Jenni and her husband have been living a nomadic life since July 2013. Their latest journey took them through Mexico and Central America and they are currently planning the next leg of their journey. Jenni is a writer and has written for several online publications including bootsnall.com, Vagablogging.net and her own website Witness Humanity.
How did you get into traveling?
Believe it or not, I didn’t get my first passport until I was in college. A friend suggested we take a trip to Costa Rica and it just sounded too good to pass up. So, I went. I went to India the next year with he same friend and really fell in love the country. I realized I loved traveling and made it a priority after that. In July of 2013, my husband and I finally took off on an indefinite journey around the world. We had learned that there were many people doing just that and we realized that, if we set our minds to it, we could make it happen too. It’s the best decision we ever made.
What was your most intense culture shock experience? What did you learn from it?
In all honesty, the most intense culture shock experience I have ever had has been when I re-entered my home country (the USA). I find that when I am traveling it’s quite a bit easier to be open and I expect differences, challenges, and down right odd experiences. When I get “home” it’s just very jarring sometimes to try to reintegrate back into a culture that is supposed to feel familiar but doesn’t. Coming back for a visit recently I had a very hard time navigating strip malls, overpriced dinners, wastefulness, and “model homes”. It all felt very odd. I’ve learned that my home culture is the one that I can look at most critically and ask questions about without fear because I lived it for so long. That’s a comfort one does not have when navigating a new culture.
What has reverse culture shock been like for you?
Exhausting. Not to repeat myself but it can be incredibly difficult to re-enter your “home” culture after being away for an extended period. Things stand out that didn’t before. Inconsistencies and hypocrisies jump out at you. Reconciling where you have been and what you have experienced with what is happening back “home” can be quite a challenge. It’s an ongoing process for me that often leaves me feeling exhausted. It’s worth it though, to gain that perspective that comes from time spent away.
What is your favorite travel learning experience? Anything that triggered a profound shift?
A profound shift? As in, only one? Ha! One of my favorite learning experiences has been an ongoing process and has come through medical care. I have had the unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on how you look at it) luck of requiring medical services in several countries. The very first time I needed to visit a hospital in India, I realized quickly that medical care abroad was very different from what it is assumed to be. I have since had several reasons to seek medical care abroad and each time I have received top quality care from kind, attentive professionals, in comfortable settings. To top it off, none of my care broke the bank. That’s a miracle in the eyes of a US citizen. Medical costs in the US can easily bankrupt a person. Now, granted, I was in a position to seek private care and that certainly made a difference in standards but none the less, I learned quite quickly not to fear medical care abroad. This is a favorite for me because it means I feel safe and able to find help if needed, all over the world.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’d like to encourage anyone out there who is on the fence about travel to make the leap. The rewards are greater than you know.