Last updated on September 17, 2010
Countries are built to make their own citizens more comfortable – there’s a quote somewhere out there about that and it so clearly rings true over and over again whether I’m home or on the road. One of the common refrains from foreign backpackers I meet is a critical eye toward the huge food portion size in the US – it’s a cultural thing and is expected and accepted by the masses of Americans, we’re simply used to it and a big dinner fits into how we structure our work days (but I do think there’s room for change for the record).
Abroad though, there are a host of situations that were just not built for me…whether it’s issues because of my stature, pale skin, delicate stomach, or hygiene habits, there are some countries where the “oops” moments just pile up. In other countries there’s a heaping mountain of oops’ until I am able to override my instinctive responses and habits and adapt to the new environment.
My Travel “Oops” Moments
I’m looking at myself mirror, pondering the day while brushing my teeth and realize that the water noisily swishing around in my mouth is from the tap…in a country where tap water is a poor choice.
This whole blog post was born out of this moment. I spent the summer months back home in the US and out of travel mode, so when I landed in Bali I spent the whole two weeks fighting the long-held instinctive habit of washing my mouth out with tap water after brushing my teeth (six times I did it!) – I came back stateside with a stomach bug…the water? Perhaps.
Following instinct I glance left first when stepping off of the curb and now there’s a wildly honking bus tunneling into my field of vision.
Traffic direction is one of those issues that I’ve given up on completely and it keeps me totally confused half of the time because it varies from country to country. From the time I was a child I was taught that you look “left, right, left” frequently shortened to just a glance to the left before stepping off the curb! My solution now is to stand on the curb rubber-necking it half a dozen times in each direction…I look a little silly but no more getting brushed by an oncoming motorcycle! (Side note, way back in the beginning during the Oz leg of my trip my directional challenges meant a sidewalk collision with a cute guy, so it can have benefits!)
A tenth of a second before my head ploughs into the five foot high door frame a fleetingly fast realization pops into my head…I forgot to duck.
There was a four foot wide, five foot high arched doorway at the palace in Udaipur, India that nearly gave me a concussion because I stood up to soon and there were decorative little “v” shapes pointing downward from the frame. I cried. And I’m still surprised that there wasn’t blood involved.
Toilet paper? I know I have it here somewhere…
I get sick on the road and having TP is essential to a Westerner like me who is used to it (I realize that they have buckets, bidets, and other/better methods but I still haven’t figured that all out…)
It’s two days into a new country and I suddenly realize that the 10,000 currency notes and 100,000 notes look incredibly similar…and somehow I’ve already blown through that $100 I withdrew…
The US has some of the plainest looking money in the world – besides the few splashes of violet now on many of our bills our money is green, that’s it. So it’s fun to have purple, green, blue and pink money to differentiate the bills in other countries. The problem? When you have as many as seven or eight zeros following the numbers, and they’re a similar color, well it’s difficult to keep it all straight when you first land in a new country!
I realize that my watch is on the wrong time-zone and my bus left an hour ago, not two hours later.
Time zones – fun times. For the first week in Nepal I was consistently 15 minutes late to all of my language classes (as a part of my volunteer program) because Nepal is 15 minutes different than India! Another fun time – I booked a plane ticket for the wrong day because I was doing the date math in my head…but the date on my watch was still in another time zone :(
Have a great “Oh, Crap” travel moment? Please, please, please share…funny moment recounts hugely encouraged :-)