Monthly Archives: April 2013

(reverse) Culture Shock

I experienced little to no “culture shock” while journeying through Asia. I arrived in Asia knowing that life would be vastly different and brought an open mind that fit this realization. Instead of shock, I felt intrigue and let the beat of new cultures and environments pulse through my veins.

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Coming back to the West, I have experienced what one might call “reverse-culture shock.” This “shock” hit me hardest when I entered a gas station in rural Arizona while driving from Sedona, Arizona to San Francisco, California. I stopped at one of those massive truck stop filling stations in Yucca, Arizona–the first stop on my trip and the last exit before the California border and elevated gas prices.

I stepped out of my car to be surrounded by smiling and arguing families in minivans and solo drivers in large SUVs with smug looks on their sunglassed faces–I think I was actually sized up! Suddenly, something so simple and completely ordinary became surreal. My perceptions slowly began to shift–I felt as though someone had spiked my water with some mind-altering substance.  Then I walked into the gas station’s attached “mini”-mart…

Country music was blaring and I saw the first actual cowboy boots off of fashionistas in a long time. And nearly everyone was wearing them. People were looking at me strangely (perhaps because in my unease my hands were glued in “namaste”)–and I got an almost confrontational vibe. And then there were the packaged “foods” and bucket sized drinks being carried out and slurped by what will surely soon turn into giants and giantesses. And then more county music and the nauseating smell of hot dogs slowly rotating under a heat lamp (and the knowledge that they could have been there for years). Welcome (back) to rural America…

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At only about 10 am or so, I ran back to my car, put it into the completely uneconomical and  un-eco-friendly sport mode which I reserve only for “emergency” situations….and sped away, back to the controlled solitude of my comfortable car and the distant mountains of the Mohave Desert. Thinking of the food and realizing I hadn’t eaten in hours, I reached over for an organic apple when my appetite returned after this jarring experience. Back in the peace of my mobile sanctuary, I realized that, for practically the first time in my life, I had experienced culture shock.

Note: Those of you that know me well hopefully realize that, while there is some truth to this post, I am having fun making fun of my quirks. But, I have definitely experienced some reverse culture shock–like people stopping for me when I cross streets with the aggression needed for surrival in Asia (and visiting truck stops in rural Arizona)…

New Beginnings (the journey ends)

20130416-104147.jpgMy journey in Asia has ended and I have returned to the United States where I am currently visiting my parents in beautiful Sedona, Arizona (of the countless countries and places I have visited, Sedona continues to be one of the most beautiful and special places that I have ever been. I feel so blessed to have grown up here). In total, I traveled out of the country for six months and 10 days although I could have gone on indefinitely had money and time allowed. What an amazing trip! I spent roughly a month in Nepal, three and a half months in Southern India, one month and a half in Cambodia, ten days in Thailand, and five days in Singapore. I have finally caught up on sleep and have recovered from my long and sleepless flight from Singapore, to Tokyo, to Los Angeles, to Phoenix, followed by a two hour drive north, to Sedona.

In Singapore, people were surprised that I traveled so long—especially when they found out that I did so alone. “Wow!” they would say, “did you have any moments of amazing insight?” “Shouldn’t you have those everyday?” was my reply. And I did. And I still do. But I will say it is so much easier to be “gifted” this wisdom and intense appreciation for life while traveling.

So, of course I had many eye opening experiences on my travels. Far too many to count and probably far too many to even remember! But, they were all meaningful and all served to help me stretch and grow as a person.

Now, what are these insights you might ask?

Firstly, my work in India (especially) showed me something that I already knew—that I need to spend my life working for the improvement of health and happiness in others, particularly women. We women are such incredible creatures and while the world has made enormous strides in helping to better our lives, we still have a long way to go and I would like to be part of this push. Thus, spending so much time with women in need made my conviction that I need to be a doctor even stronger because, as a doctor, I can combine all my passions and, in doing so, do so much more to improve the lives of others.

13919_10200340754134414_1825709756_nSecondly, the world is a strange and beautiful place—and my traveling days are far from over. I had so many beautiful experiences and exchanges that I cannot even begin to capture in words. However, I will try: Eating corn after a long motorbike ride on the side of a dusty dirt road in rural Cambodia while attempting to converse with the seventeen year old girl tending the shop. A little boy using me as his pillow on a bus ride while his grandmother gave me apologetic glances. Stumbling on places of such intense natural beauty that my atheistic mind declares—“Alas! God must exist!” The realization that there is just so much more to discover…

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A morning prayer

Thirdly, the sentiment that I literally constantly felt flowing through my veins of—“How lucky am I?” On my entire trip, I had next to no bad luck or unpleasant experiences. Even when it appeared that disaster struck (the loss of a rented motorbike) redemption followed (it miraculously was returned). I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunities and experiences, good and bad, that I have had and I absolutely love my life. I am incredibly grateful to be alive.

The next portal?

The next portal?

Lastly, the journey didn’t end when I stepped foot on American soil. I feel as though my life is a (nearly) blank canvas that I can fill and consciously create whichever way I choose. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to create the life that I want for myself and plan on taking full advantage of this rare freedom. I will continue to live honestly, continue to grow and expand… I have so much life and learning ahead of me—it will be exciting to see where it all takes me.

Note: I have been asked by several people if the end of my trip means the end of my blog. In case you haven’t noticed, I love writing so the answer is probably not. Anyways, I have at least two more posts about my trip that will come out at some point in the future so look out for those. Also, thank you all for your continued support!

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