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Straight Talk

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Do You Have to Change to Travel?

As expats, we spend majority of our time around other travelers. Most of our closest friends travel frequently, and this common interest gives us plenty to talk about.

But there is a certain type of traveler that always leaves us scratching our heads – the travelers who completely change now that they are abroad.

It’s almost like there is some book they’ve all read teaching them how “authentic” travelers should act.

Not sure what we mean? Here are some examples:

Overdosing on Positivity

Some travelers will insist to the very end that they love absolutely every aspect about every culture they encounter.

We call bullshit on this one!

While it’s admirable to hold back from making judgments about a culture that isn’t your own, no one likes everything, and it’s just ridiculous to pretend you do. It’s okay to complain about a long journey on a crowded bus. It’s okay to think some local foods are too spicy or too sweet or too bland. It’s okay to be overwhelmed by a bustling, crazy city, or bored with a sleepy little village.

You don’t have to give up all your opinions to be a traveler.

 

Singing Praises to Street Food

For some reason, nothing makes an overexcited traveler feel more “authentic” than eating lukewarm meat on a stick from a street cart with questionable cleanliness standards.

Street food seems very “exotic” to those of us from England or America, but after a few purchases we realized that the quality of most street food is pretty low, and it will often have you running for a toilet shortly after.

You can find much tastier and safer local food in a restaurant, even if it’s just a family-owned hole-in-the-wall.

(If you do want to try the street food, at least find a stand that has the locals lining up. An unpopular stand is unpopular for a reason!)

 

Getting Too Deep

There are so many travelers out there claiming to have had some kind of spiritual awakening while exploring remote corners of the world.

Of course, we’ve all experienced personal growth while traveling. But there’s something a little fake (not to mention cringeworthy) about someone going over the top with their newfound philosophies, flaunting them in everyone’s face.

Extra bullshit points if all those profound, poetic words actually mean very little when put under scrutiny. True wisdom is more than just sounding nice.

 

Knowing It All

As a traveler, you are always the student, never the teacher.

Which is great if you are a curious, humble, open minded person. But if you like to know it all, you’re better off staying home because you’ll never really be able to claim expertise on a culture that’s not your own. You can’t become an insider.

As expats living in Bangkok, there are few things that annoy us more than hearing a backpacker act as if they are an authority on this city – especially if they’ve spent less than a week here and have barely left Khao San Road.

If it bothers us, how much more would it bother a local?

 

A Return to University Days

Yes, this was Simon’s old university home! 

Finally, despite lofty claims of spiritual growth, increased maturity, and global awareness, too many travelers have actually reverted back to the adolescent behavior of their dorm days. Pop into a hostel, and you’ll find people stealing each other’s food out of the communal kitchen, using each other’s shower gel without permission, and getting in petty fights about cleanliness, noise levels, or bathroom hogging.

 

Do you ever feel like some travelers come across a little fake or over the top? Share your examples and stories below.

 

TRAVELERS OFTEN GET ASKED HOW WE’RE ABLE TO FIND THE MONEY, TIME, OR COURAGE TO GO ABROAD.

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When Travel Sucks

If you find yourself reading through a few travel blogs, browsing travel hashtags on Instagram, or flipping through your traveling friend’s Facebook albums, you might be lead to believe something that’s simply not true.

You might think travel is all breathtaking photos, adventures, and happiness upon happiness.

It’s mostly like this, but not always!

To be perfectly honest, travel sucks sometimes. You’ll probably find yourself confused, lost, or bored. It can also be frustrating trying to figure out a culture that isn’t your own. If you aren’t careful, being in a foreign environment can make what would normally be a mildly annoying situation into seemingly one of the biggest ordeals of your life.

Many first-time travelers are shocked by these moments, and maybe they swear off future trips, or share their exaggerated thoughts with their friends, or convince their friends to swear off future trips.

Before you get ahead of yourself, let’s look at travel in a more rational way – a way that doesn’t idealize anything or let easily-stirred negative emotions take over.

Many complaints we hear about the traveling lifestyle can also apply to your home life. Let’s look at some examples:

Sickness

You might not be perfectly healthy during your holiday, just like you have probably unfortunately fallen ill at home for Christmas, your birthday, or another special occasion. Poor health does not choose its victims based on their schedule or their location. It’s terrible if you are sick while traveling, but it could have happened at home just as easily.

Don’t let it put you off traveling because…
No matter where you are, you’ll have access to doctors and hospitals if needed. If you are really concerned, opt for travel insurance (which is incredibly cheap) instead of avoiding traveling altogether.

