Traveling is like a double-sided coin. Heads? The awe of the difference will give you the time of your life. Tails? The trip will turn so adventurous that it will bring more stress than excitement.
My experience as a traveler – solo and in-group – made me sure of one thing: people are the key to a happy trip. Experiencing a new life and a new culture is challenging, even when you think you know what to expect. Planning can also help with travel anxiety, but at the end of the day, people will be the best part of this new chapter of your life.
Understanding the cultural differences through people
One reason why people love traveling is to discover a new culture. For some, the further away from their original culture, the better. Cultural immersion is an intimate step into a world that strangers call “home”. For a few days or weeks, you become a new person, have a new life, speak a new language: it’s exciting! Before your trips, always try to learn some words to express yourself in your host country. First of all, it’s a form of respect, you are after all a guest in this new nation. This will also play a big part in the cultural learning experience. Locals love hearing tourists speaking the local language. Remember, English isn’t as universal as you might think. Through local words and conversations with locals, you will understand and learn the most from your new country. Some people sometimes avoid conversations with locals, because of linguistic issues or to remain in their comfort zone. Unfortunately, they miss out on the opportunity to share a great human experience: strangers coming together to learn and understand each other.
You will also notice that traveling abroad tends to speed up your ability to make friends. I’ve heard of many beautiful friendships that started abroad and bonded people for life. PokerStars player Garry Gates often travels to international tournaments, and he really enjoyed his stay in California. He was touched by the warm welcome of the local community, and people bringing him almonds and mandarins. The hospitality and kindness truly marked him as he voiced his concern for them during the Californian drought of 2015. He felt so included in the community while on his working trip that he stood up as if he was part of the community. This is a beautiful example of trips made memorable thanks to people.
Handling emergencies with someone by your side
Road trip with friends
You can plan your trip as much as you like, but it never goes the way you want. Even Google has its limits and you will learn that in the most secluded part of the world, your best friend isn’t your phone, but the person you meet upon your arrival. Whilst in Thailand, I rented a motorcycle with a girl I met two days before. We wanted to explore the countryside and motorcycles seemed like a cool alternative to bikes. Half-way through, the engine started shaking to the point that we had to stop. Nor my friend or I had any expertise in motorcycle engineering and we had no phone signal at this point. We were literally stuck in Thailand’s countryside without any means of communications. After hysterical laughs about the situation, we decided to walk back and hoped to find a car-driver that could kindly take us back to the city. No driver crossed our way, but we did meet the kindest lady. Her house was on the side of the road and we stopped to see if we could make a call. She invited us inside, offered us some coconut water and juicy mangos. She then drove us back to the city and helped us to explain to the motorcycle renter what happened. This story stayed with me because it brought my (new) friend and me closer while facing this stressful situation. And we met the kindest lady of all. This adventure could have ended up in a terrible way, but because my friend and this lady were there, this story will stay with me forever.
My final tip is to put yourself out there every time you travel. Your best memories will be during one of the adventures with travel mates when you feel a sense of belonging in a community outside the one you were born in.
And that’s the secret to building unforgettable memories.