The physical preparations for a trip of this magnitude were monumental.
To get our life temporarily wrapped up in the US for a lengthy trip across the ocean took time, muscle and thought. While the physical preparations were critical, the emotional prep was equally important to us.
We are pretty good communicators as a family, but none of us has ever experienced this kind of travel, so no matter the planning, we knew there would be times of frustration and emotional ups and down. We wondered how we would navigate the emotional stressors on the trip.
As often happens, our wonderings were answered with a gift.
It came in the form of a cultural education “class” given to us in our family room by none other than our oldest daughter, Theresa. She has spent years traveling abroad and has learned some valuable lessons about the emotions around going into new and different cultures. While all the information was helpful, there was one tool she taught us that we have already used several times and, honestly, can be applied to many situations, traveling or not. It has improved our communication and lowered our frustrations.
The word HALT. She taught us two ways to use it.
The first way is to use HALT to communicate feelings when we’re feeling off. In this case, the word HALT becomes an acronym for:
H – Hungry
A – Angry, Anxious
L – Lonely
T – Tired
First, we recognize that something is not right in the way we are feeling. Then we ask ourselves what we are feeling. Next, we let those around us know what we’re feeling and what we need to feel more like ourselves.
The other day I was in the HALT zone. I became frustrated by technology, by having to pack up our belongings to check out of the hostel, and basically, by whatever I was doing.
When I realized I was not being very nice to those around me, I HALTed. I asked myself what the root problem really was and realized I was HUNGRY. We had gone on a 5k walk that morning, it was 11:00 AM, and I had still not eaten anything. Once I recognized hunger was the problem, I shared it with the family, apologized for my behavior, then got some food. Things went much smoother from that point on.
The second way Theresa taught us to use HALT helps us adjust to different cultures and customs. She advised us to HALT, observe, and copy.
We did this the other day in Sydney, while waiting for a bus. In Sydney, everyone waits for the bus in one long line stretching down the sidewalk. When the correct bus arrives, the line moves forward as people get on the bus. Those not getting on the bus just move closer to the front of the line until their bus arrives. People don’t typically cut the line, unless you are tourists with big backpacks and no knowledge of the proper protocol. So we HALTed, watched, and fell in line like the locals.
Thanks, Theresa, you’ve already made a huge difference in our trip, as you do in our lives.