Friday, June 27, 2014

Within and Beyond, Safe Travels

A friend is heading off to the wild blue yonder not for a job, the reason most people I know move, but to see what lies beyond the confines of the hills that surround us— the thrill of adventure calls. 

Once upon a time I was hellbent on departing just as now, I’m hellbent on staying. “There’s no place like home,” has long been my mantra wherever I’ve lived and even when I’ve clearly not been a local— Spain, Bahrain, and Japan. I longed for those adventures and needed them to stretch my tolerance, appreciation, and widen my radar of awareness. Things that are you versus other are more obvious when you are outside of them. There even comes a day when you can’t return to a certain way of living or thinking— the confines of racism or the shackles of sexual repression come to mind-- they are embedded in some places but not in others. 

In some ways living abroad made me hyper aware of how American I was in terms of language, my approach to authority, and in daily rituals like meals. New experiences that touched undeveloped longings in me, were embraced with a sureness that some might have seen as adapting to another culture, but for me it was the centrality of the human experience that helped me to see with new eyes or to embrace something missing in my own cultural experiences, a new way home.

I face the task now of integrating seemingly random experiences from different cultures into one way of being which also changes with circumstance and other experiences like parenting, missteps, and new found joys. I picked a place to do this that has a mix of people rooted in other places and so it is tolerant with the roundabout approach to local ways. It is also a place with traditions and ways that rub and press in upon me both good and bad. However, I don’t have to go to say Italy to find my way to things I love or to let go of things I don't. Finally or at least more often, I can see at home what I once could only notice when I was away. I brought new eyes home.

The food front is an easy obvious place to explore. 

Travel means tasting new foods and combinations, so I did. From dancing shrimp on a table in Japan to grilled sparrow in Lebanon to roast bear in Russia, it’s enough to make a woman go vegetarian even if she doesn’t live in the hills of Ohio dotted with hippies. Sometimes I longed for American breakfasts of hash browned potatoes and omelets or particularly the comfort of milk tea and toast with butter and jam especially when faced with a breakfast of steamed rice and grilled fish or ful medames. Food is a universal and yet a local experience, but don’t mess with breakfast too many days in a row or you’ll find you revert to childhood. Meanwhile, food trends in America follow headlines like a tennis match— gluten free, thwack, low carb, unhh, vegan, sloomph!  You can go anywhere in a kitchen which is probably why I've found myself spending more time in my own kitchen over the years. There are other coves of discovery, but for now food is the easiest to share.

As my friend stretches outward, I seek to stretch inward-- to notice the subtle signs that call me. Adventures beckon us from both within and beyond. Safe travels wherever you are called!