Updated June 1, 2020.
The more you do something, the better you get at it, right? In an industry as changeable and varied as travel, it seems like the rules change all the time; but despite all that, there are a few things travelers know for sure. Here’s the run-down, so maybe this info will help you out in your future travels!
Wi-fi is Not Available Everywhere
It’s just not! And actually, it wasn’t available at my parents’ house in Middle Tennessee until just a few months ago! Wi-fi is an amazing asset on travel, but sometimes it’s good to remember that it’s not truly essential for life, you know? Sometimes we get so caught up in posting to Instagram or messaging our friends and family back home or checking our e-mail that we forget to enjoy where we are and the moment we’re living! So next time you find yourself in a place with no (or worse, very s-l-o-w) wi-fi, make like a traveler and soak in your surroundings.
Everything is Not Available Everywhere
In the same way, other things are not always available. You won’t find grape juice (or even grape jelly!) in much of the world. Accommodations in places like Canada, Hawaii, Scandinavia, and Alaska often don’t have air conditioning… because they don’t need it 50 weeks out of the year! Need coffee every day? Maybe bring your own instant coffee and preferred sweetener just in case. Forgot your contact solution and need it at 3:00pm? You might have to wait until the drugstore opens after a long lunch—that happened to me in Verona!
People are Friendly Everywhere
I’ve traveled to some truly wonderful places, but what always sticks out to me is the kindness of people wherever I go.
The people in the Baltics were so happy to have visitors, and they all wanted to help us have the best time possible! We loved our time there and look forward to returning one day.
Hawaiians are some of the happiest, kindest people around, and despite some who want all the white people to go back where they came from, the majority of Hawaiians (native and haole) are happy to share their culture and tell you how wonderful their islands are.
The Japanese people somehow knew I wasn’t Japanese (go figure!), and they wanted to help me. They wanted to tell me about their villages, their culture, and their food (a surprising number of elderly Japanese men felt compelled to compliment me on my chopsticks skills). They wanted to help me find my way, and I needed a lot of help! They wanted to show me the secret, peaceful places that casual visitors don’t get to see.
When I went to stay in Doha, Qatar for a week with people I only knew through a friend of my mom’s, I was overwhelmed with their hospitality and kindness. Even the camels were friendly!
Of all the things that could have surprised me about Belfast, Northern Ireland, the one that shocked me the most was the aggressive friendliness of the people! Everyone had a recommendation for where to eat. Everyone wanted to know where I was traveling from. Everyone wanted to be my friend! If you ever start to feel bad about yourself, just book a flight to Belfast, stand on a corner downtown with an open map and a questioning expression, and see how long it takes to meet some locals! Their rough-and-tumble reputation from the Troubles could not be further from the truth of Belfast these days!
How to Be a Respectful Outsider
People who travel start to realize very quickly that they are the outsiders. They’re a guest in whatever country they’re visiting, and they don’t get to make or break they rules. They learn how to respect other cultures in the way they dress, they try to learn at least a few words in the local language, and they try the local food instead of turning their nose up. When people want to share their very best with visitors, travelers keep a positive attitude and appreciate the sentiment!
Read on: Words to Learn in the Local Language
How to Adapt
Similarly, travelers can adapt when necessary. Are you a women traveling to a predominantly Muslim country? Learn to love linen, cotton, kimono cardigans, and flowy maxi dresses! Are you galavanting around Europe? Trade in those sexy heels for comfortable walking shoes with no shame. Flight got cancelled? Or almost worse, it left without you? Make the most of it and find a new way! The museum you traveled 1,100 miles to visit is unexpectedly closed? Got to find something else to do! A traveler can and does, since the alternative is sulking and missing out!
Read on: 5 Habits of Flexible Travelers
Beauty has Many Forms
I’m a summer girl, through and through. Give me sunrise on the beach every day, and I’ll never get tired of it! But my travels have shown me that beauty is everywhere. The desert is beautiful in a brown and exotic kind of way. Broken stones are beautiful when there is deep meaning and symbolism in them as ruins. A city can be beautiful with lights of every color, seasonal decorations, and incredible architecture. Even the farm where I grew up is more beautiful now that I’ve been around the world and back, with its rolling green hills and 30-foot waterfall.
Read on: Ruined: Beauty in the Broken Places
You Can’t Always Drink the Water
(and It’s Not Always Free)
This is one thing you won’t take for granted for long! One bout of Montezuma’s Revenge in and you’ll happily pay for bottled water at the grocery store or ordering a water purifying straw. Don’t like it that you have to pay for still water at European restaurants with no free refills? Tough stuff! That’s one of those things you have to adapt to!
How to Appreciate What You Have
Nothing makes you appreciate what you have as much as leaving it behind. I love to travel, and I wouldn’t trade my travels for just about anything, but I also appreciate my husband more when I come home from a solo trip. I appreciate the comfort of knowing exactly how to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I appreciate my family’s farm just a little bit more every time I go back after moving away more than 11 years ago. And I appreciate that I can drink water straight from the tap at my house! It’s amazing how travel will make us more appreciative of what we already have.
An Different Definition of “Home”
Many many years ago, I worked at NASA Headquarters in D.C. It was not the best job I’ve ever had, but I will always remember hearing an astronaut talk about “home.” He said that when he was on the International Space Station, that was “home.” When he looked at Earth 254 miles away, that was “home.” When he got in the spacecraft that would take him back to Earth, the water where he would splashdown was “home.” When he got on the airplane that would take him back to the United States, that was “home.” When he got in the car to go to his house and his family, that was “home.”
The same goes for when I’m traveling. Wherever I am in the world, my accommodation is “home.” When I board a flight back to the United States, that’s “home.” When I’m driving back to my house, that’s “home.” Home becomes broader the farther away you are from it, but it also becomes more general. “Home” is my parents’ house, my mother-in-law’s house, my friends’ house when I go visit, my hotel when I’m visiting a new city. Home is where you rest your head!
The Value of Alone Time
Travel is wonderful, and there’s so much to be learned, so many experiences to have, and so much to do, see, and eat. But it’s also kind of exhausting! And a little bit stressful. And kind of irritating sometimes, too! You’re tired, out of sorts, out of your routine, and having the time of your life, and there comes that moment at the end of the day (or the middle of the day) when you just want to sit down and have a minute. To yourself. Just for a minute!
Try it out: Solo Travel
And travelers understand that alone time is okay, even necessary. It’s a time to reflect on the things you’ve been doing and seeing, a time to re-energize for more! If you’re traveling with family or friends, it’s a time to just take a break, and give your family and friends a break, too. Being with someone 24/7 can be a little much, no matter how much you love or care for them, so alone time takes on a whole different value.
What do you think? Could you survive like a traveler? Of course you could! Tell me how travel makes you feel or changes you in the comments below!
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3 thoughts on “Some Things Travelers Know”
What surprised me most about Hong Kong was that we had to boil the water to drink! This is a fully Western city! It’s not safe to drink from the tap everywhere; never make that assumption.
I never made that mistake, btw.
Yep! Sometimes it’s in the places you’d never think of!