- Is That DNA You’re Wearing?
When traveling through airports in different countries, you will notice the immediate change in cultural dynamics. Well…personal space is probably one of them! It simply does not exist in some cases. Rather you are patiently waiting to board a flight to a country full of luxurious, extravagant sites to see, or rather you are dashing through a self-amazed race competing with time on a quest to feed the hungry, you will surely notice that something as simple as space shall NOT be sacrificed! Hopping on a shuttle or train to transfer to a terminal/gate? I hope you brought a respirator. Waiting in line to board the plane? What line? Just pick a spot and fill it, even if it’s on the top of someone’s head. In America, more so northwestern countries, we are spoiled with space, structure, organization and time, to whereas countries on the opposite side of the globe are just that: opposite. If you are accustomed to being spoiled with an imaginary bubble, one thing you will learn to do when traveling on the other side is to brace yourself for that burst in your bubble.
2. Pack a Space Suit, We’re Going Swimming in Germs!
Not enough Lysol, or not enough sanitizer can save you from the coils of bacteria, as they exfoliate into the cells of your skin. Let’s just pray that you have an army of white cells that will claim victory against plenty of coughs, sneezes, or vomit that may just need a place to chill for a few days. Its seems like people actually wait to share this “special gift”, by waiting around for the best time to give coughs and sneezes that just so happens to be when everyone has boarded the plane, strapped down into his/her seat belt, and is at that final stage of sleep, as sleep creeps its way onto the aircraft. Stock up on some immunity boosters before your trip and thank me later.
3. Fast, fast!
Measure your flight time to your food intake. Make sure to release those bowels and rid your stomach of any snacks, coffees/teas, breakfast, lunches, or dinners that will send you running for the bathroom later on. Oh, and remember, there will most likely be two to four bathrooms that you will have to share with everyone else on the plane. Nine times out of ten, you won’t be able to make a clean getaway if you end up writing your name on the bathroom wall with last night’s dairy snacks. There will be witnesses that await you on the other side of that potty wall that you will have to face after your damage has been done!
4. BOB! Bring-Your-Own-Bathroom!
Nothing is worse than literally having to break dance, pop-n-lock, and tap dance just to keep from watering your ankles. Nothing is worse than not being able to plan for what lies behind door number “Noooooooo!” Well, maybe because you just walked into the middle of a crime scene, a war zone, or just simply a bathroom. Those yoga classes may come in handy when having to hoover over holes, or practice sumo squats to spray yourself clean, while balancing your oversized carry-on on your forehead. Plenty of wipes and a roll of toilet paper will go a long way.
5. Run! You’re Late?
You better not miss a flight, especially when traveling overseas with a connection. I hope you packed light this time and have your track shoes ready, because if you miss a flight there is a slight chance that your return flight may be cancelled as well, and there is nothing fun about flushing a round trip ticket in one of those hole-in-the-ground toilets. Some airlines have very strict rules to abide by, especially if: you bought your ticket through a third-party agency, bought a discounted ticket, or purchased your ticket at a nonrefundable rate. Being a victim myself, I missed my first flight and “lucky me”, that was the only flight for that day with that airline. I had to buy another ticket with another airline to get to where I had to go, to only later find out, a couple days before my return, that my departure flight was cancelled due to my “no show” for the first flight. Things happen, but do everything in your will to make that flight.
6. Lost Identity.
You are not going anywhere without your passport. Yes, after being an airport employee for many years, I can honestly say that quite a number of passports have been lost and found at the airport. People leave them at screening locations, bathrooms, gates, restaurant counters, and just about anywhere in the airport that you can think of. There are times when they are even stolen. If you have lost your passport, get ready for the hell of your life, from missing flights, to back tracking your steps, to risking identity theft, or even being stuck in a country trying to figure out a way to make it back home safely. Don’t do it! Staple your passport to your chest if you have to!
If you can accept that mishaps like this may or can likely occur congratulations! You have such an open mind, and you are ready to travel the world. Things will happen that will put you out of your comfort zone, but once you surpass all of the havoc and/or cultural shock waves that you had to endear while traveling, the experience itself will make up for it, and sooner or later you will learn to accommodate ways to limit such irregularities from discouraging another travel experience.
Traveling can be a dreamlike experience or travel can be a nightmare. It all depends on how well you plan. So many things can go wrong such as: getting bit by a monkey with horns, going to jail for chewing peppermint gum, unknowingly joining a cult by engaging in a simple hand shake, getting a nice, clean shave with an ax, or many other countless aggravations or absurdities that can ruin your whole travel experience. Traveling right is the only way you should want to travel outside of the country you reside. There are steps to take to avoid disappointment when traveling abroad.
