It has taken me many miles and months of travel to recognize the tug-of-war that begins on day one, and lasts well into my second or third week of a trip. I could label it jet lag, but it’s more complex than that. It’s that slow process of letting go and embracing what is new, and now. And that doesn’t come easy for most of us, hence, what I call the internal “travel tug-of-war” – one foot in one world and one in the other – straddling the abyss between comfort zone and the unknown.
I think most people are only vaguely aware of this battle going on inside them because they travel at the same frenetic pace they live by at home, so not much changes, you just see a lot of new stuff – you acquire knowledge about another culture, but you don’t have time to experience it, or share with the locals on a deeper level. That takes time.
On the plane, I immediately jump into the transition – no Western food for me! I order the Bento Box breakfast. The flight attendant passes me three times carrying my meal, looking quizzically at her colleague, I am sure thinking – that blonde woman in 7A can’t be having the Japanese b’fast? I try to convince David to choose the Bento, but he stubbornly opts for the “egg benedict”, which turns out to be a mistake – a cold egg with artery-clogging tasteless sauce. (I mean, come on, it’s difficult enough to make a decent poached egg and hollandaise sauce in a proper kitchen!) The bento box was amazing. If you fly Japan Airlines, for sure order the Japanese b’fast!
Whether you ease in, or dive in, on your next trip, pay attention to your internal tug-of-war and the feelings that arise as you slowly let go of your comfort zone, give up control, and let the new culture flow through you.