14. See the world

In my life, I’ve met a large number of people who have lived and traveled no more than 50 or 100 miles from their birthplace. To me, this gives modern people no advantage over generations and ancestors past who did, could, or would not travel further. There are ALWAYS sociological, technological, financial, political, religious and/or other logistical constraints. But I think traveling abroad seems fascinating and absolutely necessary to one’s education and philosophy of life, particularly if you’re interested in improving the world as a whole. To me, however, Americans should start foreign travel simply by leaving their current state. The size of the United States is sufficiently large that the time and distance in even this seemingly minor world gallivanting is the equivalent of crossing another continent, and the in process, passing through several to dozens of sovereign nations. And honestly, having lived in eight different US states, and travelled through or in 48, each one is unique enough to be considered a separate, foreign nation. There are a few similarities, true enough. The language is common (although, honestly, the dialectic differences between southern California, Maine, and southern Louisiana strain the bounds of that idea). A few “federated” functions operate exactly the same (but different): the postal service, private package delivery services (although delivery promises differ, especially to and from large remote areas like those found in Alaska). The system of law is generally the same, although its method of execution and consistency varies greatly between states. And in Louisiana, unique to its sister states, retains the French Napoleonic Code in addition to upstart America’s Federal statutes.

But unless you actually travel to different parts of this country, stay there a while, and get to know each region’s both urban and rural population, you really have no idea what the “whole” of America is like. And you certain don’t understand that there truly isn’t a “plurality” or single way of doing things, speaking, practicing faiths, tolerating difference and indifference, that can be considered nationwide. The fact that there are national brands, television stations, chain stores, and holidays does NOT a heterogeneous population, identity or sense of self-awareness make. Yes, decentralization has split a lot of formerly isolated groups of individuals, as families separate to find employment, better weather, true love and/or “their own way”. But a Texan relocated to Oregon, regardless of how difficult the transition may be for either the host or the implant, eventually adopts at least some Oregonian ways – or through their own influence, makes at least some small part of Oregon more Texan. There are some that might tell you that communication, particularly as it concerns universal interests like music, of information purportedly nationalistic or nationally “popular”, serves as a way to enlarge the world views of recipient reasons. Whether in Maine or Georgia or Utah or Michigan, the National Top 40 is the National Top 40. So everyone shares that culture. But the funny thing is that what makes regions worth living in, culturally relevant, unique, and often magical, is not these shared contrivances. It is things that are absolutely human, absolutely essential, and absolutely transcendent when experienced first- hand: music, food, and language (i.e., slang, patois, idiom, dialect, literature, humor). And honestly, experiencing it on television is not enough – no more than sitting in your living room watching Marlon Perkins is NOT an experience of traveling the African veldt. When you participate, when you partake, in a southern Louisiana crawfish boil, or a Cincinnati Octoberfest party, or a baseball game in a place like Fenway Park, or visit a museum in a strange city, it becomes part of who you are. You cannot undo the experience, nor erase it from your psyche or DNA. Travel helps ensure you are never again an isolationist, a xenophobe, a stranger – unless, of course, you simply seek out the McDonald’s restaurants wherever you, stay in neatly sanitized chain hotels, and stick to the first three items listed in your AAA guidebook. Of course, these things have a place – they represent the concessions that local and regional diversity and culture make to accommodate those who aren’t interesting, therefore not interested. If you’re going to bother taking a foreign adventure, why stay in the American sector? It’s almost like you’re afraid of learning just how boring you actually are.

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