Extensive travel is fun, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t ever hard. Physically, you’ll be walking until your feet go numb and dragging your heavy luggage over uneven cobblestone streets. However, a good traveler will know that a healthy mentality is just as important as a healthy body. No matter how good you are at adapting, we all get tripped up sometimes.
The Honeymoon Stage
(A.K.A. the OMG I’m Actually Doing This Stage)
You’ve boarded the plane, gotten through customs, and now there’s a whole new world out there for you to explore. You never say no to the new food. You end up drinking all the funky liquor flavors when you only went out for a bottle of rose. You spend your money on all the crazy souvenirs that catch your eye. You’re meeting so many interesting people from all over the world. This is amazing! How come you’ve never traveled like this before?!
The Culture Shock Stage
(A.K.A. the What The Hell Am I Doing Here? Stage)
This is a step up from your typical touristy homesickness. All those tiny cars, unnecessarily odd shop hours, and strange customs don’t really effect you. When you travel a few weeks here and there, you typically only have time to stay in the honeymoon stage. You’re going home in a few days anyway, so why let it bother you?
But suddenly, in the culture shock stage, everything you do is wrong. The little things start to irritate you. You don’t fit in with the locals. You end up staying in more often then going out. When you wake up in the morning to go to work, your feet drag at the thought of all the hurtles you’ll have to go through that day. Yeah, you’re foreign, but now it doesn’t seem like a cute little tidbit to say during introductions. You think to yourself, “what the hell am I even doing here?”
The Adjustment Stage
(A.K.A. the What? It’s Already Been A Year? Stage)
Eventually everything will even itself out and suddenly you’ll look up from your espresso while reading in a green park one day and think about how much time has passed. And yet, it seems like you just got there a month ago. Those little things that irritated you months ago? Well, you probably do them now too.
You’re comfortable again and you feel like you have some sense of belonging in this strange country that’s not so strange anymore. You have a routine – a life – and you like it.
Reverse Culture Shock
(A.K.A the You Mean To Tell Me That I Can’t Get Decent Bread Around Here Anymore Stage)
You know that comfortable feeling you had just a month before? Yeah – it’s going to tear away as fast and as painfully as that one time that friend told you that waxing was a good idea.
You’re so excited to go home and see your friends and family again. It’s been so long, almost too long . . . and you start to realize that the memory you had of home has changed . . . or maybe you have. Instead of irritating you, reverse culture shock tends to put you in a funk that’s not so easy to break. You’re home yet, it feels like you left a part of yourself back in the clouds the moment you stepped off that plane.
Want to know what you have to look forward to when coming back to the U.S.? Read about my personal reserve culture shock experience.