What is Traveling Strange?
A few years ago when I was in college, I came across a newspaper article that changed my life. At the time, I was working in a daycare center as a part of a work-study program with America Reads. Like most college students, I was wondering what would happen next in my life. But unlike my fellow undergrads, I was already well into my twenties. And thus, well into feeling behind in life.
But the thing about being that young, however, is that you are looking for signs of guidance all around--whether you know it or not. And somewhere is the piles of newspaper that was used to protect the tables from poop and fingerpaint, I found mine.
In the piece, the author was interviewing a female writer. This writer who was an American living in France, was asked to detail why she had chosen to live the majority of her adult life abroad.
To say that I was curious to hear the answer was an understatement. In my teens after untold hours watching Under the Tuscan Sun, I decided that I eventually wanted to buy a villa in Tuscany and live there as a writer. But as I got further and further into adulthood, reality set in. Followed soon after by fear. At 16, the probability of this happening in my life seemed assured. At 26, it started to seem dubious.
But somewhere in this scrap paper, hope was seemingly poking through. So, I read on in slight disbelief. This woman had somehow done what I hoped to do, became what I wanted to become. So unsurprisingly, I was excited to read what she had to say.
Her response stopped me in my tracks. And to this day has been the essential to my personal philosophy on living. She said simply that she had chosen to live abroad so that she could blame her "strangeness on being from someplace else."
I was dumbstruck. And in awe. And delighted. Somehow in a literal pile of trash, I had found someone who had so expertly outlined a way to navigate for people like me who felt like perpetual outsiders. Most of us who live our lives feeling a little "off" or distinct from other people, spend just as long trying to hide it. Or we settle into ourselves and choose only to interact with the outside world only when utterly necessary.
Up until that point, I had done both, but now I had a new way of dealing with the world. A new way of using my "otherness" to my benefit. I realized then that the way to deal with my strangeness was to lean into it, not run away from it.
Ironically, this has meant that I had to leave my zone of "discomfort" and walk away from people in my immediate vicinity. Nearly all of whom had made it clear that they didn't quite seem to "get" me. It was time to let that go. And head into places where being perceived as foreign would almost be guaranteed.
Fast forward nearly six years and here I am. Hopping from place to place picking up pieces of myself along the way.
It has been a crazy ride so far. But one that I am grateful for. Along the way, I've had no assurance that anyone would understand me better as I traversed the friendly skies. But in any case, if they didn't I had a valid excuse--I was traveler in adjusting to life in a strange land.