If you want to travel to find yourself, you have to most importantly: BE YOURSELF
Are you shocked to know I have had people gasp at me when I say I ate Burger King in Thailand, or TGIF in Bombay? Probably not. They are baffled I get a SIM card in new countries with 3G so I have Internet. They can’t believe I still download and watch my shows from home that I love, or that I’d go to a boring movie theatre on a laid back night.
Obviously, it’s a little different for me because I live abroad, but it has put how I act when I travel into perspective.
who would pass that up when you haven’t had anything like it in months!?
I live to travel but I am not going to stop doing what I love because I travel.
I don’t need to dress like “backpacker”, or like and “adventurer” out of an REI advert. Sometimes I like to wear the touristy Ali baba pants, not because I’m supposed to but because they are comfortable, breezy, fun colors, and men stare less. If I’m in Ali baba pants and I see someone in a nice summer dress, I don’t think, “OMG they are not even getting into the spirit of real travel”. But when I wear I little dress, I sometimes feel that’s what people think when they see me. The look says it all.
There are times I wear a dorky headlamp like a pro traveler would; they really do come in handy. But other times while on a train, I might pull out my laptop, watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and read the latest Cosmo on my tablet.
Either way of travel is wonderful as long as you are happy with it! If you end up feeling like you’re trying, but you just can’t fit in, then you aren’t being true to yourself.
Where I live now, they dress in what is called “psy” clothing, reflecting the music they love. They look amazing, covered in tattoos and dreadlocks; their clothes are tattered and tiny. Seriously, check out this girls’ blog to see how they dress. Throughout the market are shops left and right selling these handmade clothes. Although they’re cute, if I started dressing that way, I’d feel like it was halloween, so I don’t. It’s not who I am. When I do go to trance parties (which is rare) I probably stand out like a sore thumb.
Although I live in a conservative country, I dress in clothes I like, which for me is not traditional Indian clothing. Even my Indian girlfriends don’t wear traditional clothes unless it’s for a special occasion. Now, some travelers love to dress in kurtas and leggings, which is a cute look and if they are happy in it, that is exactly what they should wear. I cannot wait until my first Indian wedding where it will be expected and appropriate to wear a sari.
I will wear a bit of a costume for a camel safari in Rajasthan just like I do for the Kentucky Derby. It’s fun to play dress up, just don’t let it become the new you if it feels like dress up. If you do, when you “find yourself” you’re finding a fake person; when you get done with your trip you’ll be more confused than before.
“You ate McDonalds? How American.” American is used negatively here… go figure. Why does everyone think ALL Americans are fat and eat McDonalds every day? It’s not nice to stereotype entire nations. Let me have a cheeseburger without the whispers.
Each country I go to, International chain restaurants are full of their nationals. Can I get my Starbucks without stares in another country, why yes… Because it’s normal. But when I tell another traveler some say “oh, well I had chai because I’m really trying to immerse myself in the culture.” Awesome, me too, and I get it; I love chai, but when I get to Bombay, I grab myself a Mocha Frappuccino, and I would like to not be judged for that.
Side Note: I know some people feel bad drinking such expensive coffee in third world countries, where only the very upper class can go to Starbucks… but to be fair, even in the States a lot of people can’t afford Starbucks in their budget and drink it only as an occasional treat like I’ve always done. So I do the same in India.
Some say Starbucks sucks, and to you I say perhaps my palate just isn’t as sophisticated as yours ;)
this is my daily coffee routine.. A visitor brought me this Blonde brew as a gift. Wouldn’t you crave a fancy coffee drink?
I also don’t think I need to eat Indian food every meal. At home I eat French, Italian, Chinese, or whatever I crave. Indians do the same. Contrary to popular belief, all Indians do not eat curries every meal, and you don’t have to either! Indians love pasta. They also love grilled cheese and tomato soup. They like French cafes, fancy gelato, Japanese momos, and even Domino’s (who even deliver).
Be courteous and respectful of a culture, and try everything there is, like street food and local teas. But if you’re craving a slice of pizza, stand in line next to twenty Indians and get a slice. If you’ve been in a country so long you’re bored of their food, don’t make yourself eat it because you think you should.
I have seen people decide to act like a new person because they want to fit into the scene around them. Some travelers I meet are much older, have been on the road for years, and are the “backpacker” that someone back home may imagine. You don’t have to try to be as awesome as them. You’re already awesome!
pancakes and chili dogs in Thailand instead of pad thai – so sue me
I love the culture of Sarajevo but I still needed a coke and Twix.
