It’s incredible how quickly you learn stuff in a new country; often, because there is an absolute NEED to know. Whereas back home, you have most things figured out and you feel comfortable, so many things are new in a different country.
I’ve been in the Philippines some eight hours and I’ve already had two hundred questions. Starting with the weather: how much hotter is it gonna get? how much more humid is it gonna get? Money: how much money should I withdraw from the ATM? How much does a bottle of water cost? Water! Can I drink tap water? Can I brush my teeth with it? If I boil it, is it drinkable? What about in neighboring cities? How do you make a phone call to a local number? What about a long distance number?
For many of these and other questions, you’ll have to learn through experience. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, you’ll have to live through some things and make some mistakes before you gain that experience. You’ll have to make mistakes.
Even with the power of the internet, you might go do a quick search on the drinkability of water in a city like Manila, and you’ll get thirty-five different responses! Some say yes, they’ve been living here for 10 years, and have had no issue. Others say no, only bottled water. Or no, not in the city, but yes in other areas. So, regardless of how readily accessible the communal life experience that is the internet might be, there is a good chance that you’re just gonna have to trust your gut, use the limited information that you might have, and do what you think is best.
Whether you want to or not, you will learn when placed in a difficult, or at least new, situation. And I think that might be some of the lure of travel. By living and staying in a single location all our lives, we become accustomed to the ways of life of our home. We get comfortable. And that’s great. Who DOESN’T want comfortable?
But the problem is that we don’t learn. We aren’t challenged. We don’t gain those new experiences that keep our mind and body active and alert.
And you don’t have to go far or to a different country! Even neighboring cities can be different enough. Someone from San Diego might not know how to get around LA traffic, or when they can or can’t jump in the carpool lane, despite only being 100 miles away.
When I went off to college, I moved from LA to Pittsburgh. It was certainly a culture shock. Even the language was a little different. (What’s “yinz?” Why does my sandwich have coleslaw in it? And why did that guy just make a left before me??) While not exactly life-threatening, I learned a few things. I learned about how different people are, even within the same country.
It feels good to learn new things and to have wisdom. It feels good to be challenged and feel accomplished. Traveling gives you the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, experiment a little, and grow in so many levels.
It’s now been nine hours in Manila. I still don’t know if I should have brushed my teeth with tap water. But, if I get the runs on day one, I will have learned that, even for brushing your teeth, water needs to be pretty friggin’ clean.