midlife travel summer culture shock

Midlife Travel – Summer Culture Shock

After spending five months of the summer living on a very small rock in the eastern corner of the Caribbean Sea, it was a bit of a summer culture shock for us to have to leave. We’d been living a simple life – albeit with plenty of rum – wearing very few clothes and sleeping under the tin roof of a little house beneath a mango tree.

Our diet had been nutritious but basic, mostly consisting of tropical fruits and rice and beans and fish, as fresh supplies only came to the island twice a week by boat. Our halcyon days on this beautiful island called Utila had all been spent dancing on the sand or bobbing about in boats, swinging in hammocks, swimming in the sea and scuba diving.

Resulting in happy times, glorious memories, and a healthy weight loss.

On our island paradise, we’d managed to lose our pale-skinned intolerance to the incredible heat and intense humidity of the Caribbean and we’d even stopped caring about being constantly drippy with sweat or having crazy hair. So, by the time carnival time came to the island, we were wearing our beads and knocking back rum shots with the best of them, having become blissfully dark-skinned and bohemian.

We’d even developed a kind of tolerance to the torturous bite of The No See’Ums otherwise known as sandflies.

So, as you might imagine, by the end of our long hot summer, contemplating our departure and transit through the USA on our return to the UK before eventually travelling onto Europe, with the thought of a long winter ahead of us and never mind the concept of actually having to wear shoes again, was a little unnerving at best.

This post is all about my personal midlife travel experience of culture shock!

Culture Shock. Happy times and glorious memories with our island friends..
Happy times and glorious memories with our island friends…

My Experience of Summer Culture Shock

Unreasonably early on a steaming hot Caribbean morning, we took a tuktuk to the island’s airstrip and a small plane over to the mainland. The mainland being Honduras in Central America. Then we took a same-day connecting flight to Houston USA.

We were sad to be saying goodbye to our island friends. But in Texas, we totally embraced our culture shock by eating a big juicy Texas steak and to drinking lots of American beer, before flying onto Fort Lauderdale Florida.

We’d planned to spend a couple of days at Lauderdale-by-the Sea. We were thinking along the lines of ‘same heat as before but lower humidity and less jetlag’ in order to gently acclimatise to the more developed world before our return to London and having to endure the UK’s much lower temperatures and bigger time difference.

In the UK we’d planned week-long stopover and we were looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends.

Culture Shock. Leaving our Caribbean island for the Honduras mainland.
Leaving the island for the mainland

What is Summer Culture Shock?

Culture shock refers to the feelings of disorientation, confusion, and anxiety that individuals may experience when they are exposed to a culture or social environment that is significantly different from their own.

This phenomenon can occur when people travel, live, or work in a foreign country or even when they move to a new region within their own country where the cultural norms, values, customs, and social practices differ markedly from what they are accustomed to.

Culture shock is a natural response to the challenges of adapting to a new cultural environment.

It can be managed and overcome with time, patience, and an open-minded approach embracing the new culture.

Not everyone experiences culture shock in the same way or to the same degree.

Factors such as personality, prior exposure to different cultures, and the level of support and resources available can all influence how individuals cope with cultural transitions.

The Four Stages Of Culture Shock

Apparently there are four distinct stages of culture shock!

1.) Honeymoon Stage: In the initial stage, individuals may feel excited and enthusiastic about the new culture. They may find everything fascinating and enjoyable.

2.) Crisis or Disintegration Stage: As the novelty wears off, people often start to encounter differences that challenge their assumptions and ways of doing things. This can lead to frustration, confusion, and a sense of isolation as they struggle to adapt.

3.) Adjustment Stage: Over time, individuals may begin to understand and adapt to the new culture. They develop coping strategies, learn the language, and become more comfortable with the local customs.

4.) Acceptance or Integration Stage: In the final stage, individuals have successfully adapted to the new culture. They feel more at ease, can navigate social situations with confidence, and may even develop close relationships within the new culture.

