A Culture Shocked Wendy

After spending a couple of weeks on one of our projects, no volunteer wants to go home. I know I would rather wake up with a baby elephant in my back garden, playing with children who appreciate your love more than anything or helping those who are much less fortunate than myself, than spending 9-5 in a stuffy office worrying about staplers, invoices and work politics.

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Mr Incredible, certainly has a hard time adjusting to office life

Heading home is never easy when you have been having the time of your life for the past few weeks. In the same way that volunteers have to adjust to the customs and everyday life of Thailand, they also have to re-adjust to their lives back in their home countries. This is otherwise known as;

Reverse Culture Shock

I know that I had a really hard time when I first went back to England after being in Thailand. I found Thailand to really fit my personality and the way that I think that people should treat each other. Being back in England with a culture I am not fond of, weather that is bad to say the least and people who don’t treat each other as nicely as they do here, made me genuinely sad.

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When I visit Suvarnabhumi Airport I see a lot of people not looking forward to going home

I found it difficult to merge myself back with the routines and expectations of a Western county. For some people, they manage to slip back into their lives very easily, being only enriched with their time as a volunteer but some people however, myself included, find life lacking.

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Reverse Culture Shock can manifest itself in many forms from;

– Boredom

– Reverse homesickness

– Misunderstanding of your behaviour from others

– Feelings of alienation

– Negative feelings towards Westerners and

– Restlessness and being irritable

There isn’t anything wrong with feeling like this, but it can be very hard to adjust to going to back to your previous life after having such a life changing experience. The best ways I found to deal with Reverse Culture Shock was to just leave the country as soon as possible. I understand however that this is incredibly impractical for most people though so if you aren’t able to just up sticks and move then you can always try some of the following ideas;

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Talk About Your Experience

When you first get home, everyone you know will be desperate to hear all about your experiences and the adventures you have been getting up to. Embrace this time. Use it as a means to relive some of your most incredible, hilarious and meaningful memories. Sometimes just talking about what you miss will be enough to stop you missing it for a while; just be careful not to turn into the person that is always saying ‘When I was in Thailand…..’, ‘In Thailand…’, ‘That reminds me of when I did_____ in Thailand…..’. Your stories can become boring for people when you constantly tell them 😀

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Skype to the rescue; as always

Stay In Touch

Make sure to keep in touch with all of the people you met on your journey that mean something to you. Who knows when you might be able to meet them again. Losing connections with people that were involved in an important part of your life is terrible and something I hope never to do. Talking and keeping in touch with the people you met along the way is also a great way of reliving your experiences together so that you don’t ever feel too far away from your adventure.

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Scrapbooks or Photo Albums

I know this is definitely more of a girly thing to do but I can assure you, that if you pick up lots of small trinkets during your trip, like napkins from restaurants, cards from hotels, postcards or even something simple like leaves and keep hold of them, then you will be able to create something that you can look back on in years to come and smile at. I keep everything, so I have a lot of scrapbook type things, but if you aren’t the hoarding kind like me then photos, quotes or even written notes can have the same effect. Writing down hilarious things in the moment will ensure that you don’t forget them and when you look back on it in a year, five years or even fifteen years, you will remember that ridiculous moment.

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Stimulate Your Senses

A great way to get over Reverse Culture Shock is to eat your favourite foods from your trip. For me that would be any of the food I eat at Gois everyday, she has the best Goi Djab, Salads, Pad Thai and dishes I don’t think even have a name. If I went back to England and managed to find somewhere that could make those dishes I know that I would feel like I was back in Thailand; something that would definitely make me happy!

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Be a tortoise for a bit 🙂

Take It Slow

If you really are struggling to integrate back into your Western life then take it slowly. I know it can be terribly overwhelming to visit something as normal as a Walmart or an ASDA, when you have been used to living in the Elephant Village, or spending time with children who will never even hope to have access to such a large amount of food. I found it difficult to adjust to how much the Western world wastes in comparison to Thailand, here people make a living from recycling, where as in England people don’t really care too much about what happens to their trash. Don’t try to push yourself to adjust quicker than you feel you can and let people know that you are having some trouble so that they can help you as well.

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Plan Another Trip

This doesn’t always have to be back to the same place, for some, travelling itself it the thing that they miss. By having something to work towards that you know will make you happy will provide you with a distraction and also motivation; two things that will really help you with dealing with Reverse Culture Shock.

If you are wanting to experience our life changing volunteering projects for yourself then just take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, there you will find everything you need!

After that you can always relive your Thailand experience or get excited about your impending one by following my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Jet Lagged Wendy

So over the last few posts I have been talking about how you can save in order to travel and then how to save whilst you are traveling.; hopefully these were helpful for your planning, decision making and your wallet.

Now it is onto one of the most important and irritating issues that occurs with traveling;

Jet Lag

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What Is Jet Lag And How Do You Get It?