“I hate seeing people like you on your phones when you should be enjoying India, seriously..” – a tourist to me at a club in Goa while I was texting my boyfriend. Excuse me, sir, but I live here, and can come to this club any time I like. Just because I’m white you can’t assume that I am a tourist here Facebook messaging someone back home- but even if I was, what business is it of yours?
All over Asia, Europe, or wherever you go, locals are on their cell phones just like we are back in the States. Even in a tiny village in Africa, every adult and teenager I met had a cell phone. Maybe don’t talk as much as you would at home while on a trip, but use it to book hotels or call home when you’re missing your parents.
If you see a traveler on Skype or Facebook, don’t assume that means they aren’t experiencing the “real” travelers life. There is no “real” way to do it. There is no right and wrong. They do it their way, which is right for them. I travel very differently from many people I meet. For all you know, they are homesick or actually sick and need the comfort of home in that moment. A judgmental look isn’t going to make anyone feel better, but a smile will.
Making goals while traveling is great (like when I swore off men in India), but just because I wasn’t on a man-hunt, doesn’t mean I should discredit another’s travels if they’re running around India hooking up with Aussie boys left and right.
Don’t punish yourself because you feel guilty that it’s not very “traveler-like”.
Yes, I think I will stay in and watch an entire season of Mad Men…and start eating the 50 pounds of junk food my mom sent me.
If you are doing something only because you feel like it’s what’s expected, or right, you are cheating yourself from the most fulfilling part of travel: enjoying it. If you’re going on a trip to “find yourself” just keep in mind, you need to BE yourself to find yourself.
Travel the world! Just as you are.
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This post is AWESOME. We live in Korea and the other day we went to get a burger and ice cream at McDonald’s. A girl can only eat so much kimchi! I felt so awkward though – were people thinking I was that stereotypical American? I was a little self-conscious during the meal, needless to say!
It’s crazy how much people stare, but it’s only the westerners, not that locals! Lol I wanna eat my TWO little burgers in peace.
I completely agree! It is so important to be who you are…I’ve realised this more and more the older I get.
I used to feel really self conscious about the clothes I would wear, because depending on who I was surrounded by they weren’t grungy/cool/trendy/vintage/hippie enough – but I just don’t care anymore.
Some days I like to dress like a 90’s reject with ripped skinny jeans and a tie dye t-shirt and others, I like to think that I look like a smart and respectable young lady. They way I dress reflects how I feel and who I am.
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” ― Bernard M. Baruch
Ok wait who is Bernard!? I always thought that was Dr. Seuss. Of course, if that is Seuss’ real name then forget I said anything hahaha I’m glad you dress how you like; I think it’s important while traveling.
A very honest post and I can completely relate. It’s hard to find a balance of being a local/expat/traveler. Sometimes I’ve found myself secretly scoffing at backpackers or study abroad students and I don’t have a good reason. Traveling can be done in many different ways and also you have to start somewhere — like you said, “There is no ‘real’ way to do it.”
It’s nice to hear that you can relate :)
This is such a charming read… I like you getting your coke and twix fix. Most importantly, I don’t like how judgmental a lot of people can be… especially among travelers. Isn’t that kind of the idea of being a traveler – being open minded and living freely? Why judge others for getting whatever fix they need to get through the day? This is also a good reminder for me because while I don’t think I am being untrue to myself in Mumbai, I am having a hard time listening to what I need when so few live without running water or electricity. Today, I felt guilty taking an afternoon of napping, but then I justified it by the fact that I have been off and on sick, so need to take care of myself. Why does it have to be about sickness in order to nap? Maybe I’m just tired and want to rest! Oh well… I think this is part of being in India, particularly for my first time. But overall, your message in this post is a great one for anyone, anywhere who decides to leave home and see the world.
It’s really hard to get past guilt, which is a layer I didn’t realyl delve into because it’s just too tricky. It’s hard to be out in Goa partying at a club with a 1000 rs cover while so many are suffering literally in the back of the club cleaning up for 100 rs a night… if that. but girl if you are sick and need a nap, take one! The guy working on the road will take a nap when he is sick too :)
I am so guilty of watching Real Housewives online while I am out of the country! I love that I can have pieces of home wherever I am in the world.
UMmm I love me some real housewives, Beverly hills is so good right now!!
