Reflecting on personalities here and there

Amazon delta, Ilha de Marajo, 2003
Amazon delta, Ilha de Marajo, 2003

One thing that can be hard about traveling is the loss of your identity. I had the same feeling when I was 14 and my parents moved our family from California to Switzerland. I didn’t speak French, but I was put into a French public school (we lived near the border) and one of my strongest memories is of the frustration of standing around at recess trying to make new friends and not finding the words that would demonstrate my personality, my wittiness.

I just read an author comment about a family in Laos, where she observed their distance from “modernity’s slick coolness” and their lack of “irony, cynicism, sarcasm, and presumptuousness“. This reminded me of the earnestness with which many people across Asia told us about their lives and asked about ours, and how in that situation you do not tell your life story with any of the witticisms, sarcasm or humor that you might here in the west. So this aspect of your personality is erased, and for the most part you repeatedly find yourself telling people “Yes we’re married. Three years! No we don’t have children [pointing to bikes] we have bikes – no room for children. Later we get rid of bikes and have children.” 

The thing is, that list of traits missing from that family in Laos are not such great things and I don’t know why we missed those means of expressing ourselves. It is easy here to be self-deprecating or critical of others or other things. When you travel you have to practice having a simpler, purer personality. It’s probably a good thing to practice. What if “slick coolness” came from being honest, generous, interested in others and excited about life?

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