- PASSPORT OR DIE!
Having a physical passport in your hand is the most important thing that can make or break your plans. You can have a full trip planned and paid for and end up wasting all of your time and money, just because your passport did not arrive on time. There are expedited services that can possibly get your passport to you within days, but why place your trip in jeopardy over procrastination? You can’t go wrong with going through your local or state government agencies (i.e. post office, embassies, credible travel agencies, etc.) to apply for your passport. Each country has it’s own requirements that should be strictly followed.
2. VISA, the credit you can’t buy
What is worst than finally landing in the country you are visiting after a long, rather uncomfortable flight, with passport in hand, ready to get your first stamp, to only be soon surrounded by officers ready to ship you back to wherever you came from and do so without a blink? This can happen, if you don’t have a visa upon entering a country that requires it, and most times you may not even make it past the check-in counter.
U.S. and European citizens can pretty much go to a lot of places that won’t require a visa, but just because you are American or European does not mean that you are exempt from ALL countries. There are some countries that do require a visa upon entry. Some countries may offer visas on arrival, but don’t always expect that privilege as a U.S. or European citizen. Visa requirements should also be taken very seriously, as they can change. If the requirements are: at least three recent selfies, 500 bucks in pennies, proof of a hater vaccination, string cheese, and a shot of rum, you better make sure you get on it!
3. THIS AIN’T IT!
Know where you are going! Have you ever saw a flyer for an event that sounded like the place to be, to only later find out that that “place to be” is no longer where you want to be? The same thing goes for traveling. Although, I do encourage taking chances and going to places where media lens tend to shy away, I also want to emphasize the importance of research. DON’T strictly abide by what the media tells you about places. The joy in traveling is seeing for yourself that half the time, the media is wrong. Information is at your finger tips. Visit directories and read reviews. Join travel groups and see what people are saying and where they are going, and talk to people who has visited the places or are from the places that you want to go.
4. Remember “YOU” are the foreigner
Remember when traveling abroad that YOU are the foreigner and will get treated as such. This may be a good or bad thing, considering which region of the world map you represent. Stereotypes play a big role in countries with a low concentration of tourism and that is okay, but it may be annoying or offensive to you on your first few encounters. You may get stared at like you have three legs, pictures of you may be taken with or without your consent, and people may want to touch your skin,hair, or any physical characteristic on you that makes you different than they are. Don’t panic. Don’t be offended. A lot of the time these people have never left their back yards and are only used to seeing people who look like you on their television screens. They are usually more curious and excited than they are angry or afraid of your presence.
5. When not in Rome, DON’T do as the Romans do!
Your expectations should be at a very minimum when you travel into another country. Things that are valued in your country may not be valued elsewhere. You may go to a restaurant and get served a fresh, warm glass of water with one ice cube in it, or better yet, no ice at all. You will find that ice may be a luxury in many other countries and will notice that many countries don’t honor the free refill privileges on fountain beverages like the “most generous USA”.
Learn the culture before you go. See what is acceptable and what is not. Learn the etiquette, the dress code (yes some places have dress codes, especially for women), the language, and etc. Small things, such as tipping a waiter, may be deemed offensive in some countries. You can go to jail or deported for kissing in public in others. Obnoxious and/or boisterous behavior may be a form of disrespect in some cultures. Keep a low profile. Dress down. No flashy jewelry or flashy clothing to draw attention to yourself.
6. Cash is not money when worn!
You will find that the U.S. currency is favored in some countries. As a matter of fact, it may be so favored that you dare not attempt to spend a dollar bill with a small tear on it…because 2 times out of 3, they will NOT accept it. Yes! Even if you have a hundred dollar bill, and you are ready to shop your little heart out. Know that if that hundred dollar bill is wrinkle, stained, soiled, torn, or even dated back a few years, they will look at it, as if it is trash that you are trying to pay them with. When using U.S. currency, make sure you have new and crisp bills, or you can simply exchange your country’s cash for that visiting country’s currency, and make your life a whole lot easier.
7. “Do you speak-a-de-English?”
Lastly, don’t assume that everyone speaks English. Although, there are a lot of countries where English may be a second language, don’t automatically assume that people know or care to speak it. Attempt to speak their language first when communicating. This may be another insult to some, and you will be brushed off or ignored when you are seeking assistance or guidance. Help seems to come a lot easier when your respect is shown and given.