I love this post! I remember getting the stink eye from fellow travelers when I said I wasn’t going to do anything one day in Thailand, I just wanted to stay in bed, watch tv, and have a “lazy sunday” of sorts. Sometimes when traveling we don’t feel like being “travelers” and that’s ok.
Just give em the stink eye back!
Definitely agree with this post, and I think a lot of your tips are crucial for long-term travelers. Sometimes you need a bit of Starbucks or a movie day or facebook if you don’t want to burn out! And like you said, it is so, so important to just always be yourself. There is no perfect way to travel- and I think that’s why it is so special! Though I will say it irks me when people just complain and complain about wherever they are, comparing it to how it’s not like ‘back home’. I’m definitely trying to work on not being so judgmental though!
Great post! We could all stand to be a lot less judgmental of ourselves, at home or on the road, and in turn less judgmental of others. I try to remind myself of this often: “do what you want.” It’s definitely a practice though between doing what you think you “should” do and what you want to do. Sounds like you’ve got it down :)
That’s a perfect way to put it- do want you want, not want you “should”
Thanks for cluing me in to that girl’s blog! I love that style because it reminds me of some of the tribal fusion bellydance costumes I used to wear as a bellydancer (see http://www.pinterest.com/kathleencordry/costume-ideas-belly-dancetribalsteam-punk/). If I lived in Goa I’m sure I’d dress like that, lol.
But you’re right, where’s the rule that people need to do stuff or refrain from other stuff? Whilst it’s great to get right into local culture, you have the right to live how you want. And you make a good point about people criticising travellers for doing things that locals actually do. For eg. in Cambodia everybody has mobile phones (many have more than one to take advantage of certain deals) and they are on them all the time. The reason they love them is culturally they want to stay connected with their community. And don’t travellers? You might live in Goa but you want to be up to date on how family and friends back home (or round the corner!) are going.
That’s exactly the point- that style suits you so you should dress that way if you want! and the funniest part about the phone thing is that I hardly use one anyways because with the time difference everyone back in Ohio is asleep when I’m awake, and here in India I have only a few good enough friends that we text, so I take my phone out maybe 1/10 of the time… so when the guy yelled at me it was like “you have no idea buddy!!”
I love this. When I was in Ghana I ate more burgers then I ever did at home just because I craved normal food. Home comforts are a good thing and definitely don’t mean you’re doing it wrong :).
haha good for you! Everybody needs a burger sometimes.
YOU GO GIRL! Ain’t no shame in my game~ lol
hahah! Thanks girl!
I think it is human nature to judge others based on expectations. It’s nice to hear that you and so many other travellers don’t have to become that ‘bo-ho hobo’ when traveling or living as an ex-pat. On our journey we don’t feel the need to try and be someone we’re not, but perhaps that is easy since there is there two of us and one of us would call the other out if we weren’t acting ourselves!
I definitely haven’t become a boho hobo, although I’ve always been boho in a fancy wish-I-ashley-olsen kind of way :) I think having a travel buddy does help keep you “real”
Reminds me of when my partner would post on Facebook while we were away and friends would be all ‘shouldn’t you be out sightseeing?’ You can’t be out and about 24/7!
Ahhh, I hate that nonsense! You can post anything you want. There will always be people like that and the only way I deal is by ignoring it.
I so agree! Even when home and not traveling, there are times when a weekend lying around reading (or watching TV – but I read more) and eating whatever-the-heck-I-feel-like-without-worrying-about-a-balanced-diet is exactly what I need, so the same can be and has been true during a long journey. Thanks for providing a reference I can point to the next time this issue comes up for discussion!
No problem, I’m glad you can relate!
Loved this post, it’s so true! Sometimes you just get sick of the local food. After 3 weeks in Thailand, all I wanted was a cheeseburger (it is NOT the same there, but still). Of course, now all I want is the 35baht pad thai… :) I wish some travelers would be less judgmental. I found the ones that are the most judgey are also being the least like themselves.
I gave in and had a cheeseburger in Thailand and got food poisoning. Breakers on Ko Phi Phi! Beware lol. and I completely agree with your last sentence!
This was really great! “When you get done with your trip, you’ll be more confused than before.” That was such an insightful thing to say! Happy I found your blog, keep shining! :)
Well, you’re the first to call me insightful! I’m going to have to re-read this comment when I’m having a bad day hahhaa. Thank you :)
Those who call themselves travellers, “world citizen” and think very highly of themselves for being so “tolerant”, so “open to new cultures”, and then… they go ahead and judge and stereotype ! So hypocrit !
