Travel In a Second Language

Despite my predeliction for defnitive statements, I have had time to think about the one I am about to make.  Though it sounds firm and irrevocable, I quaver on many of the intricate details if the journey is followed through to the end of the road. So, I will attempt only to unpack what has been resting in the forefront of my mind, the carry-on luggage. (if you continue to indulge my metaphors.)

The most important part of travel, for Westerners, is the potential of Inconvenience and Lack of Control.

Many people shoulder the blessing of travel with the predictable reasons of Broadening Horizons, Volunteering time/money/talent (Salvation mentality), experiencing Art and Historical Culture birthed from different epochs.  And I will grant, that seeing the discrepancies between standard of living can give pause for you to experience gratitude for your own material posession.  (But rarely does it cause one to renounce said material possessions, and the twinges of remembered gratitude fly faster than the 747 taken to the developing nation.)  And I will grant, there´s a vast difference between seeing (forgive this cliche) The Mona Lisa from a proximal position than from the glossy page of a magazine.  (Though whatever artwork, ruins, or wildlife you see will only ever be viewed in terms of what you are accustomed to seeing, lived through the remembered pictures of the place, you´re mind reflecting back on itself)  And I will grant that building a house, or teaching English may seem like noble endeavors, but they seem only a slippery slope away from micro-globalization, and the United States (or wherever) once again attempting to insert it´s hands into the lives of other cultures.

So, with these caveats stated, let´s get back to the premise.

American (Western) culture, as has been stated ad nauseum, is a culture build on individuality.  And this culture of individuality prizes above all its autonomy and self-actualization.  Ignore for a minute the debate about whether choosing between 10 different laundry detergents is a real choice, or a choice worth valuing.  In each of these trivial choices the individual asserts control.  And the longer we live, the more of these choices we have willingly walked ourself into, creating an environment of stultified personalization.

Despite the obvious decision of your vacation/volunteer location, and the choice of accomodations, you cannot choose the delayed plane.  You cannot choose the weather.  You cannot choose being stranded from some of the possessions you would normally have for some of the weather conditions encountered.  You are no longer free to choose the company you would have selected at your home, or the the ideas usually generated by those people.  Travelling throws you into an environment you haven´t navigated and chosen from a hundred times before.

And this, is a fairly good reason for choosing it.


Author: Beth M

I love new ideas & information, connecting people, and discovering New England adventures.

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