Why I Stopped Lying about being American when I Travel

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When I was a kid we spent every Memorial Day Weekend at a magical lake. Okay, so the lake wasn’t magical, but the memories I have there, are. Three whole days were filled to the brim with canoeing, archery, finding newts and beaver dams and building “survival fires.”

But one of the best memories I have from those trips, happened at the end. It was a tradition we called, “Stone Soup.” You might have been told the story when you were a kid, or been read the book, but in case you’re not aware of the tale, here’s a recap:

Once upon a time there was a boy who came to a village, seperated by differences. He promised the villagers he could make a soup that would amaze and astound them, because he had a magic stone. Since he was a stranger, and they had trust issues, they thought about kicking him out of the town. But they were kinda sorta also bored from village life, so magic sounded like a welcome distraction. So…they let him try out his magic, and probably whispered some threats about what would happen if he didn’t live up to his promises (but they wouldn’t put that in a children’s book, now would they?).

Anyhoo, he told the villagers that the only way the magic would work is if he had the right ingredients. Those went something like this: vegetables, meat, spices, flour etc. 

Sound familiar? Yeah, those are all the ingredients people use for soup. 

But the villagers weren’t so bright, so they each offered up what they had, and threw it in the pot, and they were amazed by the bubbling, beautiful soup that came out of all of his efforts. 

The point isn’t that the boy was kind of a fraud. It’s that, when everyone comes together, and brings what they have, magic happens. When I was a kid, this meant making some pretty delicious soup.

Now, as an adult, I kind of feel this way about hostels. I know, I know, that was a jump. But hear me out.

When I get to a hostel, I literally have no idea who I’m going to meet. I’ve been coming to the hostel I’m in right now for over 3 years, and the experiences have never once been the same. For instance, this time I’m up writing at 3am, because jet-lag is a monster that’s trying to ruin my life.

Yesterday was the first day of my backpacking trip (#Europe2017) and last night I got to talk to some of the girls in my hostel room. I’m a pretty strong introvert, but I absolutely love meeting new people when I travel. Two of the girls in my room are from South America, and one is from Mexico.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t tension when she when she found out I was American, and I said,”We’re neighbors!” Because there definitely was.

As we talked more, though, we figured out we had a lot in common. Like we’re both hostel jumpers on the second act of our twenties. We both like going to bed early. We like to laugh at drunk people on pub crawls, rather than being the drunk people. And we both love to travel.

Travel brings people together. It’s the “magic stone” in the pot of life that requires nothing except that you contribute an open mind, and your own experiencs. It’s amazing to think back on the people I’ve met, even in this one hostel. People from literally all over the world who are brought together to learn, laugh and make some (sometimes embarassing) memories.

This is also the reason I’ve decided not to lie and tell people I’m Canadian on this trip. I know, you might snort thinking,”Why would she lie?” Well, little ducks, it’s because not all Americans are the golden children we wish they could be. And Canadians are hella chill. Seriously. I could hug the whole country.

Despite it being a pretty easy thing to pull off, because my accent sounds pretty similar, (especially to people with English as a second language), I think it’s more important than ever for me to say I’m American.

Why?

Because the reality is that our country has showed the world a very dark side of itself. And while I know that we can spit quotes about majorities, the reality of the situation is that the rest of the world is not exactly thrilled with our choices. Heck, I’m not exactly thrilled.

That being said, I really do think it’s so important for Americans who travel to claim their country (and yes, I know I’m not the only one who’s lied). It’s important for us to show people that Americans are not represented by the hate they see in media.

It’s important for us to take time to laugh and talk and make weird secret handshakes with people from all over the word. Because the reality is, you could be the only American they ever meet. Think about that for a second.

You represent your entire country. Obviously not all of the time, but I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to say it’s probaby more often than you think.

In each country I’m visiting, this trip, I’m making it my goal to sit down with someone who lives there, to just talk about life. That might not sound groundbreaking. But if you can change someone’s life and the lens they view the world through, I’d say that’s pretty huge.

So take time to listen, and take time to tell your story. More now than ever. Because you might never know the impact that late night bunkbed chats in hostel rooms might have.

 

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