Jet lag is extreme tiredness and other physical effects, like memory lapses, felt by a person after a long flight across several time zones, which disrupts the bodies 24 hour rhythm. It is basically the spawn of Satan, nothing good ever comes from jet lag. It can take a few days to a few weeks for your body to adjust to a new time zone. This can make things difficult if you are bouncing from time zone to time zone in a short period of time.

You don’t even have to be flying in order to get jet lag, don’t let the name fool you 🙂

Travelling in general will have this same tiring effect, that can often have a HUGE effect on everything from your sleeping pattern to your health.

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When Is Jet Lag Worst?

For me I would say that travelling backwards in time screws me up the most. Traveling East disrupts your natural body clock as your body thinks it is much later than it actually is and it is very difficult to adjust. Traveling to the West is often not as bad but jat lag effects people in different ways for different directions.

My Secret Jet Lag Cure

I was looking up how to deal with jet lag a couple of years ago and found this article on the best ways to deal with it. A lot of the advice was preparing your body before you even left your home, not sleeping on the plane unless you were in the ‘sleeping time’ of the country you were visiting and lots of other stuff, that realistically, most of us don’t do.

Most people continue to work up until the day before they travel so adjusting your body clock, even if it is a good idea, is not something most can do.

One thing I did find worked though, which I NEVER thought it would, is something very simple, and to quote my sister ‘crunchy’. ‘Crunchy’ is a term my sister uses for natural things in life, like not letting her children play with plastic and encouraging them to get down and dirty in every situation.

So are you ready?

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Get earthed

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Confused?

Yeah, I was as well when I read it. ‘Earthing’ yourself is something that connects your body with the earth and its natural magnetic field after traveling above it for such a long time.

Once you land in your destination and you have gotten to your hotel and checked in, you need to find somewhere with grass, dirt or sand, then kick off your shoes and immerse your feet in it. Have a sit down or a lie down, just make sure you are connected with the earth for about 30 minutes. Once those 30 mins are up just go about your daily business.

How does earthing work?

There is something about ‘being at one’ with the Earth that resets your body clock and allows you to beat jet lag 🙂

I try earthing every day which I generally achieve my sitting at my friends house and relaxing in his garden. I have noticed how I am not as tired after travelling or a busy day once I have ‘earthed’

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A very simple explanation of how it works is that the Earth holds tons of negative electrons and when we connect with our bare skin, most notably with your feet, they buzz on up inside of us and overpower all the positive electrons (the bad stuff) that is wreaking havoc on our body causing inflammation, imbalance and general all round wackiness; including jet lag.

You probably still have that specualtive look on your face right?

I figured as much haha

Just try it

You never know

What do you have to loose anyway?

If you want some less ‘crunchy’ ways to get over jet lag then maybe these tips will help you 🙂

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Sleep BEFORE you leave.

Sleep deficit will make jet lag worse.

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Drink Warm Water

Drinking warm water for the duration of your flight is an Ayurvedic technique. You know that ancient Indian philosophy that created meditation and yoga; it was their idea. I feel as if they know their stuff (They also did the whole bare foot ‘earthing’ thing too).

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Nap During the Flight

Take short little naps on the flight when you feel sleepy. It will help build those reserves. If you can sleep for longer make it so that you sleep during the sleep time of your arrival time zone.

Obviously don’t deprive yourself of the sleep your body needs, but if you can time it to your new country, you will feel the difference I promise

As soon as you board your plane set your phone to the new time zone and play to that if you are unsure of the time difference 😀

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Eat Small Meals Frequently

Make sure you are filling your body with lots of healthy food and avoid junk food as much as possible when flying or traveling. The sugar will make you crash, which is never a word that sits comfortably on a plane right? Having sugar highs and crashes will screw your body clock up, try to eat slow releasing energy foods like pasta or bananas if you can, but small plane meals are good as well.

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Go For A Wander

Walking and stretching will get that blood flowing. It’s great for so many reasons, plus you might even be able to talk your way into business class!

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Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

Caffeine is the stimulant used by millions to keep them awake or to wake them up first thing in a morning. Don’t use it whilst travelling. Nothing could be worse. It is like having nothing but sugar but it ends worse than a sugar crash. Just trust me with this one.

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Find The Sun

Being in the sun fills your body with lots of healthy and happy vitamins that basically cheer you up, so as soon as you get to your destination, try to find some sun. This might be hard if you fly to somewhere that isn’t sunny or it is night time. but as soon as you can, go out into the sun and soak up the goodness

These are the things that I have found most useful from my own travels, if you have any tips or insider ideas then please feel free to leave a comment below. I am always on the look out for ways to not feel crap after travelling 😀

To see what you can do when you hit your destination, take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page for some amazing volunteering opportunities that will change your life 😀

And as always take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages, to see all the silly junk I get up to.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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