Nowadays, everyone seems to be talking about traveling. Whether its studying abroad, going on mission trips, spending time on cruises through the Caribbean or packing cars for a cross country road trip, the endless amount of pictures shared on social media make the idea of traveling look PERFECT. Colorful plates of food and selfies taken in front of monuments most people only learn about in History class seem to make the traveler look like a cultured intellectual who is living the dream. However, as the saying goes, "the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence". Here are the truths behind catching the travel bug.
1. Traveler vs. Tourist
In my books, the term travel bug is misunderstood and overused. Why? There are two types of people: travelers and tourists. The first is a person who moves without an exact schedule or destination, who seeks knowledge and experiences. The traveler does not expect anything from a specific place or of specific people. The traveler moves around as if the world was meant to be explored, as if strangers are just people that have not yet been met. The traveler understands that in every new country, city, or culture, he is the foreigner. The traveler is the person who is different, who is not aware of the norms, who is stepping foot in someone else's home. The traveler explores the backroads and talks to the people, to understand the new country for what it truly is. The tourist, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. The tourist is a person who travels to well-known landmarks, takes too many pictures, buys keychains and post cards and shares stories of short-lived vacations. The tourist does not explore whats beneath the surface of a new location. The travel bug lives inside those who wish to travel to understand the world for what is it, those who crave experiences that make them question their very existence.
2. (Reverse) Culture Shock
With traveling comes experiences, tasty food and memories that last a lifetime. Traveling also comes with stressful, uncomfortable and frustrating situations, homesickness and misunderstandings. Culture shock comes in many shapes and forms. However, what not many people have experienced is reverse culture shock. After spending time in another country, perspective changes and its not always easy to return home.
3. Time is Money
America is isolated from pretty much the rest of the world. That means traveling to most other countries involves a fairly long flight over international waters. The more miles a flight covers the more dollars the ticket costs. After a long flight, a trip must be long enough to not only adjust to the time change, but long enough to explore and make the trip worthwhile. Hostels can be convenient and cost effective, however they don't make up for the costs of transportation, food and days spent without an income. Being stuck without the means to travel is one of the hardest parts of catching the travel bug.
4. From Travel Bug to Stomach Bug
With traveling comes a constant battle of wanting to try local cuisine, fresh produce, and traditional meals but not wanting to end up like Melissa McCarthy in the beginning of Bridesmaids. The new tastes often come with new bacteria, which aren't always easy on the bottom end. With time your body will adapt, but the grace period can be a bit of a doozy. Imodium and anti-diarrhea tablets are a must-have, and often the first thing packed in a travelers bag.
5. Make New Friends, But Keep The Old
Leaving friends and family behind as one ventures on a new journey is never an easy good-bye. It's easy to lose touch with close friends and miss out on big celebrations. However, new friends are made along every mile of a new journey. Meeting people from around the world is one of the most incredible things about traveling. Having friends who become family in each country makes a traveler feel welcomed to a new home. When it comes time to move on, leaving these new friendships behind becomes a difficult task. Not every person has the opportunity to travel, and not every country allows for its citizens to obtain visas. Saying good-bye and not knowing if or when you will be reunited with dear friends is a painful part of the experience. After becoming comfortable in a new place and growing attached to the people, it's hard to know exactly where you feel most at home.
"Travel isn't always pretty. It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that's okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind."