Category Archives: International Travel Tips

Top 10 Reasons I Miss the USA

USA Top Ten List / Philippines by IshIsm.Com
Top Ten Reasons I Miss the USA by Ishism.com

This is a list of the various things I miss about the USA during my research trip in the Philippines. It is not necessarily a cultural study … these are just the things that I, an American traveling in the Philippines, have missed about the USA.

10. Dairy

Vitamin A is one of the primary nutritional deficiencies in the Philippines. And, because of their geographic location and culture they simply do not eat a lot of dairy products. There is a saying, “Filipino cannot survive without rice.” Well, there should be another saying… “American cannot survive without cheese and milk.”

The food here is very good, but when I get home I want a giant chocolate milkshake.

9. Internet Access

I have WIFI, occasionally. However, because of my creepy internet stalker, NBC prevents me from watching the Olympics because I am in another country. I have looked for other internet access locations to view the Olympics, but being in the Philippines has proven to be an interesting challenge in staying globally connected. In the United States I could watch the Olympics and get streaming internet access 24/7.

8. Culture Shock

Culture shock. I drink coke in a bag, everything is shorter than I am accustomed to including doorways, and the water is not safe to drink. At the grocery store, packages of food are sold in much smaller sizes. Many things look similar to what I expect in the United States, but then they are slightly different. In the United States, my brain does not have to work extra hard to recognize Coca-Cola, toilets, or safe drinking water.

7. My Voice/Broken English

This is my fault, not the Philippines. I say it is my fault because I cannot speak Tagalog. I am traveling in a foreign country, but the only words I can understand are some of the Spanish words I pick up. So my speech pattern in English becomes broken into shorter sentences so that I can be understood… and I have adopted a slight Filipino accent which seems to make my words more recognizable.

6. Warped Time

Well, on the West Coast it is 6:31 p.m. Friday in the USA, while in the Philippines it is 9:31 a.m. Saturday morning. So that is one adjustment. The other adjustment is never knowing exactly when someone is going to arrive. An 11 a.m. meeting might mean the meeting starts at 10:30 a.m. or 11:15 a.m.

The warped time is not as bad as what I experienced in Uganda, where 11 a.m. meant sometime that day between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. I like knowing that if I say 11 a.m. is the time we meet, then people are going to arrive at 11 a.m. ish, you know… within a few minutes. Starting at 10:30 a.m. throws me off and starting really late frustrates me.

5. Toilet Paper

At public restrooms toilet paper is not provided in the stalls. You can bring in your own, or pay for toilet paper outside the stall. But there is none provided inside the actual stall itself. In the USA, I do not worry about toilet paper being in the stall. Sometimes the stall is empty, but I don’t go into the restroom KNOWING there will be no toilet paper provided freely.

4. Spiders and Lizards

In America, I normally do not enter a restroom looking at the ceiling to make sure there is not a giant spider or some type of lizard which might drop on my head. In the Philippines I have learned to check to make sure nature does not fall on my head!

3. Hiking

This is probably more of a familiarity issue. I do not know where is safe in the Philippines to hike. I am an introvert, so getting away from people is important for me to recharge emotionally/spiritually. In America one of the things I loved about Colorado was being able to hike in the mountains on a regular basis.

Here in the Philippines I have not had the luxury of being able to get away for half a day to hike and recharge.

2. The London 2012 Olympics

I learn about what is going on with the USA Olympic team through the international version of CNN. I am very happy for Michael Phelps, the Women’s soccer team, the Women’s gymnastics team and all the other wonderful gold medal winners. However, I have been unable to watch anything really… not even on tape delay because of where I am at in the Philippines… and because NBC does not share much internationally. Bummer.

1. Friends/Family

The people I have met here have been wonderful. I believe they genuinely want to help me. But I am also an American, which means when I travel to most countries the world becomes Disneyland. (This has not been true in Europe when I was in London). Everyone is nicer to me because I have the image of American money and the image of American warships. I do not think people are afraid of me, but I do know that because I am an American I get treated much better than the average Filipinos who are walking on the same streets and shopping in the same stores.

Some Americans get the warped idea that people in other countries are much nicer than Americans. This is not necessarily true. You see, I am a guest in the Philippines.

Because of the “niceness”… I miss friends and family. My friends and family know I am poor, and they have no issue telling me when I do something stupid. They are genuine. In the Philippines it feels like I am told what will make me happy.

Sometimes when I am mobbed by 3 sales clerks in a store while a Filipino customer is ignored, I imagine the song “Be … our… Guest! BE OUR GUEST! Put our service to the test!” ….

So, this is my top ten list of reasons I miss the USA. What do you think? Leave comments below and share with others! Have a wonderful day!

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International Travel Tips

So I have traveled to Uganda, China and the Philippines. I have learned some things from friends and other things from experience. Hopefully the following will help you in your current or future international travel plans. Take it with a grain of salt, because where you travel may be very different from where I have traveled.

  1. Get a passport as soon as you know you are traveling somewhere — if you don’t already have a passport.
  2. When getting your visa I like using a visa processing service. You pay more but it goes smoothly.
  3. Make sure you leave plenty of time for shots. Some shots require more than one visit, so if you wait until the last week before you leave you might not get all the necessary shots.
  4. Leave plenty of time at the airport to get through security. Unless you are flying into San Francisco, because the fog delays cancel out any need to rush through security.
  5. If you have several connecting flights, make sure your luggage has strong identifying tags on the outside. Why? Because if you travel enough eventually the airport is going to misplace your luggage. My wife and I arrived in the Philippines on a Wednesday night… our luggage arrived on a Friday morning. At some point the airport is going to keep your luggage in Hawaii (or some other place) while you are having fun in a different country. If possible, pack one or two changes of clothes in your carry-on bag… plus travel size toothbrush, deodorant, etc in your carry-on. The airports provide small paper tags, but if you can get something stronger… pay for it attach it. The paper tags tear off pretty easily.
  6. If you are married, and there was a name change involved for one (or both) of you, get your passport changed now. My wife and I got married last year, and she did not change her passport because she did not expect to be traveling internationally any time soon. But then an opportunity opened up, and the scramble to change the name on her passport was a headache because of the time constraint. So if you have traveled internationally before, even if you don’t think it is a priority, get the passport change done.
  7. If you travel to a place with giant spiders… realize the giant spiders look bigger and hairier in person than they do in the pictures. Seriously, what is up with the giant jumping spiders in the Philippines? At least these aren’t poisonous!
  8. If you are an international traveler people are going to beg you for money. So be ready for it. Especially if you are American. China wasn’t too bad, but Uganda and the Philippines seem really bad for begging. I was not prepared for beggars when I went to Uganda (my first international trip)… and getting mobbed by several Ugandan children begging for money was overwhelming. Which brings me to #9.
  9. If you are an international traveler you are an easy target for pickpockets. Why? Because you are experiencing culture shock and can’t focus on anything. When you are unfocused, pickpockets have laser guided precision.
  10. Pack plenty of medicines to help you deal with the exotic new foods that taste great but keep you up at night!
  11. A taxi driver in China lied to me about a fare. That is my fault for being an American and not fully understanding the language. Do your best to pay attention to the fares you pay. He said it was $10, I thought it was $5 because I had already taken this route a couple times… but he insisted it was $10. I asked someone later, and they confirmed that I had been lied to.
  12. A taxi usher basically pushed my two friends and I into a cab when we arrived in Beijing. It was a nice minivan cab. We had asked for one of the regular car cabs, but we were pushed into this one. When we arrived at our hotel we discovered we were paying $90 for that cab ride! This made us angry because we had wanted one of the small ones, but the usher (physically guided us) into the expensive cab. So, don’t get bullied into a cab… because the guy who is “escorting” you into the cab is probably getting a percentage of the cab fare and wants you to get into the expensive cabs.
  13. Last point… if you are from America, then people in other countries assume you have lots of money. It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO or a waitress. American = money.

I hope this helps prepare you. This list is not comprehensive but hopefully it should help get you started traveling internationally!