I think when one lives “abroad,” there is some upside-down U-shaped curve about feelings towards one’s home country (or passport-holding country).
Before you leave the national borders of the land that you grew up in, you don’t consider that you could be from another country. “Where are you from?” is usually assumed to be the state or province that one is from.
Once you set foot outside, whether to study, live, or tour, at first, you feel proud to answer I’m _________ or I’m from _________ and state your nationality or home country with pride. It’s almost as if it is in these instances that you yourself become explicitly aware of your country of loyalty. In particular if you don’t look like what people usually assume to be the look of a person of such nationality–usually because of your race–then, in these instances you may feel you have to defend your legitimacy with an overcompensating force and each time someone accepts what you say without further questions is a triumph. It’s something that can warm your blood and make you feel more patriotism then you ever felt because sometimes in your own country you may have hunches about some portion of the population simply assuming you are not local and does not bother to inquire.
But hey, after living abroad for over a year, everything begins to change. The concept of being a citizen of a country seems increasingly arbitrary and elusive. “Where are you from?” is now answered with increasing nonchalance and you no longer give two shits about whether people question it or not. You are not bothered by a further explanation if need be. Everything goes. Without your overly confident answers, people feel free enough to even use the term “passport country” as a follow-up clarification. What does it matter, really, on a human level?
I am a citizen of the world. I believe in global interests. I don’t think war is ever the answer. Why do we draw boundaries?
Intermittently, I will post snippets from my observations and interactions with travelers that I have met on trips to southern Africa in the past year. I have decided to affectionately refer to them as “21 Century Vagabonds,” which I hope is not offensive to any party.
The first traveler that I met on my journey was an American in his 60s who has been sailing solo around the world for the past ten years. We met in the lovely city of Johannesburg. Johannesburg has quite the reputation for crime, but for me it was the place that energized me and motivated me to travel on, keep seeing, and keep learning from travelers. Like in life, one’s impressions of a place is ultimately down to the people one meets. I was a lucky one. The white bearded and leather-skinned traveler had an easy and approachable attitude towards life that enticed me to find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that he had seemingly found.
So, this is the story that he told me.
As a young man, he had spent a few years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya. Following the international stint, he returned to America and worked as an engineer for Nissan all his life. Finally, he was offered early retirement at the age of 50. When he realized that living on his small sailboat was cheaper than living in his house in California combined with his lifelong goal of traversing the world, he sold his house and began his journey. First, he sailed south, hugging the coast, making it down to Latin America. He would dock at a place and live there for several months or years before moving on. For the last couple of years, he has been docked in Southeast Asia. He enjoys the tropical climate of Indonesia. Every year, he returns home to celebrate Christmas with his elderly parents.
“Wonderful” is the only way that I could describe my response. I was awestruck when he relayed his story. Without much prior sailing experience, he simply just up and went.
I want to keep these stories of carefree bravery, always.
Got on the bandwagon rather late and only just watched the film, Moonlight, tonight. If you have not seen it yet, I urge you to. You are short-changing yourself and your human experience. **Forewarning of potentially not-so-PC language to follow.** Moonlight is the first all-black cast film that I have seen that transcends race and other categories of identity politics, to be, above all, about the human experience. Watching the film is itself a human experience. It will make you engage within yourself and consume you with questions and just pure awe. It is a film that makes me wonder if I am not getting the most out of this human life by not having explored my potential in art more. It is also during these moments that I know what is art and why art is important. Art is about expression. Not any expression. But, the ability to express what a lot of folks want to, yet cannot express well. And it’s about expressing in a manner that captures you, captures your senses, and makes you question your values and your premises.