I have now lived away from my home country for almost 7 years and I feel lucky to have embraced another country and allowed it to be my home…
Because that is actually the bottom line, you have to allow a new country to become your own, travelling is a choice and so is your decision to travel with an open mind, or a closed one.
I worked two summers at the top of Australia, on some of the most beautiful islands in the world, and what I witnessed from nature was breathtaking, and what I witness from tourists…equally astonishing in all the wrong ways.
People who had travelled 16,000kms or more to look at something, without ever really seeing it.
Some I still remember quite clearly. The French couple who would go for hours without eating until they found something “French” to eat. The American who threw a fit at the end of a diving excursion because I told him that “no he could not take some of the coral (protected natural habitat for thousands of amazingly rare and beautiful species) home with him.
“But I only want to take a little bit”…He said to me, as if in his own ignorance he couldn’t imagine the impact it would have if every single person who visited the reef took “just a little bit”.
The guy who told me the tourist walks were too clean and would dissapear off into the national rainforest and then tell me how “untouched” it all was when you went into the areas where humans were not allowed to go.
Sometimes I didn’t have words, and I am typically a person who knows what she wants to say.
But there were other people who kept to the rules, and were polite and felt grateful to witness such a beautiful part of the world, and yet I felt they took nothing away from it.
I can relate to this in some way. When I first arrived in Europe I travelled a lot. I looked at many different countries and cultures and things I had never seen before in Australia. But I am not sure I saw that much.
I think at that time in my life I was trying to get away from the old, rather than actually see something new.
We can look at something a thousand times without ever really seeing it.
By the time I got to Portugal, I was ready to see something, to embrace something, and to start again.
It was a decision to love this country, just as much as it was luck that it happened to be such a perfect fit for me.
At the moment I get slightly frustrated most days when I read the expatriate facebook pages. While often they can be quite helpful, they can be sometimes rather frustrating for someone who actually let another country in.
People message the page asking why they don’t fit in, and then go on to complain about just about everything. It’s like asking why your partner isn’t happy, while constantly telling them how awful they are.
Often I find people that move overseas and then compare everything to what they had a home. “The beaches aren’t the same, the food isn’t the same, the language is hard”, and they go on and on, and I wonder if they spent that time going out and seeing something new, whether that might be time better spent.
I understand that a part of us does it subconsciously, we compare what we know to what we are yet to experience. Imagine though if every person you met you compared them to another person that you already knew? That every time you had a beer you compared it to that one time that beer was so good and so you were forever disappointed… I am guessing you would end up in a loop of the same, and never really be open for something different, or maybe even something better?
I don’t have the answer, but one thing that travelling, and working with foreigners, has taught me, is that we do have a choice as to whether we just look at something or whether we actually see it… and to whether we allow ourselves to see something for what it is, rather than for what it is not.
I have started working on my book “North of Everything” which I hope to finish by the end of next year…Stay tuned 😉