Our Toothbrushes Are In:

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Apr 302013
Nov 212014

The longer we travel, the more couples like us we discover or even meet. Like us they dreamed about traveling, like us they made the big trip happen, and like us they document their experiences online. In the Two Toothbrushes traveler interview series we introduce fellow traveling and blogging couples to share their story and draw inspiration from them. If you’d like to participate or know a couple who would, please visit the series page.

AIFU logo Two Toothbrushes: A traveler interview with AngloItalian

Dale Davies and Franca Calabretta are a British-Italian full-time traveling couple of vegetarians who have been searching around the world for interesting architecture, amazing art, memorable design, and local music since the summer of 2012. Their blog is AngloItalian Follow Us.

Where are your toothbrushes, where are they headed next, and why?
Our toothbrushes are currently [November 2014] sitting in a glass in the bathroom of the apartment we’re renting here in Berlin until Christmas. They’ll only be there for a little while longer though as we’re soon heading to Italy to enjoy our first family Christmas in many, many years.

AIFU1 Two Toothbrushes: A traveler interview with AngloItalian

Dale and Francesca are loving their time in Berlin.

What’s your definition of home?

Home is wherever we’re alone together.

It might seem strange to hear that from a pair of travellers who love to meet people in foreign countries around the world, but there’s something about when it’s suddenly just the two of us walking down tiny streets away from the masses that we really love.

How do you make yourself feel at home wherever you go?

Couchsurfing very quickly taught us how to immediately relax in new situations and places as you’ve no choice but to get to know your new environment.

We both learned that the best way to feel at home is to be open, to be willing, and to throw yourself into things without worrying too much about the consequences.

AIFU3 Two Toothbrushes: A traveler interview with AngloItalian

AngloItalian hunt for architecture, art, design and music around the world.

Why this (or the most recent) trip, why now (then)?

On the final day of our last holiday prior to travelling we both asked each other, “How can we go back to work after this?”

Sitting there sipping our espressos and reading our books outside of a cafe in Venice, we just couldn’t face returning to the life we’d left behind a few days before hand, so as soon as we got back we began to read all we could about travelling the world full-time, and just under a year later we started the same trip we’re still on now.

AIFU2 Two Toothbrushes: A traveler interview with AngloItalian

“Before travel we were just as peculiar,” say Dale and Francesca.

What were your greatest challenges in making the trip happen? How did you overcome them?

It might sound cliche, but there weren’t any challenges in our way to following our dreams to travel.

Actually making the decision to travel might have been a challenge, but it really wasn’t. It was as easy as choosing whether to have cereal or toast for breakfast.

What do you enjoy the most about your traveling life?

We both really enjoy the slow pace in which we’ve been travelling this past year. Housesitting and using sharing transport options like car sharing or the train has really let us travel slowly and enjoy the countries we’re travelling through at a more relaxed pace, especially so with housesitting as we can stay in one city for months at a time.

AIFU4 Two Toothbrushes: A traveler interview with AngloItalian

Dale and Francesca are always happy to spend some time in the sun.

Share a moment from your travels that you will share with future generations.

I don’t think there’s one moment that we’ll share, but we’d love to share the feeling that comes with prolonged travel and exposure to new lands and the people that make them so special. There’s so much we’ve learned from our travels that we’d love to share with people, hence why we keep on writing our travel blog.

Nov 182014

Before my return from the round-the-world trip, I expected to experience reverse culture shock, even as an immigrant of only 11 years. Talon Windwalker’s recent blog post at 1 Dad 1 Kid about his and his son’s persistent reverse culture shock one month after returning to the U.S. from years of traveling reminded me of this. But hard as I racked my brain for instances of reverse culture shock in my 4+ months since returning, I could only trace a few mild symptoms that would barely make for a diagnosis of culture shock. What am I missing?

15099030586 275c022680 b How to prevent reverse culture shock

What is reverse culture shock?

