Traveling from coast to coast

How does it feel to travel through different cultures?

Pasupati temple, Katmandu Nepal (Baraka)

One of the benefits of travel is the opportunity to have new experiences and witness different cultures. While the benefits to your general well-being from vacations have long been reported, the same can be said for experiencing new cultures. By immersing yourself in new cultures, you may encounter culture shock, but you also have the chance to learn new skills and learn more about yourself.
Often the best way to really delve into a new place and culture is by spending some considerable time there. While a quick vacation may give you a glimpse into your destination, experiences like student or work exchange programs allow you the time to properly immerse yourself in a new culture. These kinds of opportunities provide you with a support network as you adjust to your new surroundings and make it a far less scary proposition.

Dealing with Culture Shock

From its name, the idea of culture shock certainly comes across as something you want to avoid. This then begs the question, what is culture shock and is it a bad thing?
In general terms, culture shock is a response to your new surroundings when abroad that can leave you confused, anxious and feeling isolated. It generally includes frustration at how even the simplest things can be different in the new culture in which you find yourself. While it may include homesickness and a longing for your familiar life back home, it’s usually more than missing your friends and family.
The thing is though, culture shock can be seen as a problem but also as an opportunity. It’s only by learning to adjust to and accept your new surroundings and culture that you can hope to understand and appreciate it. Persisting through culture shock can lead to untold rewards.

Learning to Adapt

People often say that travel is a great way to develop new skills, since you’re constantly being put in new and unpredictable situations. Even just learning to cope with the unpredictable and adapt to what’s unfolding is a skill in itself. It is after all, just another form of problem solving and trusting your instincts. Certainly, thinking on your feet is a trait that many employers desire in employees.

Language Skills

Perhaps the most obvious lesson learned with travel though is the importance of language. After all a new country and culture is the perfect opportunity to learn a new language. Even just learning the basics of the local language can make getting about and making new friends easier. Trying to overcome the language barrier also teaches you about the importance of non-verbal communication. Since you can’t rely on what is being said, you learn to tune into people’s tone and body language. This makes you a better communicator even when speaking your native tongue.

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