Now first off, I am not a seasoned traveler by any means, but I do have some experience to base this off. I’ve been to 3 continents and spend almost 2 years abroad since I went on a solo journey almost 4 years ago.
Anyway, on my first trip to Asia, I had this weird experience that stuck with me the entire time. First noticed at Moscow airport where I had my connecting flight, but not to the same extent. Here I was, thousands of miles away from good ol’ home, couldn’t read nor pronounce any of the words, and neither did I understand any parts of this funny sounding language. (I really can’t imagine any other Asian language sounding more gay than Thai.)
Yet, nothing seemed different from home. It’s hard to capture what I was feeling and describe it with words, but at times, I needed to remind myself that I was actually on the other side of the planet. It felt like the homeless person on the street in Bangkok was the same person from my home city, only looking Asian. The shop assistant, the workers on the street – they all were the Asian counterparts of people I’ve already met.
It almost felt like none of which was happening around me actually reached the threshold where I would pay close attention. I expected this to be totally exciting and overwhelming.
It wasn’t. Sure, new experiences and opportunities all-around, but “it” never hit me. The culture shock – it never kicked in.
At some point throughout the trip, I realized that perhaps I’m getting used to all of this. Not in a negative way, but I’ve simply done enough traveling by myself, that no trip is a big deal anymore. This perhaps is also an indicator that I need to challenge myself in other ways in order to grow and feel alive. Regular traveling doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. I’ve talked about some of this here already.
Another thing, which surprisingly took me a couple of years to realize, was that personal issues are always part of the carry-on luggage. It doesn’t matter where I go, the issues, anxiety and insecurities always join me. They might come in a different forms, or not at all during the initial honeymoon phase in every location, but eventually it all goes back to the status quo.
This has been one of the illusion I’ve been operating under, thinking that somehow, somewhere else things would be fundamentally different. At least when it comes to short-term stays, it’s no different than home. Nowadays, I have the awareness, knowing what really to consider when going abroad, such as costs of living, food quality, culture and people – and still know that I will have to deal with any of my personal B.S.
Traveling and actually immersing myself in a new culture are one of the most rewarding experiences I can think of. Having cut through the self-fabricated illusions, I can now more than ever appreciate what some of these wonderful places have to offer.