Travel changes your perspective. It opens you to other ways, to other people. If you let it. I think one of the reasons US tourists are so hated in other countries is because many of my fellow Americans are unwilling to actually experience another country and it’s culture. Their goal is to see things, not to actually interact with anyone– unless it’s to buy some cheesy souvenir for one of their myriad of friends back home. They don’t want to try new things, or get to know different people. Like die-hard colonizers everywhere, they’re unwilling to adapt or change. There’s very little “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” going on in the American psyche. It’s all American all the time, no matter the situation or the consequences.
And the consequences are that you miss the depth and breadth of experience that travel offers and the opportunity to discover and grow as a human being sharing a planet with vastly different cultures and people.
I’m leaving for Alaska soon and will be gone for a couple of weeks. Then I’ll be home only long enough to unpack my Alaska, cool weather gear and trade them in for Kentucky summer hot and humid weather gear. Then I’ll be off again for a couple of more weeks.
While neither of these are foreign travel, there’s a wealth of native culture in Alaska that is decidedly not mainstream America. Plus, I get to be there for the Summer Solstice. I’m very excited to see the midnight sun. I’m also looking forward to doing a fancy cruise with an emphasis on experiencing the culture rather than the 3-day party-cruise we’ve been taking down to Mexico the last couple of years. The culture on that ship is overwhelmingly tequila fueled and typical American tourist AF.
The trip to a Alaska is a bucket-list level experience. I’m excited about whales, bears, moose and glaciers. I’m excited to spend time with my husband away from the cares of our daily lives. It will also be my first time in Canada, and while my time in Canada will be only a matter of hours, I’m always glad to add another country to my list of visits. I’m a little jealous that the rest of our fellow travelers will get to spend a few days in Vancouver, but our circumstances with our youngest still in school until the only a couple of days before the cruise has made this a logistical nightmare. Of all times for the district to opt to push the school year well into June. They NEVER go this late, but we’ll muddle through.
I’m not quite so excited about Kentucky. It will be hot, humid, and I’ll be hanging out with my parents trying not to get into ideological and political arguments with them and pretending that I’m not a pagan, suppressing my liberal worldview, and deflecting a lot of homophobia, racism and neo-conservative conspiracy theory
I loathe the idea of this at my core, yet I struggle to let go of my memories of my parents from my childhood, who were far less problematic and well— hateful. Some part of me wants to recapture the relationship of my youth when I looked up to my parents. The parents who raised me to NOT be racist, to be kind to animals and respect nature and to think critically and be an atheist. The last part was all my father, and now he’s happily in the Christian apologist camp. Hell, I don’t even know if he’s atheist or not anymore.
It’s depressing, and disappointing to see him defend the Christians that think they’re being discriminated against just because they don’t get their way. I often feel as if he’s made a lie of my childhood.
And yet I still care about them, so I bite my tongue, and I insist that my mother bites hers too if she wants to talk to me. They must care about me to allow me even that much, but I’m sure I disappoint them just as much they disappoint me. There will be some sore tongues by the end of those two weeks.
I’m not expecting to mend any fences, or come to any new understandings. I just want to get through it without any major arguments or feeling like I’ve completely abandoned my morals and ethics by pretending to think and be someone other than who I really am.
But I’m the good tourist and when in my parent’s home, I will at least try to keep my opinions and my self to myself and not rock their boat. I suppose we all have to wear masks at some point in our lives, but some masks are far more uncomfortable than others.