This being said, I sometimes see people spending time looking down at their phone instead of looking up and watch the sunset. But it’s fine. It’s their way of enjoying their travel : they may not be getting as much as they can out of their trip, but they are getting as much as they WANT and that’s all that matters !
Yeah, I think that each person can do it their way. My thinking on it is, if I see someone on their phone, maybe they aren’t a tourist, they might live there and watch that sunset every day! So you just never know what their deal is :)
Yes, totally agree with this post! I eat at McD’s abroad for the same reasons I eat it in the States (which is rarely ever) – because it’s quick, convenient and dependable. I never drink Starbucks at home, but when I’m travelling it’s a nice treat and the extra caffeine helps me get through busy days of sightseeing. I’ve gone bowling in Shanghai, to the movies in Bangkok and hung out in an air-conditioned mall in Singapore. So what? I enjoyed myself immensely and that’s what travel is all about!
Yay good for you! It’s all about doing what makes you happy while at home and while on the road.
AWESOME post!! I’m writing a novel about a young woman finally having the guts to get out and travel, and this has been exactly what I needed–some more insight. Thank you very much!! Reading posts like these just give me more fuel to want to get out there sooner!
Glad to give you some insight :)
Isn’t the whole idea of travel not to conform or for that matter simply be yourself. Vikram hasn’t worn ironed clothes in abouy 10 yrs now. He used to go to work in casuals, was given lots of warnings but he worked harder to make up for that. Now while travelling its gone to the next level.
i just discovered it and i found really cool your post, when i was younger and i started traveling by myself there was times that i kinda felt guilty for not being a “real” backpacker, it took i while to find out that as mi mom says “lo bonito para mi, puede no ser bonito para ti” we are all different, and the way we choose to be rolling aroud its our choose.SALUDOS, AMAU.
your mom is totally right :) just be you!!
I love this site so much!! I am also a nurse who doesn’t really like being a nurse but I think of it as a way to fund my travels. When in Thailand last year, my travel friend made fun of me because I didn’t like eating the soup and other meals that are traditionally eaten for breakfast. I ate the “American” eggs for breakfast every day that I could find them! Who really cares?
Good for you doing what you want. Plus American eggs are served everywhere to the point they aren’t even American: )
It’s really a pleasure to read your blog. You’re very inspiring! In this post you’re writing exactly the same things that I’ve been always telling to everyone about traveling, that there is no right or wrong way to travel, and it’s useless to judge other people if you really don’t know them or their story. It’s so nice to read that!
I’m also planning a backpacking trip in India. This blog will help me a lot. Thank you so much for all the information and tips!
Thanks for the comment Chiara! I’m glad the blog will help & I hope you enjoy India, email if you have any questions :)
Love this rant Rachel made a chuckle! So true what you say about the Pys clothing and scene and the people who judge if you eat a pizza or even worse beef burger in India! :)
love your story. keep writing.
I hope you are doing great!
I stumbled upon your blog today and have been reading all about your travels and now, your life in Goa and even though I have read and follow quite a few travel blogs, this article of yours really stood out to me!
I have to honestly admit that I sometimes struggle with just being myself and enjoying travel the way I want to without paying attention to what others might “think” about the choices I make, for example choosing to eat at a McDonald’s in a foreign country versus a local restaurant.
Your post was really eye-opening and I think anytime in the future I will ever be in a situation again where I will have to make a choice that I will struggle with, I will remember your post, forget about others, and do what I want and love. Because others don’t see that I may have eaten and tried the local cuisine the past 30 days and today I am simply craving a good’ole Hamburger from McDonald’s, which by the way doesn’t taste the same all across the world!
So THANK YOU :)
awesome!! and you’re so right mcdonalds is totally different in each country haha but I’m happy that this post resonated with you … you gotta keep it real!
This article is so relatable! I always feel kind of guilty whenever I do anything else than sightseeing/hiking/etc. on travels or if I get anything else than local food. I’m glad I found your blog :)
Hey Karina, I’m glad you found my blog too! Don’t feel guilty – do whatever makes you happy when you travel :D
Thank you for posting this!!!! I am one month into my solo trip around the globe and have had to eat McDonald’s and Starbucks bc I just freaking wanted to! And have been lazy some days not doing all the things I should have but it’s exhausting to be on the move every day! I have literally wondered if I was traveling the “wrong” way or if I want cut out for it like others. I am! And I just do it differently … so amen sister and thank you again!
Allison – just do YOU! lol i love it :) have a great trip and thanks for getting in touch :)