Culture Shock

Consume & Update: Free Calls, Valuable Time, and Space Capone

You learn something new every day. Well today's post is going to help you make up for last night's nonsense fest...whatever it is that you did...

What's Your Travel Personality?

Thought it would be fun to poll you, the readers, to see what kind of travel personalities find themselves on Nomadderwhere! Brave New Traveler published a story this week based on the Enneagram test results describing a travel style. Go ahead and take the test if you'd like, or just tells us below: what's your travel personality?

Down With The Roaming Fees!

This is a video by on how to make free calls from anywhere in the world (that has wifi). Real help for me and my Blackberry...hopefully that's the next episode!

Get Wealthy With Time: A Practical Guide

Rolf Potts guest posted on Tim Ferriss' blog this week, and I found it quite well-written and full of great concepts. Though it's darn near epic in length, it offers great resources at the end and quality explanations of why time is an important currency to deal in. He notes that there's a difference in living well and doing well. I've exhibited some paragraphs I though were particularly pivotal.

This notion — that material investment is somehow more important to life than personal investment — is exactly what leads so many of us to believe we could never afford to go vagabonding. The more our life options get paraded around as consumer options, the more we forget that there’s a difference between the two. Thus, having convinced ourselves that buying things is the only way to play an active role in the world, we fatalistically conclude that we’ll never be rich enough to purchase a long-term travel experience.

Fortunately, the world need not be a consumer product. As with environmental integrity, long-term travel isn’t something you buy into: it’s something you give to yourself. Indeed, the freedom to go vagabonding has never been determined by income level, but through simplicity — the conscious decision of how to use what income you have.

...Fortunately, we were all born with winning tickets – and cashing them in is a simple matter of altering our cadence as we walk through the world. Vagabonding sage Ed Buryn knew as much: “By switching to a new game, which in this case involves vagabonding, time becomes the only possession and everyone is equally rich in it by biological inheritance. Money, of course, is still needed to survive, but time is what you need to live. So, save what little money you possess to meet basic survival requirements, but spend your time lavishly in order to create the life values that make the fire worth the candle. Dig”

The Pickle Called Reverse Culture Shock

I always have issues with coming home, which is probably facilitated by the facts that my 1. trips often last over 2.5 months and 2. lifestyle is usually akin to voluntary poverty while abroad. This week at Matador, Brittany Vargas phrases some great realities on why this transition period is the way it is.

Often the wisdom we acquire during long journeys is most evident only after we’ve returned to where we began. Coming back to once-familiar territory highlights the changes that were too subtle to notice as they occurred...So there is no way of predicting how we will adjust once we’ve come “home” – or how well others will adjust to us.

Other Discoveries

Chris Guillebeau sheds some perspective on enjoying the moment while still looking forward to what's happening next.

Let's all hope Gary gets home soon.

In honor of my next destination: Insomniac City (don't people know about melatonin?)

Don't worry, U.S. Department of State. I'm not heading to any of the scary Mexican states.

Update on Nomadderwhere

5-14 Blog

I've started packing! Less than two weeks stand between me and New York City. Not sure what I'm talking about? Read up on how my blog got me a travel job that's sending me to Mexico!

Also read up on the fast-approaching completion of The Nakavika Project chronicles. I'll be wrapping up these stories in preparation for real-time reporting from Mexico, and these stories are getting to the best of the bunch...believe me.

This week at Nomadderwhere:

  • A Gracious Thank You on Mother's Day: How my mom has dealt with her traveling daughter's adventures and her recent mother's passing

  • Reviewing a Road Trip to Des Moines: Hopefully inspiring others to look at their own video work and realize where it can go from here.

  • When Your Dreams Play Hard-To-Get: A guest post from recent World Traveler Intern finalist, Annie Leroux, and her positive note to those seeking an extraordinary path without free passes to success.

  • Independence in a Communal Society: A Fijian flashback to when Garrett and I returned from our Christmas vacation to the coast with the new responsibilities of household keeping, cooking, and fitting into a foreign society.

  • Feet Don't Fail Me Now: A guest post by Garrett Russell about his traumatic foot infection and the realization of being the only person who could save himself.

  • The Addition and Subtraction of Lives: Garrett leaves the village. Garrett and Jackie arrive in the village. A man in the village suffers a fatal heart attack. This is a flashback to mid-January, when a sad turn of events took place in Nakavika.

On an unrelated but important note: May 7th marked the release of Space Capone's second volume. If you like disco, falsetto voices, fantastic boogie music, or something to play for your next retro skating rink party, he's the one to blast. Don't worry; it's on iTunes. And by the way...he's family.

