How to Travel at Home

There are many travel blogs out there . . .

A lot of them will tell you about what it’s like to walk off a plane into some remote culture. The bliss that comes with eating fresh coconut on a beautiful beach in the Caribbean. You will read these things, and you will feel jealous. Wanderlust, itchy-feet, maybe you will relish their experience because it brings you back. Continue reading

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Questions Answered by Questions

Why do I travel? The ultimate unanswerable question. . .

I travel for that feeling, the feeling you get when you walk out of the airport, taxi, train. Whether it’s the heavy humidity lapping at your temples, or the rush of nerves at the recognition of a lack of familiarity. I love that. I am not what I would pin down as the assumed ‘traveller’ stereotype. I am not an entirely relaxed, go with the flow kind of girl, in fact I love structure, order, planning. Yet it is breaking that routine and forcing myself out of my soapy bubble of comfort when I truly feel alive. Continue reading

Leaving

We walked along the snow lined sidewalk down Main Street in Bozeman . . . 

The faint whisper of Christmas sprinkled about in sparkling light-adorned facades of homes and businesses. The brisk fall night cradled us like the cold lover that it is: reminding us of the transience of life, of love. We were walking somewhere, but nowhere in particular. My friend sought me out to talk about love, and life. Continue reading

The Scariest Part of Traveling, Part III: The Art of Saying Good-Bye

Even though I tried to prepare myself, even though I felt it coming, one cannot truly be ready to hear it . . .

Good-bye.

You never said those two syllables. They didn’t slip out of your lips and into the receiver. Your expansive vocabulary said it, but in a different way. Not in a definitive way. Not in a way that puts a period at the end. It was like a whisper, a secret. You never said it with words.

But you still did. Continue reading

Culture

I guess that’s why they call it shock, because it feels like. . .

It’s hard to say. Other than your whole body is involved. Every sense is taken aback, put in it’s place. From the delectable tastes to the smells. And the sounds. The rain patters in a different dialect. White noise of crowds is even more indiscernible and now slightly off-putting. The reason culture shock is so powerful is because we so often feel immune to it. We think that we’ve seen it all. Nothing can phase us. And that is exactly when it does.
Since I was a child I always had an image of a Japanese airport in my mind. Looking back now I know that this airport was really a place to store stereotypes that I was accumulating as a misinformed Western youth. The place was full of neon colors and you could find anything you wanted in this or that vending machine. It was extravagant. For some reason there was an excessive amount of conveyor belts as well. My stereotype of Japan never left he airport. For some reason I never really imagined what it would be like there.

Getting off of the plane at Tokyo Narita Airport the most shocking thing was that it looked like every other airport I have ever been in. Sanitized seats, walls, floors. Brightly lit. Something of a dull drone was delicately draped over the excitement of being in a new place. But perhaps that was the remnant from 12 plus hours in planes.

The language divide is different. When traveling in a country of other Romantic speakers there is an underlying commonality. Signs, while ambiguous can still at least  be sounded out. This is not the case in Japan (although there is a fair amount of Latin alphabet usage in public spaces). You look at a sign with symbols, and can recognize it as that, but only that.

It makes me wonder, above and beyond human nature, what are shared commonalities between cultures; and how much off my culture do I carry with me despite my personal attempts to delineate from it? I find myself critical of my culture often, sometimes in the realm of hyper-critical. To find flaw within your culture and voice it is no different then to notice you don’t like the way the furniture is arranged at home. I have reached the point in conversations multiple times where someone will reproach my critical nature and say something akin to “well if you don’t like it so much maybe you should move to (insert far-off sounding country here).” I’m not sure if this is because I’m being a little too worrisome about where the sofa is, or if they are too attached to it’s location. Either way, culture, and our attachment or aversion to it, is a very divisive topic.

Maybe what is most shocking is the realization that I am so deeply ingrained in, and attached to, my culture, despite my criticism.

It isn’t because people are different from place to place. They actually aren’t. Leather bags, food and water goes in, excrement comes out, that’s about it. It’s what they do that varies. It is what they do, and how they do it that will make your eyes widen at the sight of the same food you’ve eaten a hundred times at home, change the smell of a city from acrid to intriguing, and even make the call of a bird sound that much different. Almost like it has an accent.


Marco Pollo

When was your worst case of culture shock? How do you manage it when it occurs?

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How to Stay Healthy While Traveling

Whenever I leave to travel I do my best to be prepared for the best and the worst . . .

Usually a positive attitude and open mind suffice for making the best possible. Unfortunately travel–and the toll it takes on me–also makes me susceptible to the occasional bug, virus, or ailment of one form or another.

So here is what I travel with to take care of myself: Continue reading

Before You Go to Mesa Verde

The park ranger reminded me of an ancient alien theorist . . .

Maybe because my friends semi-jokingly insisted that the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde were built by them. Or because the striking ambiguity behind their claims.

“We will be descending into an alcove where these ancient people resided,” Is something along the line of how the speech started, “What do you do? Are you a doctor? Carpenter? Teacher, student, farmer? I want you to imagine what you do on a daily basis as you enter this place, because these people were living their lives much the same way we do.” Continue reading