When I first left Australia for long term travel in 2009, the first country I landed in was Egypt.

Although I had been abroad several times before, it had all been to pretty much first world countries in Europe and the U.S.

I definitely was not ready for what happened on the first day.

Arriving in Cairo I was picked up by a driver who was paid to take me to the hostel I had booked.

Unfortunately however as we began driving I began to realise that the way I was dressed and had my hair cut was raising eyebrows.

I'm not sure why, but for some reason before leaving I had decided to get a military style 

buzz cut and was dressed in green pants and 
jacket that resembled military clothing.

And despite my friend telling me the day before leaving that I look Jewish I completely ignored him.

So as I am sitting in this car with this guy, I am passing through neighborhoods which kind of shock me - everything

was broken.

The roads, the windows, the doors, the apartments. 

This is beautiful Phuket in Thailand. A real budget travel destination. Beds starting from just US$5.

The city had seemed like it had been hit by an earthquake and no one had bothered to clean it up.

PANIC SETS IN Then as we pass what seems to be a war memorial for a recent war between Egypt and Israel, the man looks back at me in the rear view mirror and says:

" are from Israel!!"

"What??!! No, no Australia!! Australia!! Christian, Christian!! " I replied in a panicked tone.

"ISRAEL ISRAEL!!" He shouted back angrily.

"Many Egyptians died in this war!!" He continued with a wild look in his eyes.

"Oh Jesus" I ironically thought, this is it. This is the end. This guy is going to park around one of these broken ass side streets and slice my throat open.

There goes my big adventure, ended before it's even started.

Panic started to set in as I realised I probably should have waited a couple of more days for my friends to come with me and not gone ahead without them.

Thankfully however, despite being passionate about the war and insisting that I'm an Israeli, the man was harmless and soon returned to his previously calm and polite demeanour.

I arrived at the hostel in one piece and with no problems apart from shock haha.

Most people don't experience such extreme situations when they travel and certainly not on their first day!

How would it feel to enjoy a nice meal on this lake? This is beautiful Phuket in Thailand. A real budget travel destination. Beds starting from just US$5. That's one coffee at Starbucks!

Racism is a very ugly thing, and being on the receiving end of it (whether you be Arab, Jew or Japanese) can be very stressful.


Despite that unique experience, the other stressful part was seeing the third world conditions people lived in.

The revolting smell of the open sewers in parts of Cairo, the random goats on the street, the intensely loud non-stop constant honking of car horns because of almost no traffic lights, the people who send their children to follow you around until you give them money, the intensely dirty smog that makes you constantly cough, brought about by a government that doesn't care enough about its people to legislate pollution limits...

This is the hidden Railay Beach just outside the city of Krabi and is accessible only by boat. Beds starting near this wonderful paradise from just US$5  per person.

It was all a big change from what I grew up with in Australia and can be a little shocking when it gets thrown in your face all at once.

OVERCOMING CULTURE SHOCK Luckily though, I had a way to stay calm and grounded through it all. 

I took (and still take) 10 minutes every day to listen to some meditation music.

When I do, I feel so calm afterwards, so relaxed, and so much more open to experiencing new cultures from a place of openness than before the meditation.

The meditation music I use is Tibetan. It's called Rest In Natural Great Peace and It's by a guy called Sogyal Rinpoche.

It's been a real gift and a blessing for me for a few years now and keeps me totally calm and grounded when I've just had a stressful experience while traveling.

It's not about believing in anything and definitely not about praying to anyone (but if you are curious about the science behind it check out this research done at Harvard and how the US military and Google are using meditation.)

It's just about closing your eyes, relaxing your body and listening for 10 minutes (I play it twice).

If you've never tried meditation even once in your life, it's worth trying it at least once.

Also, I wanted to mention  that occasionally I send out a unique newsletter with my secret and unique money saving tips, great deals on flights, and special locations unknown to the average tourist (at bargain prices). You really can travel on a super small budget to exotic locations if you have all the information the travel companies don't want you to know about!
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