Finding Purpose in Culture Shock

Ireland's Coast

Ireland's Coast

I never really know how my travel experiences have affected me until I return to my starting point: home. Flying through various destinations and worrying about logistics sometimes takes away the mind’s energy to process what it’s witnessed until it’s back on familiar soil. And since each trip is different, every time I return home, it’s a brand new feeling, a new form of culture shock I can never predict. Coming home from Italy, I have felt pissed off at my hometown for not being as historical and visually stimulating as Florence. After Semester at Sea, it pained me to be away from the people I grew very close to on board. And with the conclusion of my Big Journey, I think I felt more stable and purpose-driven, albeit more confused, than any previous homecoming led me to feel. I think it all depends on the nature of the journey and where you are in your personal path with self-awareness. Because that’s one major reason I travel: to become more self-aware.

And now with the winding down of the World Traveler Internship, I have a whole new set of emotions and passions driving me. For once, I’ve welcomed the comforts of home excitedly. Man did I love sitting around! And for the last month, I’ve spent about 90 hours a week working on my website, on personal projects, and anything fathomable to get me on the path towards being a freelance travel writer. It was the WTI program that assured me I love being thrown into a new country with a mission of documentation. I’ve learned how I love to travel, where I want to travel, and how to deal with the rigors of this oddball, unconventional, thrilling profession.

Anyone with a smidgeon of wanderlust would adore being a World Traveler Intern, but I can promise you an aspiring travel writer, photojournalist, basically anyone wanting to experience and express as a career will be numbed by how cool is to have this job. Throughout the trip, I sporadically stopped and smiled, so appreciative of the opportunity and fully aware of how lucky I was. And now I look forward to seeing what lucky souls will receive the honor next year. I’m certain they will have the time of their lives and return to their home bases more alive and wanderlust-ful, because as any traveler knows, that obsession never goes away. Travel begets more travel.

And now I apply the heaviest of connotations, the deepest of meaning to these next two words, directed at the lovely people at STA Travel: Thank you.

India, Shock with Awe: Day 20


The last time I left India, just eight months ago, I related the effect the country had on me to a scruffy, irritating, acidic kiss from which I recoiled…and then later longed for. As the horns screamed around our taxi from the airport, I turned to Chris and said, “Home Sweet Home.” He nodded.

This place, upon first impact, is not exactly this easy to embrace and appreciate. In fact, the heat radiating from every passing vehicle and the sun was blistering. Dust already covered my face. The passing vistas revealed some atrocious living conditions, but having already been here on a combined three trips, we were aware of what to expect and how things work in the Subcontinent.

I asked Chris, “If this were your first time in India, what do you think you’d be in shock of right now?”

From this started a sporadic conversation of things that described the crazy differences between our American understandings and the realities of India.

  • The modes of transportation spanning from cars, bikes, and auto rickshaws to camels, horses, and the occasional very hot elephant.

  • The near absence of road rules and the organized chaos of traffic flow.

  • The smog that covers the entire city and reflects back in the eye as blinding light.

  • The smell: a mix of feces, incense, flowers, chicken coups, dirt, trash, spices, delicious food, bonfires, and a few other things indiscernible.

  • The brightly colored sarees, Sikh turbans, and fully covering clothing in +40 degree Celsius heat.

  • The red, rotting teeth edging most open mouths.

  • The roughly one inch space between our taxi and all vehicles surrounding ours while moving at 40mph.

How is a place so rough to our senses so lovable?

India. Over one billion people can’t be wrong.

What Culture Shock?

Whole Village a'Crazies

We anticipated wild animals or at least poisonous critters; there were only slightly famished mosquitoes. We were prepared for long drop squat toilets; we sat on flushing porcelain thrones. And we assumed we’d make many a cultural blunder within our first days, but honestly, living in the Fijian Highlands for a week was only culturally shocking in one sense: it’s so friggin beautiful. Idyllic. Lush. Vibrant.

And to think a place so lovely is not only that but open to outsiders such as ourselves and able to make us feel comfortable beyond our expectations.

What we as travelers often worry about is the possibility of experiencing the new and/or shocking and not knowing how to deal the right way. And being prepared for the new causes us to step in the unknown as we would put a timid toe into frigid waters.

Will this sweet old lady be offended if I forget to say jilo when I walk behind her? Will a snake cross my path or hang near my head on this mountain hike? What if I wear a hat as I walk across the village, will the children howl in shock? Aw gee, look at my leg! I’m bound to have malaria by now!

The reality in Nakavika is that there’s a greater chance of forgiveness for making mistakes than disrespect for what you didn’t know. Plus, the Namosi Highlands were blessed with both hands in that all those things that make jungle life so unappealing are not there in Fiji. It’s safe. It’s perfect. We were living in simple, gorgeous, welcoming luxury.

Makes it easy for wayward nomads like ourselves to dive into a culture so utterly stunning. Hesitate no more, readers, Fiji wants you, and trust us…you want Fiji.

