For me, arrival day is always the worst. That can be the case for short trips, too, but it’s especially true for long-term travel. The situation when I arrived in Santiago was this:
I arrived at the airport and made it through immigration. Thankfully without any holdup. I collected my bag, after needlessly having worried, for the last twenty hours or so, whether it made it onto my plane after that one really tight connection in Munich. But there it was, waiting to be picked up. I got through customs without trouble.
Now, I needed to make my way to the city and my hostel. No problem though, there were plenty of taxis at the airport. The driver hardly spoke English and my Spanish is far from great, but I had the address and somehow we managed to communicate where I needed to go and how much I needed to pay.
On the drive to the hostel, I got my first impression of the city. And this is where I got my moment of „what the hell am I doing here?”
Doubts and homesickness
No matter whether a city I visit is beautiful or ugly, it will always be foreign. On that first drive, that tends to be all I see. I realize how far away I am from home, from everyone and everything I know. And I’m scared. What if I don’t like it here? What if I have trouble adapting? Worst of all, what if all of this was just one big mistake?
Of course, at this point, it’s way too late to do anything about it. I can only continue to the accommodation, check-in, and try to feel as much at home as I can.
I often relax a bit once I make it to my room. It gives me a little bit of privacy. Nothing like being home, but at least I’m not out there on the streets among all those unfamiliar people.
Still, that first afternoon and evening are the hardest. After a few days I know I’ll feel much more relaxed about the whole situation. I’ll be more familiar with everything. The hostel, the city, the people. But right now, it’s all scary and foreign and overwhelming.
First steps into familiarity
Sooner or later, usually still on that first day, I do need to leave my room and make the first exploration into town. If only to find something to eat. Making his first step out is probably the scariest part of the trip. Much worse than boarding the plane or making my way to the accommodation.
At least this time, in Santiago, it wasn’t all that late yet. I was here in the afternoon, it was still light outside and there was nothing to be scared of. After I returned from that first outing, I already felt a lot calmer. The next day, I was, in fact, looking forward to seeing more of the city. That’s how it usually works. I’m scared of that first, unfamiliar step, but once that’s behind me and I feel a tiny bit more familiar with the new place, I’m happy to go exploring. That’s why I’m here, after all.
Giving my introvert-self time to adjust
I think being an introvert does play a role in feeling this way at the start of a trip. In general, introverts like their familiar, low-key environments and feel most comfortable in situations they know well. New people and too many new impressions can quickly make us feel overwhelmed and stressed. So it’s only natural hat being in a strange city for the first time, without anyone I know, would make me feel nervous and apprehensive.
It also makes sense in this context that I have these feelings a lot less when I’m travelling with someone else. It just helps not having to face all this novelty on my own.
Still, being nervous about new places is no reason not to travel to them. I just need a bit more time, in the beginning, to get comfortable with the new situation. That’s why slow travel is so great for introverts. It gives us time to enter into new environments slowly and take everything at our own pace. If anything threatens to become overwhelming, we can take a step back. That may mean spending an afternoon at the hostel, maybe reading a good book, rather than going out. Or it may be avoiding the community areas in the hostel the first few days and rather staying in the room because you can’t deal with this many people yet.
As long as you go out eventually and get to do the things you came here for, there’s nothing wrong with travelling slow and taking breaks in between. Especially in the beginning, when everything is still new and unfamiliar. It will create a much more enjoyable travel experience for introverts.
How long do you need to adjust to a new place? Have you found any tricks that help to get over that initial overwhelm? Share in the comments!