It’s so much better to be a total weird-o in a foreign country than it is back home. At home people will secretly (or not so secretly) wonder what’s wrong with you, but when you’re traveling they just chalk it up to cultural difference and move on.
“Oh, she’s American/Hispanic/Japanese/etc…they’re all crazy.”
I’ve always been a late bloomer. I refused to be born until several weeks past my due date, by which time my mother was roughly the size of a humpback whale. Sorry about that, mom.
In elementary school I could read at a high school level but making friends and being girly were way beyond my social capabilities. I felt like other girls knew about all kinds of stuff that I didn’t. Like how to make a perfectly smooth ponytail or what kind of lip gloss tasted the most like strawberries or how to get a boy to be your boyfriend. They talked about all these TV shows I wasn’t allowed to watch and had inside jokes that I didn’t understand.
I was the totally weird girl who just sat by herself with a lumpy ponytail and drew 879 pictures of horses in her notebook.
In high school I probably would have been a wild child if I was cool enough to get invited to any of the parties with beer. By the time I finally got to release my inner party-girl I was in my early 20’s and most of the people my age were already bored of it.
My friends were starting to have serious boyfriends and some were even getting married. Married?! I didn’t even know what I wanted to do next weekend, let alone with the rest of my life. Hell, I’m 32 now and I’m just starting to know what I want to do with my life. I have friends who have popped out 3-4 kids at this point and I still don’t feel anywhere near ready for marriage. My biological clock is either broken or set to really, really slow.
I didn’t even get around to getting anything that resembled a career until I was 27. And we all know how that turned out…
Even as a traveler I feel completely behind the rest of the world. I read all these amazing, inspirational stories about people who fell in love with travel on a high school trip to Thailand. Or backpacking through Europe while taking a gap year right after college. To be traveling internationally (unless you count tiptoeing into Canada & Mexico, which didn’t even require a passport) for the first time in my early 30’s makes me feel, once again, like I’m late to the game.
But…when I’m sitting in a rooftop taverna in Greece, drinking sangria & watching the World Cup, I don’t really give a damn that I’m ‘supposed’ to be married with kids and a successful career and a big house and an ostentatious SUV by now.
Traveling has totally taken the pressure off. I am released from judgment and other peoples’ expectations. In fact, they expect me to be different.
Here, all I have to do is have a good attitude and be willing to learn. Nobody looks at me like I’m a freak because I’m not thumbing through bridal magazines or driving a mini-van full of kids. No one really cares.
Okay, well that’s not entirely true. There was one really old guy in a pub who asked me at least 97 times why I wasn’t married.
“And not married?”
“Nope, not married.”
“Never been married?”
“Never been married.”
“And you’re 32?”
“Do you mean 22?”
“Are you sure, not 22?”
“Definitely sure I’m 32.”
“And not married?”
“Are those your real teeth?”
“They’re so white! Are you sure?”
“Thanks! Yes, I’m positive they’re my real teeth.”
“And you’re 32? Not 22?”
“And not married?”
….this went on for at least 20 minutes.
I’d still much rather endure this highly amusing line of questioning than the typical, judgy “So, when are we going to see a ring on your finger?” that I get at home. Here my differences are novelties, not shortcomings.
When someone asks “You’ve never had steak & kidney pie?” or “You don’t know what an aubergine is?” it’s said with amusement, not condescension (by the way, aubergine is eggplant).
Every idiosyncrasy I have is just attributed to cultural difference. I don’t clue them in to the fact that I’m weird for an American, too. Here, I’m free to learn and grow at my own pace. No one expects me to have it all together.
Of course I’m a freak – I’m a foreigner.
This post is part of the #SundayTraveler lineup. Check out the other great travel posts in this lineup by visiting here.