There’s a joke in my family that we see someone we know whenever we travel. Upon seeing a familiar face, my mom will frequently say, “well I guess I can go home now.” That’s the funny thing about traveling, you can travel halfway across the world to experience another culture, but a trip highlight would be a story about seeing a guy wearing a Phillies Shirt at the Hotel’s complimentary breakfast and him knowing you’re best friend’s sister. Nothing to do with the place you are visiting at all. We want nothing more than a piece of home away from home.
We want to share stories of our home with the strangers we meet along the road. My dad, for instance, loves to wear shirts and hats that tell something about his story as conversation starters when he’s traveling. He likewise will wear t-shirts of his travels when he comes home as conversation starters about his trip. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I recently got super excited when I was visiting Virginia and met another woman who recognized my t-shirt as the free member gift from my favorite public radio station. I’m personally guilty of overly comparing places I visit to home. Probably to the point of annoying my host at times. I have to make a connection to the well-known details of my own life, so that I can better remember the details of the unknown place I am visiting. I want to absorb as much info as I can in case I never return. Not to mention, when I return home and someone asks about my cool new t-shirt, I’m able to share an interesting tidbit about this awesome place I went to that one time.
Now on the flip side of life, when I’m home, I love nothing more than meeting people from far-flung corners of the globe who are visiting my hometown. I want to hear all their stories and learn about their home. I want to be inspired to visit somewhere new. I want to hear about how we compare and contrast. I want to tell them every detail about the city I love and make them feel at home. I want to help them get to the place they are going, and give them a recommendation of an attraction off the beat track. I am fully prepared to be a tour guide in my retirement.
I recently had two back to back touristy weekends, one where I was a tourist, and one where I was the host. It made me realize that its easy to get caught up in your own story, that you can miss what the other person is saying. It can come at the risk of not appreciating where I am in the moment and who I am with. Stop to actually hear a story being told. Pause and see the the world around me. Listen and learn about the different cultures that touch my life. All with an end goal of becoming a more understanding and worldly person.