Study Abroad Resources

Travel & the Honeymoon Phase

For many travelers, time in a particular destination will never migrate beyond the honeymoon phase, the period in which everything is simply magical. In the world of travel, the time after the honeymoon phase is deep culture shock, as in you hate everything about your new surroundings-the language, the people, the food. You just want to go home.

When I studied abroad in Costa Rica, I never really enjoyed a honeymoon period. My first month living there, I was enduring a stressful host family situation on top of college classes I felt I was sinking in the majority of the time (political science classes and Spanish literature are no fun when they’re being taught in a language you are not 100% fluent in). While my living situation improved, as did my class situation (thankfully, classes ended and my internship started), a honeymoon it wasn’t. The culture shock certainly abated but Costa Rica is still a developing nation complete with problems of crime, really bad roads, cockroaches, and extreme poverty. If anyone is able to find a honeymoon phase in those things, well, you must be from another planet. What I did become was comfortable with my surroundings and routine, minus the rare occurrences I felt unnerved from a safety standpoint.

Image via iwasanexpatwife.com

Image via iwasanexpatwife.com

However in Spain, I definitely did have a honeymoon phrase that I went through and loved. I loved that it was February and that I could sit at an outdoor cafe with friends. I loved the incredible beauty of the Barrio Santa Cruz. I loved being in Europe where I didn’t hear stories about the rampant crime and how it was not safe to walk alone after dark (Costa Rica here). While I was going through my love phase with Seville and Spain, ultimately the honeymoon ended and I became annoyed with things. I hated the smoke (going out for one evening meant you would smell horrendously from all the secondhand smoke). I hated all the dog caca (Americans are considered not as cultured as Europeans, yet we definitely strive harder to collect our pets’ waste instead of just leaving it on the public streets). I hated my classes (well, not all, just Spanish grammar, which of course was my first of the day which made it that much more painful to endure). I hated getting sick like I did after living there ten days. I caught a really bad head cold that lingered and lingered and then the next month I contracted food poisoning, which plagued me for weeks until I finally saw a doctor.

About a month and a half into my semester in Spain, I traveled to Paris for the weekend by myself. Since arriving in Europe, it was the first time I had left Spain. Being in Paris for a fleeting 48 hours felt marvelous. I loved hearing French being spoken and not the raspy Andalusian Spanish. I loved the chicness that Paris exuded (Seville is hardly small but it’s still no Paris). I loved being in the same city that had enthralled so many famous personas. On the day I was to return to Seville, I was thoroughly depressed. This was made worse by the fact that my flight was delayed a couple of hours. At the age of 20, I was stuck on Paris for weeks after my short visit there. And even though I never would have admitted it then, I know had I stayed longer than a week or two in Paris , the honeymoon phase would have ended and out would have come my resentment towards all things Paris, all things French.

Once my food poisoning symptoms were finally gone for good and the weather got warmer, I grew to enjoy Spain again. I definitely was able to see it in a more positive light the week my dad visited. The weather was terrific with spring having sprung, and just having a familiar face to show your surroundings to is always a good and enjoyable instance.

In the travel world, the honeymoon phrase and ultimate descent into a form of culture shock is a natural thing. It’s normal for the honeymoon phase to not last forever because, let’s face it, we’re human. Most people who travel to a new country will never leave the honeymoon phase, especially if they’re only there for a short time. But if you ever live somewhere abroad for longer than a week or two, don’t rebel when the honeymoon phase hits you. Just accept it but more importantly, take a moment to acknowledge your different surroundings. They’re foreign and unique for a reason and there’s immense value in that.

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Lance
    August 13, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Nicely done! Unfortunately, when I went to Nepal, I never got the honeymoon phase. It was the early days of the civil war, so we went right into the “crisis” phase, but quickly moved to adjustment. Nice post!
    Lance recently posted…The Local View: An Afternoon at La Jolla Cove, CaliforniaMy Profile

    • Reply
      Julie
      August 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      Thanks Lance! I can imagine that a civil war would definitely have you bypass anything honeymoonish and as you said, go straight into crisis phase. I honestly can’t even begin to imagine how frightening that must have been.

  • Reply
    Becca Niederkrom
    August 14, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Love that graph, can be so true! I do my best to stay in the exploring mode even when I’m home. I think my graph would be a manic zig zag between Honeymoon & Crisis . . . lots of honeymoon time and small little crises.
    Becca Niederkrom recently posted…Chocolate-Covered Friday: 5 Recipes for the Chocolate LoverMy Profile

    • Reply
      Julie
      August 14, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      Thanks, I wanted to try to have something that would actually show the stages! Ha ha, honeymoon and small little crises is normal at time. I definitely feel that way myself. And being in a exploring mood is always a good path too 🙂

  • Reply
    NZ Muse
    August 15, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Ain’t that the truth. Having done a 6month trip I’ve come to realise my ideal sweet spot is probably 2-3 months.
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    • Reply
      Julie
      August 17, 2014 at 8:50 am

      Thanks for commenting and kudos for doing a 6 month trip! I’d love to be abroad that long somewhere but I want to be based “somewhere” and just take smaller trips. But yes, nothing stays perfect forever, we are human after all and life does catch up to us 🙂

  • Reply
    Lucy
    August 20, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Very true – getting out of the honeymoon phase is one of the perils of long-term travel but I guess it does give you more of a realistic impression of what living somewhere is really like than just the highlights you get on a short trip. Though it doesn’t have be somewhere abroad, I’ve gone through a similar curve in new cities in the UK, especially London when my curve was more like a constant wavy line fluctuating between love and loathe!
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    • Reply
      Julie
      August 21, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      I completely agree-there are countless destinations that have always been “pristine” in my mind but but visits to those places were always less than a week. The life of a local is decidedly different from that of a tourist 🙂 And yes, the honeymoon phase definitely applies to a domestic stance too!

  • Reply
    Reginia Cordell
    August 22, 2014 at 11:32 am

    I think the honeymoon phases lasts the entire trip when just traveling. When going to a place for an extended time, or relocating as an expat, I believe it’s thing the honeymoon phases wears off or a bit thin.

    • Reply
      Julie
      August 25, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      I agree that for most people, it’s quite easy to stay in the honeymoon phase the entire trip. Travelers in that regard very rarely leave their tourist bubble. And yes, being an expat introduces a whole slew of issues that you definitely don’t encounter as just a tourist.

  • Reply
    Bailey K.
    August 22, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Luckily for me, I have a million interests and I always want to see and do EVERYTHING, so rarely does that “honeymoon phase” end for me, even if I’m in one place for months. I’ve never lived abroad, though, only traveled for long periods.
    Bailey K. recently posted…SPACE NEEDLE | SEATTLE, WAMy Profile

    • Reply
      Julie
      August 25, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      That’s great you have so much to keep you busy! I do feel though that when you live somewhere, you get introduced to another whole spectrum of things, the good AND bad. But hopefully you will always stay in that honeymoon phase!

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