I first started traveling overseas in my teens. I would make vacation runs to Australia from my native New Zealand, and it made me feel very cosmopolitan and international.
|Mount Cook in my beautiful homeland, New Zealand|
When I was 20 I moved to London to become a makeup artist and my wanderlust started in earnest, London being the ultimate base for a world traveler. Since then I have traveled as much as possible, both for work and for pleasure, the line between the two being blurred at best and non-existant at second best.
Travel is the greatest education you can be blessed with. To really understand the world and its people, their different customs and religions, to really comprehend the magnificence of this planet you need to venture out, explore and experience as much as you can.
The world is the greatest classroom of them all.
But it’s not all easy, and it’s not all wonderful.
Here are 5 Hard Lessons You Will Learn While Traveling Overseas
1. You Won’t Like Every Place You Go.
Some places are awful. Some places are scary.
There are places your friends have loved and found fascinating or that have looked amazing in books, but when you get there they are disappointing. Or dirty. Or full of bugs that see you as the ultimate smorgasbord.
There are oceans that look beautiful in travel magazines, but when you get there are un-swimable. It can be really disappointing.
You can learn something from every place you travel to, you can gain new perspective, and the ones that disappoint you only serve to make the wonderful places seem more sensational.
|Mazatlan, Mexico. I got so sick here that I actually wanted to die.|
There are also places that seem good at first, but have a perilous underside.
A few years ago I went to Mazatlan to shoot a workout video for a few days. On the last night I got so violently ill I just honestly wanted to die. Lying on the cold floor of the Mazatlan airport I swore I would never set foot in Mexico again. (For years I didn’t, but now I go all the time!) The flight home was hell, and it took me weeks to get better. Safe to say not all trips go as planned…
2. Not Everyone Will Like You.
It can be jarring at first, but not everyone will like you, even though you are planning on liking them.
In general I find most people are wonderful, wherever you may be in the world. But when you meet some un-friendlies it can be awful. I’ve had people shout at me about being American and starting wars (I’m not American, I’m a Kiwi and I am anti war, but that’s irrelevant), I’ve been held at gunpoint in the middle of the night in the Malaga airport because I looked like someone on a wanted list, (years ago and at the time I thought it was madly exciting), and more recently I have run into some really surly, tourist hating restaurant workers at Bar Papisca on the Sicilian island of Lipari.
It can be a really discomforting feeling at first, but ultimately it’s just part of the real world experience.
3. Not Everything Will Go As Planned.
That’s an understatement!
You can’t be married to your itinerary, and when you are traveling you have to realize that things will go wrong, and for a variety of reasons. Flights get delayed, bookings get misplaced, luggage doesn’t arrive.
It can be absolutely devastating when you have been looking forward to seeing something, someplace, someone and you have traveled clear across the world to a country you may never come back to again, and your one opportunity is lost.
Even if you do have a plan B and even if you do keep a flexible mind and a great attitude it can really knock you sideways.
There have been many times during my travels when things have gone wildly awry, but I try to always have backup plans that I can put into action. Often you find that when things go wrong the opportunity that vacuum creates actually leads you to something better anyway.
|This is Helsinki. When I was there it was completely overcast and grey, not beautiful and colorful. |
The weather didn’t go as planned!
4. Reverse Culture Shock Is Often Worse.
It’s normal to experience some measure of culture shock when you travel. In fact seeking a new experience is the main reason we leave our own shores and go explore somewhere new.
You adjust to, embrace or at least experience the country you have traveled to, it’s customs, it’s people and it’s foods, and that is part of the magic of travel. But what you don’t expect is what a huge shock to the system the return home can be.
It takes me a long time to re-adjust to the red, white and blue, every time I come home.
The endless chain restaurants and chain stores feel so homogenized, the abundance of everything feels decadent, the lack of languages spoken feels numbing. The absence of simple things such as starting the day with a really good espresso or the endless human interaction that you find in the great walking cities of the world as well as the small, hidden villages can leave you aching.
For me, reverse culture shock is always worse.
|Abu Simbel, Aswan Egypt. I want to explore more of Egypt, but the time never seems right.|
5. There Is Never Going To Be Enough Time To Do It All.
When I was younger I thought I would absolutely be able to go to all the countries I wanted to visit, experience everything I wanted to in the world, live for a time in some of the magnificent locations on my list.
But life gets in the way, and as you get older and maybe a little wiser you start to realize that the more you travel, the more there is to see. You will in all likelihood never get to do it all.
Sometimes I can’t come to terms with the fact that I’ve never lived in the south of France, Sicily will probably only ever be a holiday destination for me, not a home, and my lifelong plan to spend a year in Paris may not eventuate. My list of travel destinations grows longer and longer, but unless I hurry up and win the lottery I will probably never get to do it all.