The initial culture shock can be the hardest experience for many travelers. Learning how to use a beday, finding a large quantity of protein, and discovering that your mother had done your laundry for 21 years can be difficult.
If you have an iPod, don't bring it. There is a time to listen to Dave Mathews Band, and your favorite J-Pop, and it isn't while you wander around the Louvre searching for Baroque paintings of women's breasts.
When traveling for a short period of time, many people feel guilty from sleeping. They think as though they are wasting precious time, and would rather wander around half asleep, missing the subtle and important features, because they refuse to sleep more than four hours a night. In truth, sleeping is the one thing a visitor shares in common with a native. Sleep like the natives or sleep with the natives, either option is better than being mentally and physically exhausted in a different continent.
After being away from home for a few weeks, a visitor may get homesick. Calling home, or reading a book in one's home language helps. A stronger dose of America can be found in the McDonald's and Burger Kings found around Europe. If you visit these places, be forewarned: They serve vegetables and there is no dollar menu.
You have no chance at meeting women. The women here wouldn't grind on you if they were your transmission while you were learning to drive stick. The only chance you have of getting noticed is when they are looking down at you.
Never think you are blending in. You stick out in your voice, your clothing, and the way you hold yourself. No matter how you attempt to hide your origins, gypsies will harass you and your bill at a restaurant will be 40% higher.
So there you go. Sure there are other places in the world to visit. Asia and South America are popular among people with low self-confidence. But for the people who don't need constant reassurance that they are better off than others, I suggest visiting a country with laws. So visit the continent that brought us global imperialism, the holy wars, and shitty internet cafes.
Are you concerned that you may be a character trapped in a Tom Waits song? Be smart and learn the warning signs before it's too late. Also, it's too late. It has always been too late.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
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