It’s been 1 year, 9 months, and roughly 15 days since I left New York to live abroad. In that time, I’ve done more traveling than I ever have in the 31 years that I have been alive. In a couple of months, I’ll be traveling once again (to California this time) to visit family during the period we call Golden Week.
In that year, 9 months, and 15 or so days, I feel like I’ve become less of an American, and more of a World Citizen. My mind doesn’t think of travel (especially international travel) as a once in a lifetime event or special thing reserved for honeymoons or anniversaries. It’s something that can be done by anyone with a bit of drive, careful planning, and a bit of free time.
People, here in Japan, are quite fond of traveling– be it to a distant country or the neighboring Prefecture. Every place is known for something, every place is though of special in its own right. Day-trips and weekend outings seem to be regarded just as seriously as a two week vacation.
Perhaps it’s because the US is so large, and transpiration so expensive and/or lacking, that we as Americans don’t travel so often. Perhaps it’s cleaver marketing.
For me, it was a lack of funds, time, reliable transportation, and any real feeling of safety traveling alone as a woman, that kept me home-bound. It was only after being persuaded by open-minded individuals, on the dime of a relative, or even via a school trip, that I ever really got out there.
I am thankful to those people and experiences. They gave me the know-how and confidence to go and live in another country, to want to continue to travel. But at the same time, I can’t help wondering why is it not the same for many of my fellow Americans?
Since coming to Japan, I’ve been lucky to meet people from all around the globe. I have coworkers and friends from the Commonwealth, Europe, South America, and lots of other countries in Asia. I’ve sat down to dinner with these people to share stories about childhoods, everyday experiences, food, and culture. Every moment of it has been absolutely fascinating. These same people have asked me endless questions about the US, only some of which I am able to answer.
I feel like the international community has so much to learn and share with the world. From how Jamaica came up with the name for Jerk Chicken, to how fast-food in Australia is actually more expensive than most other foods, to the fascinatingly complex social conventions of Farmers in Northern England, to knowing the best season for wine from France, and why so many people suffer from Cedar allergies in Japan…
If I never left New York, I would have never know that Mount Fuji looks different depending on whether you’re viewing it from Yamanashi or Shizuoka. I would have never gone on a hunt for a rare and culturally celebrated red wine from France, after work with a friend, and beaten her parents (in France) to a glass of the stuff. I would have never learned how to play netball without befriending the Jamaican girl in my Sunday Japanese class.
I can only hope that others are privy to these sorts of things in the future. Go out there. See the world. You can only end up better off for it.