A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
Written 8 May
I’ve been on the road for some time now. Nearly six months to be a bit more specific. And though I’ve been in an English-speaking, primarily Caucasian, Western country for that whole time, there are certain things that just don’t line up the way they would at home.
Local ingredients are slightly different. Tradition and standard foods are different. Standard goods are different. They drive on the left, they walk on both sides.
My mom flies out to see me in a few days. And as she is coming out here with luggage and a little extra room she asked what I might want her to bring. What was I out of that I can’t get here? What do I need? What do I want?
And the weird thing is, the more I thought about, the less there seemed to be on that list that I couldn’t get here. The final list I’ve come up with consists of several things. The deodorant I use at home isn’t sold here and I prefer it. They have cotton swabs here, but they aren’t as good at Q-tips. And they don’t have Old Bay here, though I still have a pretty good supply on hand from my initial arrival.
Beyond that, I’m having her bring me things I already owned and had just left behind. Floss. Sudafed. My two-person tent. Things I could get here, but I already own them and see no need to buy them again. Plus I will use some of them up in the rest of my time here and not have to get them home.
Then there are the duty free things I’m asking for. A bottle of scotch (for personal enjoyment) and a carton of cigarettes (functions like currency in hostels in much the same way as it does in prison, though more because of the exorbitant vice taxes). If I needed electronics, now would be the time to get them since duty free is cheaper than just about any other store.
But as I thought on it, I realized two things.
The first is that I just don’t seem to want more things. I have stuff back home I could use over here. A black leather belt would go well with some new slacks or a pair of jeans. Then I would need new pants to go with the belt as I’ve lost some weight. And that all just adds up to more things to carry. Slippers would keep my feet warm on cold nights, but they would just take up room in my luggage. If I do a stop-over on the way home for a month somewhere (like the Philippines), they are just things to cart. I’m honestly looking at the fact I have seven or eight changes of clothes and wondering what the hell I was thinking. I really could live a more Spartan existence, and I’m already living out of a backpack (or three). I may end up sending all but four changes of clothes home with her so I can live lighter.
The second, and weirder thing, is that I don’t seem to be missing the comforts of home. Granted I can still get much of what I’m used to there. Most spices, most foods, they have here as well. And there are American shops so I can get the odd can of Dr. Pepper when I’m feeling particularly nostalgic. But in general there just aren’t reminders of home that I need or want. I have clothes, I have technology, and I have music. I may not have resources, but I have a resourceful mentality and I can find what I need when I need it.
This trip is teaching me that, as foreign a concept as this would have been a few years ago, I largely just don’t need things.