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6 Things I Learned From My First Time Traveling Internationally

Lifestyle Travel

I never knew why people liked traveling so much. From the outside looking in, it always looked like such a drag to make the necessary preparations to travel: booking flights, finding lodging, and figuring out what to do. I was perfectly fine staying in the city and living my life.

Now that I got one international trip under my belt, I’m slowly starting to understand what the hype is all about. I learned quite a few things about myself and life in general during my first trip out the country. I saved you the trouble of going through the long list so I condensed my thoughts down to 6 things.

1. Traveling is fun but draining.

It can be quite draining to travel around and explore a foreign country. The mode of transportation used to get around makes a huge difference on how much stress you might be putting on yourself.

My past Japan trip consisted of multiple train rides every day. Just the constant waiting for the train, boarding on and off, and standing around had my legs and back aching. Even if the day didn’t include a train ride, the amount of walking would have me crying for foot massage by the end of the night.

2. Culture shock hits you hard when you first arrive.

Photo of Dotonbori Street

There’s no way to really prepare for the difference in cultural norms you’ll be experiencing in a foreign country. The only thing you can do is meet it head-on and try to learn and adapt quickly.

My first stop upon arriving in Japan was to stop by a Lawson convenience store. When I encountered or walked near a Lawson employee, I was hit with the phrase, “Irasshaimase!” (いらっしゃいませ!), meaning “Welcome to the store!” Apparently, it’s part of the culture for Japan to provide over-the-top customer service and make an effort to greet the customers. It felt normal when I was greeted the first time, but it felt pretty weird when every employee greeted me. Like one of my friends said, it was like encountering an NPC from an RPG game.

3. You get used to not being able to speak the country’s language.

One thing you can prepare for is learning the language of the country you’re planning to travel to. It would be helpful to memorize some everyday phrases you anticipate on using. If you don’t know that, prepare to do a bunch of pointing and some awkward silences.

Thank goodness I knew a few basic Japanese words and phrases from my anime-watching days. Even with those basic phrases, I mostly got by with speaking some basic English (which, thankfully, they knew), pointing at menus, and hand-signing numbers. Take it from a guy who didn’t do his homework prior to traveling. Learn some everyday phrases!

4. Food from its country of origin tastes way better than if it was made anywhere else – obviously.

Photo of Ramen from Nara

This is an obvious one, but cuisine made from the country of origin tastes way better than if it was made anywhere else. Restaurants in the States can brand themselves with “authentic X cuisine”, but the food will never taste the same as if it were made from the country the cuisine originated from. This could be purely psychological, but even then, this point still stands.

One thing I will miss about Japan is their amazing ramen. Did you know different parts of Japan serve different types of ramen? I wouldn’t have known this fact if I didn’t see it for myself.

5. You will enjoy the country’s culture and beauty more only if you make the effort to do so.

It’s easy to be glued to your phone during less eventful times while traveling. You may feel bored while sitting on a train or while waiting for your food. I advise you to try and keep your technology use to the minimum. Try to take in what’s happening around you instead.

Ride to Miyajima

I failed many times to stay off my phone, but when I did,  I tried to notice the little things that were happening around me. If I was sitting on the train, I would try to people watch. When I was riding the ferry, I took in the amazing view of the ocean. When I was walking through the streets of Japan, I tried to check out the stores and buildings that I walked past.

It’s easy to get distracted by what’s happening at home, but you’re traveling for a reason. You’re trying to experience something new, and you have to make an effort to do so if you want to make the most of it.

6. You won’t know what’s out there until you go and search for it.

If you have yet to travel internationally, this is the point I want you to take from this post: You won’t know what you’re missing until you actually take the leap and travel. This was the mistake I made, and because of that, I didn’t step foot in another country until I was 27. Sad, huh?

Don’t be complacent with your life situation. There’s so much out there in the world to experience and explore. Life is too short to stay still. Go out and search for new adventures. Visit another country and pretend to be one of the locals. The feeling you get is something that can’t be described but only experienced.

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