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  • Writer's pictureElinor Zucchet

The Bubble Theory: why do we behave differently abroad?

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

In most visited regions, mass tourism is sometimes perceived negatively by the local population. Locals often complain about tourists: "They would not do this at home"!

Without reaching the extreme case of party tourism in seaside resorts, most travelers notice an alteration of their behavior and perception. And for long stays, they even come back transformed, different.

How can such a phenomenon be explained? Find out more about what I call the "bubble theory".


Abisko national park, Sweden

"The world is a book and those who don't travel read only one page." St Augustin

Travel means freedom. No routine to obey, we eat when we are hungry, we sleep when we are tired: in a nutshell, there are no constraints. We rediscover authentic sensations which sometimes get forgotten in our daily life.

For me, this feeling already starts at the airport. I love to observe departures, arrivals, expressions on people's faces. Taking off is also very symbolic, we fly away from our daily routine and towards new adventures. Above the clouds, the soothing sensation is liberating.

New start

La Graciosa, Canary islands

"We do not travel to escape life but for life not to escape us". Robyn Yong

Even for a short stay, a trip abroad is a new beginning. At your destination, nobody knows you, everything is new: it's the perfect occasion to have a brand new start. If you move abroad for an extended period of time, the experience is even more rewarding. You will have the opportunity to make new friends, to have a new home, and to create yourself a new life.

Many people (who usually don't travel) consider traveling as a way to run away from problems. I do not completely agree, since real problems will follow us wherever we are. But sometimes, new horizons allow us to become a better person and to pull ourselves together.

Besides, our personality does not always match our nationality!

Out of the confort zone

Redwood, California

"Traveling reveals the best part of me". Unknown author

Stepping out of your comfort zone is not easy. You can get used to it, but it is always an important and sometimes delicate process, especially when traveling alone.

It takes a lot of courage to venture out there and let's face it, it is pretty scary. Nevertheless, the most rewarding experiences usually happen in unfamiliar situations we have no control on!

We meet people who will change our life, and we live moments we will treasure forever.

The well known "cultural shock" makes us open up, adapt, and change our way of seeing and understanding the world.

And this bravery we didn't think we had is absolutely intoxicating, affecting our travel behavior. Everything seems possible and we rediscover ourselves.

Consciously or unconsciously, our daily routine was inhibiting a part of us which comes back to the surface.

The bubble theory

Sunset in the Sahara

"Every one of a hundred thousand cities around the world had its own special sunset and it was worth going there, just once, if only to see the sun go down". Ryu Murakami

When we travel, we are under the impression to live in another dimension, almost out of time and reality. This is what I call the "bubble theory". When talking to other "compulsive" travelers, I realize that I'm far from being the only one to perceive it this way. A close friend (who will recognize herself :-)) was telling me the other day "There is my Barcelona me and my native country me".

If you visit many countries, as many "yourself" will be created! Personally I feel like I'm a mixture of dozens of countries, of hundreds of experiences, of thousands of faces.

Living out of reality gives us audaciousness. We sometimes dare doing crazy things, since they will not have any repercussion on "reality". Foreign exchange students will of course understand what I mean!

The French movie "L'Auberge Espagnole" from Cédric Klapisch perfectly illustrates the bubble theory. If you haven't seen it, I strongly recommend you to! If you understand French, I also recommend you to read "Touriste", written by Julien Blanc Gras.

When the bubble bursts: back to "reality"

"I left my heart in so many places." Unknown author

The longer you live abroad, the most difficult it will be to return to reality. Your friends and family back home haven't changed, but you have. In lag with what used to be familiar, landing can be very painful.

You can share your pictures and experiences, but you will always get the feeling that your friends and relatives cannot really understand. It's very important to keep in touch with the people who were in the bubble with you. In case of a severe nostalgia crisis, they will be of great comfort!

The good news is that it goes away with time, and that you will probably want to leave again and look for new bubbles.

And that above all, memories are forever, and if you had to do it all over again, you would without hesitation. And even years later, you will still smile about it, I promise :-)

Ready to enter the bubble?

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