This list contains only a few major things that happened to me while traveling and living abroad over the past 8 months. I’ve come to the realization that every item listed is invaluable. They all taught me something about the world and how to survive in various cultures or scenarios. I hope you enjoy the list!
1. Receiving Visa’s Late.
Not receiving my visa on time was the first hiccup that occurred prior to even embarking on this trip. Due to a local holiday, the government in my 6-month nation wasn’t working; therefore processing my documents took forever. Unfortunately, this caused me to miss a week in Spain but through staying back I was able to reconnect with friends at the college. I know there was a reason for me missing out on the first week, whether it was to simply strengthen friendships or something part of the bigger picture. Needless to say, it made me realize the importance of applying for visa’s at the right time.
Without a doubt, one of the most dreadful parts of travel are the bathrooms. From foreboding holes in the ground with feces' surrounding the pit, to hacked together toilets where the bidet soaks you after flushing, it’s almost never a pleasant experience. By the way, both of those examples are just a few I’ve endured. Finding a nice bathroom is nearly impossible in most countries so I highly recommend relieving yourself in any decent restroom you stumble upon.
3. Failing at Unspoken Customs.
Every nation you travel to there will be customs and specific ways of doing things that only the locals know. Just a few examples that I’ve encountered are not eating or doing things with your left hand, greeting each person every time you enter a room, not shaking hands, wearing specific clothing, and even simple gestures like waving all have underlying meanings in some nations. In addition to these common ones, when I was in a mountain village an old grandma instructed me to eat the bread we were eating for breakfast specifically with butter, then jam, then home made cheese to top it off. It was a fascinating interaction but made me realize everyone, everywhere have unique customs only insiders know. Be sure to ask locals what some of these things are so you aren’t a walking insult.
4. Language Barriers.
This is one of those things that can either help you or cause a lot of trouble if you don’t use it properly. Photographically speaking I like not being able to communicate with a subject through language but rather body language. I’ve found that my success rate of getting an image with only body language far outweighs the results of verbal communication. The downside of this is when you have a local roommate or need directions and they don’t speak English make it almost impossible to be informed. I suggest learning a few simple local phrases just to be safe.
5. Dying ….almost!
Whether it’s from the commute, food, disease, national conflict or natural disasters there is always a risk of dying. Now take a second to evaluate if you thought I was referring to travel or being at home. The reality is that all these things are possible wherever we are, but when we go abroad, being aware of the foreign forms is necessary. In one of the African countries we visited there was an expat who spent an hour fear mongering the possibility of rabies and seemingly, guaranteeing our doom. This was over the top and not helpful at all, but a more realistic near death experience was the ‘taxi’ ride I had in Egypt. Overseas there are definitely risks but they can be adverted if you accurately educate yourself of what each country’s dangers are.
Now take these odd and uncomfortable experiences I’ve shared and explore our remarkable planet. Embrace that awkward moment to grow from it! I would love to hear some of the abnormalities you’ve experienced throughout your travels!
The photos below are from my last trip in the Caucasus, located in a small mountain village. Even after six months, I still had to be aware of how to act within the context of that sub culture.