Luxu-Reverse Culture Shock: Also Day 179

Individual TVs with touch screen features, jam-packed with the latest Hollywood hits. A Thai meal paired with real silverware, a cloth napkin matching the pattern of the place mat, and true customer satisfaction. I just described the experience of flying with an Indian airline. Surprised? My eyes were slathered with awe once I left the Kolkata airport, having not seen high quality anything since coffee hour in Qatar. I flew Jet Airways. My standards for air travel are now exponentially higher. I wandered the new Bangkok airport. I now know the super-human extent of modern architecture. I walked onto the tarmac at the Siem Reap airport in Cambodia. I could smell rain and the pure air of a tropical haven. I finally remembered what air could smell like. I was officially out of India.

Rain. Rain! Warm rain that recalls the vast memories of beach vacations on Caribbean islands. I looked for the ocean, knowing we were hundreds of miles from one. It was astonishing, the amount of water the air could hold, and all of it was fresh and without evidence of trash or dung-fueled bonfires. Though I've never used an oxygen tank, I imagine the sensation is something like what I felt in my lungs as I descended the stairs of the plane: wet velvet coating the tubes and filling all alveoli with down feathers, without the supposed suffocation side-effects.

I smiled as my shoestrings licked the tropical rain puddles. The sounds of the engine were muted by the winds. My country count ticker clicked: 39.

Life returned to being slow and understandable. It was without any trouble at all that I found a taxi driver whom would not only charge a reasonable cost but didn't exude a shady air, openly chatted about Khmer culture, and drove me around town in search of a suitable guesthouse within my limited budget.

Five star hotels rocketed out of the earth on all sides, and my eyes flickered with the light of a dreamer. This place was nice. This place was clean! I would have gladly walked barefoot or had dinner on the curb of the main thoroughfare. Rith, my new friend, laughed and continued to navigate the flooded streets without a blink, follow the rules of the road, and go the speed limit. Heck, there were speed limits again!

Rith (which is pronounced in no way like it appears) took care to inquire at each guesthouse for vacancies and keep looking when the inn turned me away. Once an open room revealed itself, he remained on the ground level to make sure I was satisfied then gave me his card for future service and parted into the night. The glistening teeth of his smile as he left reminded me; the unprovoked smiles from Africa were back. The Midwestern girl in my nomadic shell rejoiced.

There was a moment before I left my room in Darjeeling, when my bag was packed and strapped to my resting frame, that I took a deep breath and realized the transit days ahead of me. I knew I wouldn't be comfortable until my room in Siem Reap materialized and my proximity offered chances for Angkor temple explorations. Flopping my bag onto the floor and landing on one of my two queen sized beds covered in comfortable bedding, that moment reoccurred to me. A deep sigh left my unburdened being, signifying the other bookend to the journey between. I was finally put.

Immediate Hits: Day 4

I will start by saying that, even at day four of one hundred, this is, by far, the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. Even though that’s probably stating the obvious, it needed to be said. And now, I will list the highlights thus far… The cast off from the Bahamas My roommate and her stunning sense of humor Stepping into the Caribbean Sea after a hike around San Juan The sunrise over the first port Saying “Good Morning” to Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the way to said sunrise The crazy cab ride home from Senor Frog’s in a pimped out cab with four ship crew members The cup of coffee from Nadia’s Café The hilarious busboys on the ship and their deadly fruit punch Spanglish Café The refreshing dip by a rainforest waterfall Sleeping very little and living a dream

Imagine living in a Ritz that takes you to unique destinations around the world with 702 college students that travel alongside you. Also imagine knowing for sure that the best moments of your life are approaching in days, hours, or seconds. The world that I study from the map on my wall is accessible at the end of the gangway.

The most unnerving experience so far has been trying to adjust to the slow rocking of the ship and then readjusting to the land multiple times per day. Once we gain our sea legs and learn to balance on the water, we get back on steady ground, where we continue to feel the swaying. I fell off the sidewalk yesterday. Speaking of sidewalks, I stumbled across a water meter in Old San Juan that read “Ford Meter Box Wabash, In,” which I immediately photographed. Even on a voyage around the world, I cannot get away from my hometown.

I am amazed that upon boarding the ship and at cast off, I met people that would get me even more enthused about this program and all it offers. When blisters and sunburns are the most of your worries, you know for sure that life is wonderful. All this perfection will screech to a halt when I get my first glimpse of the third world and its inhabitants. My worries will shift when I give a child a homemade bracelet, knowing that won’t guarantee them a happy or plentiful life.

On this voyage, days of the week won’t matter and the only time you care about is shipboard time (so you don’t get left behind). The skyline of San Juan glitters my vista as I enjoy a surprisingly tasty cup of “Joe.” I no longer smell the ocean air as it is probably my new scent…Eau du Salt & Fish. Along with the worry of these velvet waves swelling gigantically and swallowing us whole, I fear that a day will go by when I won’t appreciate this opportunity and wish I were somewhere else. In hopes of making that thought impossible, I am living by these rules:

1. Be decisive and do something.

2. Don’t sleep…keep going strong.

3. I hear; I forget. I see; I remember. I do; I understand.