Crimes and Scams

Every city has a few off-putting stories about tourists who fell into some common scam and ended up parting with some of their money or valuables. Unfortunately, crime is everywhere. And we mean everywhere – including your hometown! It’s so sad when this keeps people from traveling, because in most cases they are actually safer abroad than in their familiar communities in the U.K. or the USA. You just need to carry yourself with a little confidence while traveling – people who are obviously confused and foreign might be seen as easier targets.

Don’t let it put you off traveling because…
Crime is everywhere. You leave your house at home and you could be mugged the second you step on the street. The truth is that crime is a lot worse in the UK and USA when compared to many other countries.

Journeys and Transportation

We really do understand this one! We hate every form of transportation, too. There is nothing fun about planes, airports, buses, or taxis. Some travelers romanticize their 40-hour bus ride through the mountains or 2-hour song tao journey across Myanmar because it was so “authentic.”

NO. We aren’t going to sugar coat it for you. Both of those experiences will be brutal.

But transportation is a part of life. Staying at home will eliminate long stretches of it, but we think people are getting a little dramatic when they let long distances stop them from traveling. It’s just one day of your life. How often have you wasted days binging some TV show? But in exchange for this wasted day, you’ll get to see the world.

Don’t let it put you off traveling because…
Transportation is a necessary evil – it gives you access to the best sights and experiences in the world.

Absolutely loving that “authentic” Myanmar song tao. 

Cleaning and Shopping

Here’s a side to our glamorous traveling life that never makes it to Facebook – grocery shopping, cleaning, and other chores. If you are staying abroad long-term like us, it’s not going to be all adventures, all day, every day. You’ll develop a routine similar to one at home, and it will include picking up a new bottle of shampoo on your way back from work, putting in a load of laundry, and mopping the floors. (Although we should admit that we are lazy bastards and hire a cleaner to take care of some of those tasks for us.)

Don’t let it put you off traveling because…
Not every moment needs to be (or can be) thrilling! If you had visions of a non-stop adventure abroad, you’ll likely feel disappointed when those expectations aren’t met. But don’t let that disappointment send you home. The reality is different, but still absolutely worthwhile.

Meh to cleaning!

A Few Smaller Concerns

Bills – Yes, if you decide to reside somewhere for longer than a month, you’ll probably have to cover the cost of electricity, water, and internet. You might even choose to buy or rent a car or motorbike if public transportation is lacking. That said, depending on where you are, the bills will probably be much smaller than they were back home.

Childcare – While based only on observation, there are so many families traveling now. We see them on social media and walking around every day in real life. Having a kid doesn’t mean you can’t travel. Every country has kids! It’s an obvious fact, but give that some thought. It means that whatever you need for your family, you’ll find it. Your family will be fine – probably even better because of their time abroad.

Insects – A lot of warm countries get a bad reputation for huge bugs rivaling the ones in our worst nightmares. Kristin grew up in the Southeast region of the United States, and she’s yet to encounter anything worse than what she dealt with back home. But if you’re used to a cold climate like Simon, get ready for the mosquitoes! Don’t worry – it’s rare to get a disease from the bugs in the main tourist trail cities. If you’re going somewhere more remote, check if you need any shots or medicine beforehand.

Travel isn’t always a smooth, fun, or exciting ride. In our experience, the high points come more frequently than the low ones, but you have to be prepared for its frustrating or boring moments. Don’t become disillusioned or discouraged. Travel is always worthwhile in the end.

Don’t be put off! It’s usually brilliant!

Travelers – have we missed anything? What do you wish you had realized before you set off on your journey?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

Want to know how We do it?

Click here for a FREE guide.

Things Travelers Hate Hearing When Returning Home

As infrequent as they may be, we love our visits back home. Living abroad is exciting and fulfilling – exactly what we want from life – but of course every traveler misses the friends and family they left behind. Seeing them again is always a fun reunion – but back in our home countries, there are a few things we always hear that we’d rather not. Whether it’s a question we don’t know how to answer, or a statement that just couldn’t be farther from truth, here are the top things we dread hearing.

You’re so lucky!

There are a lot of misconceptions that those of us who travel or live abroad can only do so because we are so privileged. The truth is that we didn’t win some random prize. No one handed us a plane ticket or a job on a silver platter. We are out in the world because we chose to be here, and we did what was needed to get here. People who say we are “lucky” could have made the same choices – and they still can!

Of course we do realize we are privileged in some ways, mostly because we are native English speakers and there is a high demand for us worldwide as teachers, but this sentiment is usually shared by a fellow English speaker. (Note that we’ve also met many expats who aren’t native English speakers but have still found jobs abroad.)

You could easily be here too.

I will be over soon to see you!

