“I’m haunted by how easily a person these days can travel the world in a thoroughly customised cocoon”
I’ve been inspired to write this post after reading a really thought-provoking article by editor of the New York times, Frank Bruni.
He describes how during his trip to Shanghai, despite it being his first time in the city, he finds himself in front of the television during his stay doing the same things he would be doing if he were in the US. “I’m watching exactly the same kind of movie I might watch in my Manhattan apartment” .
As a British student who is now living France, I felt his observations really rang true in my life.
It’s been nearly 2 weeks of residence in France and rather than exploring the hidden streets of Paris and plunging into authentic french cuisine, I find myself perched at my desk watching the latest episode of the British Soap opera Eastenders or eating the same old chicken nuggets and chips that I would usually eat in the comfort of my home.
What Bruni observes is that although we are now in a more globalised era where everyone has become accustomed to travelling to different countries, we still hold on to our ‘creature comforts’ rather than truly ‘seeing’, living and breathing the country we are visiting. We create the same customised layout of our daily home routine and as result tune out of our new environment!
But what is travelling really about? What is the purpose of spending a year abroad?
Surely the purpose is to expand our horizons. Yet we maintain unbroken contact with the same ideas, the same food, the same activities.
To break free from my “customised cocoon”, I have now decided to establish a few ground rules for myself during my year abroad and I hope some of you who are travellers, expatriates or ‘year abroaders’ like myself will find this useful!
Join a club/society– The best way to meet natives and make friends while your away
Try and be more adventurous while food shopping– For example, go for french cheese rather than English cheddar!
Visit unexpected places– By this I mean don’t always go to the overhyped touristy places but try and explore the lesser know gems of the country
Document your experiences– whether through photography, writing a diary, blogging, these will be great memories to look back on in the future
Arrange language exchange meetings– there are plenty of sites online offering language exchange parterniships where you can swap your language skills and learn from each other
Be open-minded!– Although not so easy to achieve, I personally believe that this is the key attitude to have while staying in a foreign country. After all, the world is full of marvels, let’s go out and explore!