations, not a mix of work and vacation. An example was waiting for the internet to be connected in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. After seven weeks I had to move on because nothing was happening. Another was waiting two hours past the arrival time for the bus in Barbados. I was beginning to question life and the locals were unfazed. When I speak to people about why I like Hawaii I explain it runs on island time with the American can do influence. Of course not all the influences are welcomed there and quite justified.
High density living is not something I can deal with long term. I’ve lived in apartments in Barcelona, Spain and Nice, France. Good for a few months and then I need my space. I’ve also lived on Bequia, St Vincent and the Grenadines for a couple of months. The island is only 18 square kilometres in size, or about 7 square miles. Population is a bit over 5000. A very different experience.
Of course most people can put up with things for a while. These two things have taught me that I tend to lean to the more quiet lifestyle. A week here or there in a big city is great, just not too much longer unless I can hide out and recharge some days.
Ever been to a supermarket in a foreign country? It is a good way to know if you are influenced by advertising in some way. I pride myself on being able to turn off from advertising or recognise it when I’m on the receiving end. Branding is a whole other story. Some products will be familiar purely based on the look of the packaging. Other times you will have no idea.
If doesn’t always work though? In Slovenia I opened what I thought was a can of tuna and it didn’t look like what I expected. A quick internet check and I confirmed it was tuna paté for human consumption not not food. I don’t think any amount of travel would make me comfortable with eating cat food.
After long trips overseas I love the first time back at a familiar supermarket. It’s just so easy for a change. That said, I’ve never gone hungry. I’ve eaten some strange foods (Japan) and given myself food poisoning once (Mauritius), however, I’m still here.
I guess what I am saying is you take in so much more when in unfamiliar surroundings. You notice the buildings or the birds, or the weird street signs, or the different sayings. On more than one occasion I have announced something to the group I was with and then get a lot of strange looks. I then realise what I have said must be an Australian thing.