1.) Days of the week -While our life is pretty much dependent on the calendar in the “real world,” days of the week have minimal relevance while traveling. Sure they can help with which nights western-catering establishments do specials, but if you are gone for more than a few weeks, Mondays, Fridays, and everything in between start to look similar.
2.) Personal appearance – Currently, I’m wearing Capri pants with a draw string and flap, matched with a beat up T-shirt…and I’m not the worst dressed westerner. If you don’t find yourself in flowy hippie clothes at some point in your trip, you are definitely missing the point. When else can you wear shorts, tank tops, and flip flops and still get into the swankiest places?
3.) Communication – Internet is sometimes hard to come by. Even when it’s not, exploring unknown places and meeting random people far outweighs refreshing mini-feeds. The internet takes a back seat to the immensity of Planet Earth.
4.) Borders and boundaries – You are more often than not going to find yourself at tables that look like the UN General Assembly. One day you may find yourself getting a massage from a Thai person with your new Russian friend, and the next you may be sipping Arak with only Indonesians. Just as country lines are malleable to travelers, so are topics of conversation. Race, religion, politics, and anything else you may normally stray away from become fair game when on the road.
5.) The value of a dollar – Don’t get me wrong, you are definitely going to be penny-pinching…you just won’t be doing it to the tune of a dollar. While prices may seem dirt cheap at first, in a few weeks you will be spending hours upon hours bartering over the equivalent of chump change in the US. Once you convert to the local currency, there is no turning back.
6.) Personal Space – wait, personal what now?
7.) Clean hotel rooms – If you are expecting fresh linens each morning, you may not want to leave the west…or your house unless you gotta big bank account.
8.) Overt Nationalism - I don’t hate my homeland. On the contrary, through travel I’ve begun to respect aspects of it even more than before I left. This, though, is also met with the inability to look at the world through a jingoistic lens. There are a lot of different lifestyles out there, and each one has something interesting to offer. Believing one place has it all right becomes more far-fetched with each new destination visited.
9.) Consistency – Believe it or not, sometimes things occur with punctuality while on the road…and sometimes they don’t. The mistake is believing that the train will or won’t run on time. It is going to do one or the other (unless it gets cancelled!), you just never know which one. Along with times, the idea plans, prices, or practices are set in stone is also a fallacy. Consistency goes out the window once you exchange the world you know for only what can fit in a 40-liter backpack.
10.) The person you once were - After being away for a while, I’ve realized that travel doesn’t really solve all your problems. It can, however, encourage you to take a long hard look at the person you are, the person you’ve been, and the person you aspire to become, all the while giving you the medium to see where those three people will converge. Travel may not be a cure-all, but the effect of the experiences endured, both good and bad, isn’t reversible.