Things to consider when planning your trip

There is a lot to think about when you are planning a trip. Whether it’s booking accommodations, finding a decent flight, or finding out the cost and location of things. It can cause you to overlook some other important things. Below are some things you shouldn’t forget to think about when going abroad.

Scams

Traveling isn’t all fun and games. Sometimes, you will need to be smart enough to read situations really well to recognize when you are being conned. Both in Asia and Europe, this was something I encountered. Whether it’s taxi drivers in Bangkok telling you certain sites are closed so that they can take you somewhere else instead, or some dude from Cyprus showing genuine interest in you to eventually take you to a club in some grand conspiracy to rob you of every dime you got. There is even a chance you could be led into a Japanese brothel somewhere in Tokyo when you just wanted to find a coffee shop. LUCKILY FOR ME, I never fell into any of those traps. Amen, advice given to me was to read the news and look up stories of people who have been scammed in all sorts of ways, so I was able to avoid having any of these bad stories myself. There are lots of testimonies online you can run through to get an idea of what to look out for, such as someone coming up to you randomly asking for a cigarette or inviting you to join them for drinks. There are a lot of really nice and generous people out there, but it’s always good to play your cards safe. #DoYourResearch

The price of rice

In an extension to the above point, getting an understanding of how much things cost and how much you can expect to spend will save you a lot of grief. The tricky parts are those fees you rarely think of such as a ferry tax, departure tax, and all sorts of other miscellaneous expenses you did not expect. So it would be a good idea to look at what your trip will entail and have part of your budget put aside for that, so just in case there are any surprise fees you are forced to pay you won’t need to break a sweat.

Having a contingency plan

Imagine leaving your card in an ATM, then later realizing you’ve been robbed of $1000 bucks lol. In Europe, my credit card had to get canceled, my own fault. Now here I am, semi-panicked,  like shit, I’m screwed. I only had a limited amount of cash left on me, and it would be a while before my debit cards would be up and running again. I had to call my bank and have them send me emergency cash while I was in Istanbul, then have them mail me a new card. I had a couple stops to make in the next few days, so I had to time it perfectly so that I would comfortably be in Serbia and Croatia then arrive in Amsterdam where the package would be delivered at my hostel. This was pretty frustrating but in hindsight was quite easy. The stressful part was when I was in Istanbul trying to collect the money from Western Union, my middle name was on my Western Union account, but not on my passport. I had to call and have that all sorted out before I could actually get my money. Nobody in the Turkish bank could speak English well enough so you can imagine how it went. Make sure you account for emergency situations. Definitely, talk to your bank before traveling, let them know where you will be and how long you will be there. Learn the procedures for gaining access to cash where you are. Hide money in your suitcase, in socks, in random pockets of your shirt, etc. You get the idea. Have a plan.

Holiday Calendar

I expected to binge drink the entire time I was in Thailand for the first time. To my surprise, in the middle of the week, it was Buddha’s birthday! That meant that there was no alcohol available anywhere, and restaurants and most establishments closed early leaving me with nothing to do that night. So it almost felt like a waste of a day since I hadn’t prepared for that. Again, if I had chosen to go to Beijing during their New Year instead of the Philippines, I would have also had a pretty dry time since it is a national holiday and most things are also closed, making it difficult to find something to do. Granted it all depends on why you are going somewhere, but it’s worth checking if your trip falls on any special holidays. Vice-versa, your trip could also fall on a holiday which could be great.

Travel time

This depends on your preference, but the least favorite part for me is long drives, ferry rides, and flights. Some like it, I don’t. 5 hours in a bus sometimes crammed with a bunch of other people isn’t always my favorite thing. There are times where it was cool if I met other people who were down to chat, granted I was in the mood for it myself. Have a small book to keep you occupied, update your music on your phone with stuff you won’t get bored of for a while, or just have something to do, even if it’s packing a handheld gaming device. It can help you get through those long rides.

Having snacks is also key. You might not be able to stop anywhere that has food for a long time and you may not always like what you see. Pack some medicine if you get carsick and/or if you wanna get some sleep. Quite useful for when I was busing overnight from London to Paris.

Planning a trip, especially for the first time, can be overwhelming. Even more so if you are traveling alone. To maximize your experience and cut out bullshit that you don’t wanna deal with, follow these four easy steps for planning any trip. Happy travels!

If you have any questions about this post or travel in general, feel free to send me a message!

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Why I love long layovers

Do you hate long layovers? I don’t. I was returning to Korea from Thailand and had to stop off in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for about 10 hours. As much as I like to travel, I don’t like airports.

Luckily! I had a friend from high school who was living in Malaysia right when I was passing through. I had not seen him in about 10 years. I shot him a message saying when I was landing. Here is how the conversation went:

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He picked me up from the airport, then promptly hit up the bar, got some photo shoots and shopping squeezed in.

I got a quick tour of the city, which was beautiful and clean, and even got a glimpse of a political protest nearby the twin towers. You would have seen these iconic buildings by now.

