After recently reading and listening to stories of USians celebrating Thanksgivings abroad – tales of roasted turkeys carried from one tiny Paris apartment to another via subway, and expats trying to find cranberry anything in Buenos Aires, I find myself wondering why. Isn’t extended travel, and especially living abroad, an opportunity to do as the Romans do, even if we don’t adore all of their customs?
Granted, I’ve never lived in another country, and so far I’ve traveled for weeks at a time in parts of only four nations besides the United States, and in the area of the US that used to be part of Mexico. Granted, I’ve lived in five different states in three distinct regions of this country, and when I found Colorado, northern New Mexico, and central Ohio to be not my cup of tea, I moved back East where I feel quite at home. So perhaps I’m not the best person to address the loneliness that must befall us when we’re living in a country thousands of miles away on another continent, speaking a language that’s not the one we learned from the womb. It’s entirely possible that on a Thursday in late November I might find myself somewhere far from home, trying to recreate the meals we used to share at my grandparents’ table, four houses up the road from the Erie Canal in western New York.
Still, it seems to me that a primary reason for traveling or choosing to live part of one’s life in another country is the chance to immerse oneself in different cultural traditions. First, why not lose our USian attitude that “time is money” and simply accept that we may have to sit another hour before the next bus arrives to take us back to the nearest town, where nothing awaits us but the well-lit restaurant with its white tablecloths and three large-screen TVs showing tonight’s fútbol games, where the locals don’t begin to dine till 9 or 10 anyway, where we can take our time over our plates of ñoqui alfredo and our glasses of vino tinto and then walk the quiet streets past the tidy, red-dirt yards with their succulents growing in the rainy season here on the border of Brazil and Paraguay. What’s the hurry?
Maybe my problem is that I simply can’t see the point of celebrating a holiday supposedly commemorating the Native people’s assisting the English colonists who invaded their land, when I know that these colonists began desecrating Native graves and stealing from food stores immediately after arriving, and continued to devastate indigenous groups by distributing blankets contaminated with smallpox. Or perhaps the problem is simply my utter boredom with most US holidays. I love to read and hear from friends about other nations’ festivals honoring taxi drivers, or pelting other people with colorful powders, or celebrating the first day of spring by buying flowers for everyone. If I became wealthy suddenly, I’d gladly spend part of each year traveling the world and experiencing holidays I’ve never before celebrated.