July 17, 2014

There are no foreign lands, except the ones with flags I don't know.

While I find those "You know you're an Arizonan/Nebraskan/Redneck/Hippie if..." lists a little cliche and very stereotyping, I'm about to write an example of "You know you're an American in Turkey when..."

How many of these flags can you identify?
The course books that Alan and I are using in our Turkish class remind us that we are in a different part of the world. In the fifth unit of the book, we learn nationalities and country names. Looking at the picture, how many of those flags can you identify? I consider myself a fairly worldly person with a decent knowledge of geography, but I was stumped by more than half of these. Based on the Turkish name I could figure out some, but not all. Thanks to Google, I finished my homework. The flags in this book are representative of the countries that are important to Turks (I guess). Had this book been made in America, I think the flags would have been mostly western European, East Asian, and maybe Mexico and Canada. This homework assignment was particularly telling of our new location in the Middle East, and a reminder that the world doesn't revolve around the US, or even "the West."

Travel challenges (and if you're lucky, breaks down) subconscious assumptions about the world if you let it. For me, the best reason to travel is not the photographs or even the fantastic recalling of events at future dinner parties. It is this challenge to myself, to my assumptions, and to my identity that is the best reason to travel.

As my travel journal quotes Robert Lewis Stevenson, "There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign."

Something to think about as we read about (or experience) what happens outside of our own neighborhoods.