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January 8, 2013

Culture shock during long term travel

So – you’ve decided to take off for an extended tour. What now?

Most of us who have made the difficult decision to exchange what’s expected for a life on the road have visions of rainbows, gumdrops, and puppy dog tails. We may even expect grueling days, brutal weather, and everything going wrong. What we don’t expect to experience is culture shock.

Sure, if we travel internationally we expect a bit of culture shock as we adapt to the new culture surrounding us, but we don’t expect culture shock as it pertains to our journey itself. And yet, it’s real. Whether you are planning to tour the world by bicycle, sailboat, or train, you will go through the stages of culture shock as you adapt to your new lifestyle.

 Nancy Sathre-Vogel is an author, motivational speaker, and blogger at www.familyonbikes.org. She is a long-term teacher who left it all behind to ride her bike from Alaska to Argentina with her husband and children. Now she’s living in Idaho writing and playing with beads.

Stages of Culture Shock

Stage 1: You will go through a honeymoon period the first few weeks of your journey. You look at the world through rose-colored glasses and everything is good. Life is as grand as it gets. You have left it all behind and are moving on to new adventures and experiences. Sure, you expected all those aches and pains as your body discovers muscles it never knew existed, and you expected to be exhausted in the evenings. But that’s all just part of the adventure!

Stage 2: A few weeks into your trip, reality hits. You’re tired. Your brain hasn’t quite figured out how to keep up with all the stimuli coming in and you’re mentally fried and physically exhausted. You’ve been pushing yourself hard, and now it all comes crashing down. The thought of setting up the tent one more time is nearly unbearable, and squatting around the stove to cook dinner is too much. Life is tough and the grass is greener back home. You long for the predictability of life back home – knowing you had a soft bed every night, a warm shower every morning, and a job to fill your days. Basically – life sucks.

Stage 3: You can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You aren’t there yet, but you can tell there is a little glimmer way down there somewhere. The overwhelming weight of the world has passed on and you are hopeful that maybe you can do this after all. You’ve figured out what kind of routine works for you, and your body adapts to the new demands placed upon it. Don’t get me wrong – life isn’t a bowl of cherries yet, but you begin to feel that it may be – someday.

Stage 4: You’ve finally realized the grass isn’t greener on either side of the fence – just a different shade of green. You’ve successfully adapted to life on the road and are happy with your decision. You know there are pros and cons of both lifestyles, and have chosen this one for now. The old way of life isn’t bad, and this new one isn’t perfect, but you can live with that. You’ve adapted.

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Category: General


2 Responses to “Culture shock during long term travel”

  1. David Says:

    I left my job a year and a half ago, been traveling since. And yes, this sums it up correctly for me. I’m thankful to have chased down this dream, but it’s made me realize I develop the monkey on my back and it’s up to me decide what to do with that. Full time travel is great and all, but there’s plenty more going on in life than that.

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