Ten Ways Living Abroad Has Changed Me (Travel Blog Series, Day 19)

BerlinFountainApril2016

  1. I no longer have a cell phone addiction. I couldn’t have seen it when I lived in the US unless someone had told me, but they couldn’t have told me because they couldn’t have seen me with their cell phones up to their faces. Now, I have a cell phone with me but I use it to listen to music or to make an important call if needed. Everywhere I’ve traveled in the US so far, from airports to train stations to restaurants and just out walking in the streets, all ages, genders, and races, have cell phones glued to their faces or ears. I even saw a 78-year-old man on Marta in Atlanta, GA with two cell phones held up to his face at once.
  2. I’m no longer too wrapped up in daily living to visit my own town. After driving around a few US cities, wasting away in traffic, watching the frantic inhabitants, counting the lulling, redundant beacons of civilization, the realization washed over me that when one becomes consumed in daily living, it does not matter where one lives. After losing too many years as a prisoner of daily living in a city I did not love, I know now that for the rest of my life, I want to live and visit the place where I live … and if I can’t, then I know that place is not for me.
  3. I no longer believe that being an artist makes me special in any way. I’m just another human cruising the rapids down the river of absurdness and uncertainty, clinging with beautiful desperation to the flotsam of meaning I have garnered for myself. When one travels to different places in the world, he spies a continuity in people, a humbling lighthouse that casts with quiet loudness: You are just another human stumbling through this unwakable dream … no better than any other, and certainly no worse.
  4. I now see change as the only human truth. I had to give away my beautiful, adorable, clever cat Cleopatra recently because of an allergic asthma scenario. In my final days with my cat, I noticed that she didn’t like change any more than I did, but she was better at it than me. She is on Cloud 9 now, with a retired woman who is doting on her and already wrapped around her cute, obstinate little paw. While I’d like to think she misses me in her own way, she is fully adapted and happy. In the wild, her forefathers are used to constant change. Why aren’t we? Humans suck at adaptation. Living and traveling in different cultures in the world and seeing how much one’s homeland changes, really makes one realize that change may be the only reliable thing and that embracing it just may be the secret to happiness.
  5. I see automobiles as necessary evils. Living without the burden of responsibility of owning an automobile feels like Prometheus being unbound, or Atlas having the world taking off of his shoulders. I feel freedom in the truest sense of the word. Riding my bike everywhere has helped me lose weight, and taking trains and buses has, on several occasions, cured my writer’s block. I now feel deep pity for many who own a car, especially if they don’t enjoy sitting in it for long periods when they could be doing something else. I have also come to love bike cities or bike-friendly cities.
  6. I speak three languages fluently now (English, German, & Spanish), but all with a nerdy English accent. When I was in Miami, FL, I went right to Little Havana to the coffee sidewalk window of the first place I ever worked (El Pub Restaurant), and started spewing Spanish at the older Cuban woman  who was tending the window. I told her how I worked there when I was 15, my first job, but it was on the other side of the street then, and about my friend Mercedes, and does she still work there, and … She stopped me and said, “I’ve only been working here for 6 months.” Then, at Woodlawn Cemetery, I asked in Spanish where my stepfather’s grave was and a young woman behind the counter said, “You can talk in English.” Later, at a jewelry store, a young Cuban woman insisted on answering me in English. The same thing happens in Germany with my German. The solution? You have to keep talking in their language and make them talk to you! But I feel multiple languages opens new doors for finding new readers and listeners.
  7. I have finally become desensitized to media. I love my homeland, the USA! For its cutting edgeness, its wealth of breathtaking land, its beautiful people (hello, family and friends!), and its daring heart … but every rose has its thorns. When one visits airports and train stations and can’t even claim his bag or get a coffee without Donald Trump breathing down his neck from some ridiculously large TV monitor, he begins to see that America is drowning in its own press. The TV news in Germany lasts for 15 minutes.
  8. I truly feel comfortable in my own skin. I think I finally found proof of this after being stared at incessantly and awfully because of my long hair. In my mother’s residential community, an older woman literally stood in front of cars about 50-feet away to make a point of scowling at me with the most absurd expression of disapprobation I have ever witnessed. Cars had to steer around her. Her state of nightmarish hypnosis was only wrangled away by me  going back inside. Does a man having long hair make him a circus freak now? Have I gone running to Supercuts? No. I absolutely do not give a rat’s ass. What is hysterical is that my hair is actually short for many men living in Germany, Spain, Italy, etc.
  9. I can no longer tolerate bad bread. I have even stopped eating bread outside of Germany now if I can help it. When I go to grocery stores, even look in the refrigerators of family and friends and see these short or round “loaves,” I almost burst out laughing. Americans trying to bake a loaf of bread is much like Germans attempting to impersonate John Wayne. Hey, guys, nothing but love for you, my splendid fellow Americans … but … please give up trying to bake real loaves of bread! It just ain’t gonna happen. Even the darkest loaf in Germany or Austria, full of countless grains and seeds and healthy things, tastes better than the most luxurious loaf of bread baked anywhere in the US.
  10. At age 49, I have finally metamorphosed into an earthling. Though I love the charming, historic, small city of Lueneburg, DE, where I live, I now have the blood of a nomad coursing through my veins. As I finish this Friday’s Blog, I look out the window from a Charleston Starbucks near the sea, at the rustic, fertile menagerie of trees, many dripping pale moss, and it dawns on me that, as long as I have my wife and my Mac Book Pro, I could really be perfectly happy staying indefinitely anywhere beautiful in the world. As well as a continuity in people, I know see a continuity in places as well … and for the first time in my life, I utterly feel like an earthling.

Yours in earthlingness,

J.G.C.

 

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4 thoughts on “Ten Ways Living Abroad Has Changed Me (Travel Blog Series, Day 19)

  1. Kat Flannery April 29, 2016 / 4:42 pm

    This is great, Jess! I especially loved the part about the bread…I can just imagine how good it tastes. Happy to hear you’re doing well, and loving life in Germany. 🙂

  2. Kristina Stanley April 29, 2016 / 4:47 pm

    I lived in Germany for 4 years and loved it. So many bike trails. So many walking paths. And so many places to ski. Loved the bread too.

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