Achieving Foreign-ness

By: leelefever on December 28, 2006 - 5:35pm

 Foreign-ness was a concept that became really important to me at the beginning of the trip.  I wrote this in March of 2006, just after perhaps the most foreign city/town we visited the whole trip: Negombo, Sri Lanka.

 I had a picture in my mind of what it would be like to see the world.  It included people of different races, driving funny three-wheeled cars, wearing draped clothing with unfamiliar music and language in the background.  We would wind our way through cities and towns being the only westerners for miles, in my mind.

Having traveled internationally for two months now, we have finally realized this vision.  It happened today in Negombo, Sri Lanka, and I think it was the first of many experiences that will give me much satisfaction.  Finally, I feel that we are undeniably away from all that is home to us – something that has been too long coming.

Looking back, I loved New Zealand.  It was our first stop and it was chocked full of things to see and do…with its white sand beaches, fjords and glaciers.  Being the first stop, it was easy to be excited and I was very interested.

Something was missing for me at our next stop – Queensland, Australia and I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time. Retrospectively, I mark it up to a few things with a lack of interestingness being the biggest factor.  Queensland was beautiful and the Great Barrier Reef is reason enough to go – but overall I was not all that interested. It was too much like home when I wanted something foreign.

Singapore was a step in the right direction, but still so western, so easy, so clean, so nice.  Singapore was not incredibly interesting to me.

Thinking again about that picture in my mind our trip, something becomes clearer.  I want, more than anything else, to be interested and I find few things more interesting than foreign-ness.  The satisfaction I derive from the trip is linked to how unlike home it is to me.

Arriving in Sri Lanka and traveling through India and Southeast Asia over the next couple of months, I have a renewed sense of what the trip will hold for us.  Gone are the days of easy access to the things we take for granted. Gone are the days of drinkable tap water and edible food.  Gone are the days of predictable traffic and English speaking people.  The days of ease and consistent comfort may be few and far between.  

We are now in a new realm of travel and our trip, one that will challenge us a little more and make us work for what we want to experience. It may be hard and it may see us get sick and long for home or some place like it.  But it will be foreign and it will be interesting and as long as that is true, I will be happy for a while.