Travel changes a person. Adapting to an entirely new culture and people not only alters the traveler while they live in that culture, but also changes them irrevocably when they return home. Getting used to the world around you is an important travel step, and one Amanda Kendle is intimately familiar with. Amanda lived in three foreign countries during her twenties, and is the master of slow travel. During her lifetime, she’s developed a travel mentality that can be summed up in one word: “thoughtful.” She fosters the more cerebral aspect of travel, using her thoughts to rationalize and relate to her experience. Host of The Thoughtful Travel Podcast, Amanda shares her thoughts on reverse culture shock, cultural adaptation, and returning home.
Amanda once lived in the Kansai region of Japan, and, one day, was given an opportunity to visit this old home again. The only downside, though, was that she was sent with a guide who was to accompany her all week, and she was not the kind of person who liked to travel with others, preferring to do her own thing. As it turned out, her guide was a 68-year-old woman named Mariko who had spent thirty-odd years guiding foreigners around Japan. As such, she had amazing stories to tell, and words of wisdom for everyone. When Mariko and Amanda experienced an earthquake together, and visited the earthquake memorial in Kobe, Amanda learned that Mariko was a survivor. She remembers well what she learned from Mariko and her Rincon vegetables that day: “You have to look through to the future, because that’s the only way to get through life.”
There is no one utopia in this world; there are good things and bad things about every place you can travel to. Hayden and Amanda talk about the pockets of the world they enjoy traveling to, and how they prefer to look for the reality of a place, beyond the plastic. Hayden enjoys going over to “the other side” for a day. Amanda discusses adapting your travel style to your life, and Hayden shares a well-executed metaphor comparing travel to experiencing a play on stage with the actors. The two of them explore the main differences between passing through somewhere, and living in the place. Amanda discusses the reactions of people around her. The longer she lives in a place, the better she understands it, and she believes that spending a longer time in one space lets you better understand the nuances and quirks of a culture. Truly, travel wouldn’t be the same without the trial and error of learning new cultural experiences - learning what’s rude, what’s not, what’s the correct way to act. Getting over those cultural speed bumps is the best way to adapt to the realities of different places, and immerse yourself in a new culture.
Adapting to and overcoming reverse culture shock is a major part of experiencing slow travel. Returning to somewhere that you’ve lived before and adapting to the culture again after you’ve been traveling to other places is exceedingly difficult. Travel brings growth; it opens your mind, changes you into a new and different person, with different thoughts flourishing. After all that happens, it’s hard to interact with people who are expecting the old you to come back unchanged from traveling, and to slot right back into your old life again. Missing out on years of shared culture and adapting to your new and changed relationships with one another is a long and bumpy road. However, regaining that feeling of belonging that might be missing when you return from travel is possible. Amanda talks about topics like reverse culture shock on her podcast, The Thoughtful Travel Podcast, where she has several guests per episode talking about one specific travel-related topic. They discuss all kinds of things we learn from travel, and reasons that we should travel. She thoughtfully reminds everyone that, much like she once told her grandmother, that she is not a ballerina, and she shares this pearl of wisdom: “Whatever excuses you are making, get over the excuses, and get out there. Go traveling. Life’s too short not to. The more people travel, the more we can deal with cultural differences. If we all travel, we can all save the world.”