Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Same Game

When you travel, you might at some point start to feel very different from the people you encounter along the way. Finding yourself in a foreign country with a foreign culture surrounded by a foreign language will make you think more about your own country, culture and language and you'll naturally start to make comparisons between "yours" and "theirs." Why do they do this? Why do they eat that? Personally, I sometimes feel like there are oceans between myself and the French (metaphorical oceans, not the Atlantic); between what we value, between how we see the world, and between how we live our lives. But sometimes, usually when you least expect it, you will see or hear something that reminds you not of our differences, but of our similarities. When you travel, you might at some point start to feel very much like the people you encounter along the way.

Last week's trip through France provided me with plenty of opportunities to feel at one with humankind. Sure the speeds on French roads were so much higher than those on American roads, but weren't all the passengers looking at the map with a confused look on their faces just like me? And yes, it was difficult to find a hotel in the middle of France on a Sunday night because many of the more interesting ones were closed on Sundays (What?!?! Is there anything in this country that doesn't close on Sundays?), but weren't there countless riders who enjoyed putting their bare feet up on the car's dashboard just like I did? My biggest we're-all-the-same-deep-down-inside!" moment came while at a market in the south of France. One of the fruit stands was giving out free samples of watermelon slices, and a very pleased little girl was eagerly biting into hers. Unfortunately, she hadn't quite yet figured out how to eat watermelon without dripping the juice all over her clothes. When her dad quickly stepped in for an impromptu lesson ("bend your body forward at the hips!"), I thought about how many other children and parents around the world have had that exact same discussion. It isn't a France thing, or a USA thing. It's a human thing.

Now, don't get me wrong; differences truly are the spice of life. Meeting different people, eating different foods, listening to different music...if it wasn't for these experiences, most of us wouldn't travel at all. If everything was the same everywhere, it'd be a whole lot cheaper to just stay home. It's just that there's something so special about that feeling you get when you find the common threads that exist throughout humanity. In fact, I think that the discovery of the things that connect us is one of traveling's greatest pleasures. It reminds you that, no matter how far from home you roam, you're always in good company.


Christine Gilbert said...

I love this post Tanya. It sums up what I hope is true about the world, but I'm only now getting to find out for myself. Already I'm finding little clues that it is true... the way the men in Madrid love our dogs, the way a mom will quite her kids with "Que Pasa" What Happened? when it's clear nothing happened at all.

Great stuff!

Tanya said...

I'm glad you're getting a chance to see this too! We really are all very similar when it comes to the little details of life. Your mom and kid story reminded me that I've heard on more than one occasion little French kids saying "watch me! watch me!" to their parents. I'm sure I'm not the only one who also used to drive their parents crazy with that one...