For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to travel.
Exploring new places, and experiencing different cultures has always fascinated me. From the first time I left Kenya, I have felt at home wherever I went - regardless of how much of a misfit I was there. My eagerness to learn what I could about the new place overtook my fear of being surrounded by so much unfamiliarity; I would try my best to catch every sound and take in everything I possibly could with my eyes before I had to look away and keep moving.
It hadn't occurred to me that not everyone feels this way until a friend asked me,
"How do you do it? How are you so comfortable living among strangers in a foreign land? Don't you get scared at all? Don't you hate the feeling of being away from everything that's so familiar to you?"
I was surprised by his questions.
However, I admired his honesty. In fact, the conversation I had with him made me look at travelling from a different perspective. Since then, I've had similar conversations with a number of different people, which have made me realize that he's not the only one who feels this way. So I decided to write this post breaking down the different stages one should expect to go through when they travel. I hope they help you mentally prepare for your first - or next - trip to a new place. 😉
1. First off comes the excitement! I can't remember ever not feeling excited about going to another town, city, country, or continent for the first time. I find myself imagining what this new place is like; sometimes I even make up whole cities in my head based on the little I've seen of them in movies or read about them in books. I won't lie, though; the goodbyes are always hard. It doesn't matter how many times I've had to say them - or who's saying them, for that matter - I still dread having to say goodbye. But leaving home so often has made me cherish the time I spend with loved ones much more than I used to. I'm now more aware of the fact that any time I see a family member or a friend could be the last time I see them for a long time (or forever), and I don't take that for granted.
2. Second comes the fear. Yes - despite all the excitement, I feel fear, too. It's only when I land in a new country that I realize just how far away I am from home and everything that's familiar to me. The signs in a different language all over the airport hit me first. Then, of course, comes the people who - in most cases - look very different from me. Most are indifferent, some are rude, but there are always some who are friendly and willing to help. I've even had random people take some time out of their own schedules to show me directions to a place or assist me in another way.
3.Third comes the acclimatization. I learn what side of the road to walk on, what pace to walk at, and what behaviour is acceptable in this new place. I even stop feeling like a tourist and no longer have to spend so much time looking for that isle in the supermarket that has everything I want to buy - I now know the supermarket well enough to just go straight to it! It's at this stage that I start greeting the waiters, vendors & other service givers in the country's national language, and even decide which local brands I prefer over others. I'm now even comfortable sharing the occasional smile with a stranger.😊
4. Finally, I start feeling homesick. I get sick of the daily routine, the boring food that comes nothing close to the food back at home, and start wondering how everyone back at home is doing and how much of their lives I've missed so far. I allow myself to feel the homesickness - I mean, really feel it. Talking to family and friends on phone helps a lot during this time. With time, I accept my situation and go back to enjoying being in a new place. And when I remember that I won't be there indefinitely, it motivates me to make the most of my time there.
In conclusion, travelling to a new place - like any new experience - can be frightening. But mentally preparing yourself for it will help you deal with everything as it comes.
Travelling has the power to change your life for the better - but only if you let it. It has opened my mind to a new way of thinking and has also taught me many different ways of seeing and doing things. It has also changed my priorities in life; and it's made me realize that all these cliché sayings about the best things in life being free are not so cliché after all. Time spent with a loved one, a kind word from a stranger, a smile - these things, I've learnt, mean so much more than we realize.
With that said, I hope reading this post gives you the courage to book that trip you've always wanted to go on. Remember: feel the fear, but do it anyway. I promise you, you won't regret it!😉😊