If only this was true! How many friends have claimed they will be having their next holiday here? It’s such an exciting idea for us – we’d love to show off the foreign communities we’ve made our home. But in the combined 7 years we’ve been abroad, only one friend has ever shown up. So we’ve become a bit cynical to this promise now – we aren’t getting our hopes up.

When are you coming home for good?

Many people assume that this is just a little phase we’re going through. We don’t view our time abroad as a gap year. It’s not a detour that leads back to the life we had at home eventually. We have started careers and lives abroad and we can’t see ourselves giving that up if we can help it. There are almost 200 countries out there to see, and each one offers a completely unique experience. How could we ever quit this?

When are we coming home? Never.

“The Real World” or “Normal Life”

These phrases are always referring to Western English-speaking countries, and it’s honestly just a tad arrogant. No culture and no life is more “real” or more “normal” than another. Some people see our time abroad as one long frivolous holiday. In reality, we are responsible adults with meaningful careers, bills to pay, people who rely on us, and good life-long friends who care about us.

As teachers, we really feel this is the best choice for our careers. There are endless opportunities for us around the globe, and many offer more respect, better working environments and a higher quality of life than what teachers receive back in our home countries.

Meanwhile, back in the “real world” we could barely pay rent with a teacher’s salary, and jobs are scarce.

When are you going to settle down?

What exactly does “settle down” mean, and why does everyone have to do it? We are perfectly happy “settling” for a year or two at a time, and then moving on to a new, amazing opportunity. We aren’t interested in owning property, cars, or boxes and boxes of meaningless possessions. And we certainly aren’t dreaming of the day we can tie ourselves down to one place indefinitely. Again – the world is so big! We want to experience it all, and we’ve found a way to realistically achieve this.

We’re pretty settled now 🙂

Are you running away from something?

No, we are running toward a million things, and we don’t understand why everyone else isn’t joining us. From our perspective, our “running” is perfectly healthy and normal, and we’re concerned about the people who seem to be hiding from something. But maybe we just all have different interests and goals for our lives – and that’s perfectly fine.

This kind of accusation doesn’t usually come from a friend or family member – it comes from someone we’ve only just met, and who seems to have a very narrow-minded view of the world. If we are running from anything, it’s probably people like that.

Shouldn’t you be spending this time building your career?

We ARE spending this time building our careers. Not only are we working full-time in our chosen field, living abroad can show future employers many characteristics that they are looking for, such as independence, open minds, communication skills, and a willingness to embrace and overcome challenges.

We have been building our careers since we first met.

You’re wasting the best years of your life.

We just couldn’t disagree more. Yes, these are sure to be some of the best years of our lives, and we wouldn’t spend them any other way – exploring the world, regularly having adventures and a party or two.

Aren’t you getting too old to travel now?

Age just has nothing to do with it. Why make decisions about what you can and can’t do based on a number? We are healthy, we are not neglecting any of our responsibilities, and we are not making decisions we will regret later on. We know what we want, and there’s no real reason to slow down – except that traditional society thinks we should.

Don’t you miss your family and friends?

Yes, like crazy! But it works both ways. They could always come over and see us. It is also so easy to stay in touch, and we know the people who really care about us love what we’re doing and are proud of us for living our lives to the fullest.

How can you afford it – surely your money must run out?

We have jobs! I suppose acquaintances or new people we meet assume we are backpacking, but there are actually so many different styles of long-term travel. We have a steady paycheck, a 1-year lease on our condo, and we are living and working and paying bills just like everyone back home – although our bills are actually fewer and cheaper. We have more money to spend abroad than we ever did back home.

Saying nothing

Sometimes it’s not what is said, but what is not said. More experienced travelers once warned us this would happen, but we were still so surprised when it actually did. It’s strange to talk to someone back home who seems determined not to mention our time abroad at all. Maybe it’s just because we are such travel fanatics, but before we started traveling ourselves, we were always fascinated by those who had experienced any other corner of the world, asking them all sorts of questions and eating up their stories. Not that we are expecting that level of obsession, but if we listen to someone’s stories about gardening and the local housing economy, surely they can feign some interest in our lives too.

We’re not stopping the adventures any time soon!

We’re not saying everyone wants to travel, or even that everyone should travel. We all have our own interests and passions, and as long as you are pursuing them, you have all our respect. We know our choices are a bit unorthodox. We aren’t following the typical life path most people embrace. We only ask that people keep an open mind and consider that we have thought this through and are making the right choices for ourselves.

Fellow travelers – have you heard these statements or been asked these questions before? What have we missed? What was your reaction?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

Want to know how We do it?

Click here for a FREE guide.