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The one thing about KL which is a must do, especially if you are a football fan, is to visit a Mamak. Mamaks are cafes where you can watch matches, get curry, naan bread and other things to eat amongst one of the most delicious drinks called Bundang. It consists of evaporated milk or condensed milk flavored with rose cordial syrup, giving it a pink color. The drink is an adaptation of rose milk served in India. It is often served cold and is refreshing af, especially in the summer while having a plate of curry.

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With enough time to catch a train back to the airport and catch my flight, I was able to get a taste of Malaysia in under 8 hours.

Moral of the story: 1) Stay in touch with old friends and acquaintances, you never know when you are gonna need them and, 2) Take advantage of those long layovers.

Dealing With Reverse Culture Shock

I’ve been back in Canada for two months now after living away for more than three years in a completely different culture. During my first few weeks back it was like being a fish out of water flopping on ice after getting off at the wrong bus stop.

When I first arrived in Korea I was mind blown and clearly out of place. Nothing was familiar other than the typical American franchises which were still displayed with what looked like alien letters to me. It was great. It was exciting. Everything was new. Exploring the districts was always an adventure. I would look down an alley full of lights and shops and want to go down every street. I didn’t mind getting lost. It was one of the best parts because you find all sort of new things you might not have found so easily. You are okay with taking things slow to figure out where everything is. Like learning to drive, you take it slow in the beginning, then the more you drive the faster you’ll be able to go. Hopefully responsibly. This was always my approach also when visiting new cities.

Now imagine where you live right now. You know where every shop is, you know where the best deals, coffee shops, routes, and shortcuts are. You have a routine and are generally comfortable. Think how you would feel if you forgot all of that and your home became foreign to you and you are no longer comfortable being on the move. It’s like learning to ride a bike all over again. It can be very frustrating. This is what I felt like being back in Toronto. I had to continuously double-check directions and as sure as I would be of where I was going I still made wrong turns. Walking into a coffee shop was a shock to me at first like “Oh yeah! You speak English here”! Obviously, I know they speak English, but I became so conditioned to being spoken to in Korean that it made me feel awkward. Learning to ride a bike again was just the very tip of the iceberg.

Being an expat is a special type of lifestyle. You live a particular way that you wouldn’t in your home country and that soon becomes the norm. The way you think and approach situations are different and you tend to adjust to whatever the laws of the land are. At first, it is weird and is no doubt hard to adjust. The way culture shock works is that it hits you in stages.

Stage 1: Honeymoon Phase: You love everything and how different it is. This lasts up to 6 months.

Stage 2: Irritability and Hostility: All the subtle cultural differences start to get to you. “Why do they do this? Why do they say that? At home, we do it like this”. In my experience, this will go on for another 6 months before you enter the next stage.

Stage 3: Gradual Adjustment: Everything starts to settle and make sense. You begin to understand where your place is.

Stage 4: Adaptation and Biculturalism: You feel totally normal and nearly integrated. For me, this is where I could use Korean in nearly any situation I needed it, I could read the social and cultural cues better and get with the program. I assimilated, being able to be a part of one culture and still acknowledge mine.

I struggled a bit here because now I had to balance between being a West Indian-Canadian in Korea. Tri-Cultural? More on that another time. 

Finally, Stage 5: Re-entry shock: Reverse culture shock is a bitch and that is what this article was meant to be about. me returning to Toronto and readjusting. I changed a lot. The way I think, the way I respond and behave in social situations. I was still me, but different.

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Certain things did not matter to me as much as they did before, but they still did to a lot of my friends. My social circle as an expat was a very different vibe than my social circle in Toronto and especially so amongst my West Indian circle. In comes that awkward feeling (As if I wasn’t awkward enough, to begin with).

I found myself interested in only certain conversations, small talk isn’t my thing either. Even though you know this, experiencing it really resonates. When you leave home to go abroad, life doesn’t really pause and wait for you. I missed a lot of pivotal moments in my friends and family’s lives. I was not a part of their growth and they were not part of mine as much as I thought. It is not that we grew apart, but just like I had to re-learn my way around the city, I had to re-learn my friends and family. 3 years is a long time to be away. Even with Facebook and Instagram, there is a lot that isn’t shared. Take the time difference into account, it is pretty difficult to stay in touch. Broad stroking, many people who do not make an effort to assimilate to the new culture they are living in usually are stuck in the irritation and hostility stage of culture shock and yearn to go back home and the re-entry stage is much easier. Those are the ones who do experience a new way of life, but not as deeply. Instead, they would put the extra time on Skype and are missing home a lot more and so are closer in touch with their life back home.

So, after two months, I think I’m finally getting out of the reverse culture shock and am used to being back home again. Some things are still difficult to deal with but with time I won’t feel like such an alien. But in today’s world where mobility will soon be seen as a way to survive, I think it is something we all need to learn to cope with.

Now enjoy this photo of me sitting awkwardly somewhere in Seoul 🙂

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