As a traveler you may suffer from revers culture shock when you return to your country of origin (U.S.A. for the present purposes) and feel any of the following:

  • Distance and disconnect from your acquaintances, friends, family be it because they cannot relate to your traveling experience or because you cannot relate to their lives as they unfolded while you were gone.
  • Conflict between your values, attitudes, and beliefs as a traveler and those that are the mainstream in the U.S. or among your friends and family.
  • Confusion and uncertainty about your place in your own culture.
  • Restlessness that results from the yearning for traveling, that is, a strong sense you miss and would rather be traveling.
  • Frustration and a sense of isolation springing from any of the above.

How to avoid reverse culture shock

More than one traveler has suffered from symptoms of culture shock. When I lived in Slovakia, every time I returned from trips abroad I’d experience severe reverse culture shock, getting angry at the condition of public bathrooms or upset at poor customer service. When I returned from the RTW trip to the U.S., my adoptive country, I could not fully relate my traveling experience to my friends and in-laws and they could not comprehend it on all levels either. I also continue to have itchy feet, feeling I could leave on another trip tomorrow. So why am I missing out on reverse culture shock? Given that I am neither superhuman nor a heartless bastard, I can think of the following reasons:

  1. I am an immigrant. This is the biggest reason I haven’t suffered from much of a reverse culture shock. Eleven years in the U.S. has been sufficient time for me to acquaint myself with the American culture and to adopt some of its customs and values. I also learn something new every day and still experience immigrant’s pain from time to time (I write about this on my blog American Robotnik). Not only did my experience as an immigrant purge the culture shock out of my system over the years, I continue to consider this place foreign.
  1. I prepared for the return. As I outlined in posts after the return, I was ready for the re-entry physically and mentally. I knew what to expect: I knew my friends wouldn’t be able to relate completely to my travel adventure, I knew I would miss traveling, and I knew what city and culture I’d be returning into. In a way, I got the reverse culture shock out of my system before I even got back.
  1. I changed my identity. Part of the preparation for re-entry was to rethink my attitude to life. I reshuffled my identity and adopted the outlook of a permanent traveler. To “live at home like a traveler” [Thoreau] means remaining an outsider in the local culture, observing it and reflecting upon it the same way I used to in other countries (being an immigrant helps). The life of travel at home also means seeking out experiences and going out of my comfort zone, as if I were just visiting. I’ve also connected with Portlanders who traveled long-term. Challenges remain: I slide into old habits and get too comfortable to go beyond thinking like a traveler at home and actually acting like one. But I’m off to a good start.
  1. I don’t take it personally. Travelers raised in the rhetoric of American exceptionalism tend to have high expectations of their home culture. As an American, albeit of only 3 years, I do too. I’m also allergic to people, Americans or foreigners, travelers or homebodies, denigrating it. It only took a few weeks back in the U.S. for me to slide into the local conception of time: whereas on the road I adopted event time, now I find myself wanting everything now and loath to wait. I reflect on this development with bewilderment but instead of disparaging the culture that causes it, I take a deep breath and return to my newfound event-time center. As a Slovak, I’m a born-and-raised expert in complaining, but I refuse to play that game any longer. It’s easy to complain, much harder to do something about it. Being an immigrant and a permanent traveler allows me to maintain a certain distance from the local culture, my expectations of it reasonable, and my emotions about it in check.
  1. I returned to a familiar place. We made a conscious decision to return to Portland, Oregon, where we’d lived for 8 years before the trip. Sure, returning to where I left from makes the life of permanent travel more difficult and because of the disconnect mentioned above I feel a drive to seek out new friends. But returning to a familiar environment and circles has made the return much easier. Plus I like it here: Portland is a great place to live and so it was an easy place to return to. What’s more, some aspects of Portland that I enjoyed a lot before the trip, e.g. the craft-brew scene, improved while I was gone.

Granted, not everyone can be an immigrant like me. But reverse culture shock can be prevented, if not avoided altogether, by taking a few precautions.