If you’re new to the whole magical world of travel (and I’m not talking about the annual vacation to a resort hotel by the sea), you might like to hear of the stages of travel you’ll probably go through. A truly thrilling adventure awaits and I advise you to thoroughly enjoy and revel in the stages of travel because they all add to the emotional smorgasbord you’ll experience.
1. Booking Elation
For any newbie traveler, especially a fresher traveling abroad, there’s nothing like booking that international flight. This first step in the stages of travel is a big one; it’s a commitment to something you may have been thinking about and dreaming about for ages, it’s cash down on a thrilling (and maybe a bit frightening) life experience, from which you don’t know what to expect. So the elation one feels when booking that first flight, that hotel, that theatre show – this elation is one of the most exciting stages of travel. Breathe it in and appreciate your big step towards life!
2. Planning Fanaticism
Most inexperienced travelers believe that planning every waking moment is the way to go; it’ll keep them on course and headed in the right direction. The planning fanaticism is probably due to both anxiety about getting from A to B in a strange foreign environment, and also due to a desire to fit everything in. However, speaking from experience, over planning smothers spontaneity, the spark of travel, and getting lost is half the fun. So though it’s smart to do your research and be prepared, don’t overdo it. Leave some freedom to move and groove.
3. Pre-travel Jitters
Active nerves before travel are quite normal. Even after many years of a traveling life, this writer still finds herself with a belly-full of butterflies the night before a move. Worries barrel through the brain: do I have everything packed; do I have my passport and visa; will I make the bus to the airport; will my luggage be underweight; will I be stopped at security; will my flight be cancelled or delayed; will I have a comfortable flight; will my seatmate be normal; will my luggage arrive? Yada, yada – this and that – the broken record pesters the brain as it tries to catch some much needed zzzs. But, rest assured, you’ll rarely run into any problems, and whatever travel issues you may face, you’ll rise to the challenge. So take a deep breath – everything will be A-okay.
4. Airplane Daze
International flights are often a surprisingly foggy experience when you’re not used to plane travel. The first eight-or-more-hour flight may put a newbie’s head in a daze. The fogginess is due to the long bout of sedentary hours, the lack of comfort and space which results in lack of sleep, the dimly lit plane, the unstimulating entertainment, the jetlag – all of this culminates in a sort of numbness, which is only livened by the seemingly constant meals of airplane food which interrupt your sleep and disturb your semi-consciousness. Aren’t international flights fun?
5. Dumbfounded Disbelief
When you finally land – no, even before, when you’re flying high, hanging in the sky over Rome – the all-consuming dumbfounded disbelief that you’ve actually arrived, that you’ve made it, that you’re finally here and your dream has come true; this may be the ultimate stage in the stages of travel. Your first day banging across the streets of London like a high Sherlock Holmes, your first metro ride in Shanghai crammed like sardines with thousands of people, your first spin like a top in New York’s Times Square, your first climb to the Acropolis and pose by the Parthenon, your first warm swim off the brilliant beaches of Barbados...what could be more dumbfounding than the actual DOING of it? Absolutely the most amazing part of travel.
6. Culture Shock
If or when the overwhelming disbelief of doing wears off, a different kind of disbelief sets in – culture shock. You may find yourself somewhat homesick for smiles in your journey of frowny faces in Moscow, homesick for etiquette in the loogie hawking streets of Beijing, homesick for small towns in the twitchy fingered purse thieving of Barcelona, homesick for chivalry in the catcalls of Venice. When the fact that you are in fact in a very different culture washes over you, it washes with ice cold water. You can either let it freeze your experience or you can warm up to it. I recommend the latter, as most cultural differences are harmless and, when you look more closely, are actually the brushstrokes in the artwork of travel.
7. Reverse Culture Shock
Depending upon the travel experience you’ve had, your outbound flight may by the happiest in the stages of travel or the saddest. Whatever the case, when you return home, you may find yourself constantly annoying your friends with comments such as, “That’s not how they do it in France,” and travel stories that begin, “When I was backpacking across the Andes...” Though these stories certainly interest you and other seasoned travelers, you may find that your inexperienced friends sigh with a facial expression that plainly states, “well, here we go again...” Don’t take this too much to heart. Instead, find peeps who’ve got some miles under their own belts and share away...and together you can start planning your next adventure!
I think that as a seasoned traveler I don’t quite have the same frisson with these stages of travel anymore, although personally, I never get over the thrill of having booked a trip. That doesn’t mean I am jaded by travel though – far from it. I can’t imagine the hunger ever dying! I’d love to hear from other travelers – do you recognize these stages?