Savvy Travellers

We normally consider ourselves to be savvy travellers, having circumnavigated the earth twice and having explored sixty countries over the past ten years of travelling as nomads. But, while in Florida, we appeared to have skipped the Honeymoon Stage of culture shock and gone straight into the Crisis Stage or Disintegration Stage!

Something strange had happened. We realised we’d left something behind on the island.

And that something was our sundried brains.

Janice Horton acclimatising to culture shock on Fort Lauderdale Beach
Acclimatising on Fort Lauderdale Beach

Summer Culture Shock Stages 1-4!

Our first inkling of frazzled-mindedness was when we left the airport in an Uber heading for our hotel without even bothering to stop and pick up our main backpacks from the luggage carousel. I know – what were we not thinking?

We eventually realised our mistake a few miles down the road and had to ask our confused driver to turn around and backtrack to the airport. Only to then leave our phone on the back seat of our ride when he did eventually drop us at our hotel. Two days later, through luck and help and angst, we managed to get our phone returned to us.

The third mishap involved temporarily losing our passports and what a heart-stopping drama that all was!

Anyways, after enjoying a few days in Fort Lauderdale in the Adjustment Stage, we then flew to London with Norwegian Air on their new Dreamliner aircraft. After arriving in Gatwick, with our eyes bleary and our bodies weary with exhaustion after a night flight of drinking wine and watching back to back in-flight movies, we took the train into London City Centre.

It was September, we were still wearing beach clothes and flipflops, but pleased to find that summer had not yet left the UK.

We raced around England Scotland and Wales as a crazy pace visiting family and friends. Then, after a week in the UK, we flew to France, where we had taken on a housesitting assignment.

In France, I’d be spending a few months writing the next books in my Backpacking Series of romantic adventure novels!

The Backpacking Housewife Series by Janice Horton

I guess we’d finally reached the Acceptance and Integration Stage of our Summer Culture Shock!

What’s been your experience of summer culture shock?

Do you ever experience culture shock after your summer holiday?

Have you read any of my books?

Let me know!

Leave a comment in the box below…

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6 comments

beautifulwildthings -

Happy to stumble across your blog, you’re an inspiration! 🙂 x

Reply
JANICE HORTON -

Thank you so very much – for stumbling across my blog and for your kind words. I’m very happy to have inspired you!

Reply
Ryan Biddulph -

What a fun time. I experienced similar culture shock but after 2 years in SE Asia. Tough to leave but now I am used to heading back to the USA.

Reply
JANICE HORTON -

Hi Ryan! We also spent 2 years in SE Asia – with almost a year in Thailand and also lots of time in Malaysia. We loved it so much and will one day go back to see more. Do you have a favourite place in SE Asia you would recommend?

Reply
Ryan K Biddulph -

Hmmm….that’s tough! Probably Bali, but specifically in the rice fields about 20 minutes outside of Ubud. Quiet, peaceful and serene, it feels like a different world out there. FAR different than the hustle and bustle of Kuta and the building chaos that is Ubud, at least from a few years ago.

We also love Chiang Mai but again, the villages about 15-20 minutes outside of town. Our fave is Pong Noi as we did 3 house sits there since 2017. What a fun spot. Nice, peaceful, serene way of living among mainly Thai folks and a few farang expats.

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JANICE HORTON -

Ryan, you’ve got me curious about the areas you mentioned in Bali. We spend a couple of days in Bali – Ubud and an afternoon/overnight in Kuta – before making our way over to the Gili Islands where we spent several weeks. I wasn’t impressed by Bali at all – but also realise that my impressions were based on such a limited time there and so I’m tempted to give it another chance one day. Like you, I LOVED Chiang Mai. I went there with a friend to explore all the temples specifically and of course now realise there was so much around the area that we didn’t do. Housesitting in that area sounds wonderful!

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