On my computer I have a list of ideas for things I want to write about in this blog, and one of the thoughts I scribbled down was “people are different in different places.” So a few months later I looked at it and was like, well, DUH, why did I think that was an insight???!! But then I remembered what I actually meant by that. I didn’t mean that Argentines are different from Americans who are different from Saudi Arabians. I meant that the same people are different when they travel to different places. That where you are has an effect on who you are.
For example I think I’ve written before that I think I’m much more fun in Spanish, and more easygoing and relaxed in Argentina. Because maybe those are the sides that being a foreigner on study abroad brought out in me. There is a certain ease and independence that comes from being a permanent outsider. If you’re not “really” from a place, then you don’t “really” have to engage with or answer to it. Sometimes I think that people travel because they become addicted to this sensation. If you purposely put yourself in a situation where you don’t belong, you escape from the fear that maybe you didn’t belong at home, either.
So sometimes traveling can bring out the best in people, and other times the worst. I had a dear friend from my international high school, from Colombia, who I almost hated after he spent a week staying at my house. In my eyes he became a lot less fun and a lot more needy and demanding. I could never quite look at him in the same way.
I heard about an American girl who started dating an Argentine guy pretty seriously in Argentina, only for them to fall apart a year later when he visited her at her home in the U.S. In his words, she was different at home, didn’t like to do the same things she had liked in BA, and she expected him to be different too. But he didn’t suddenly stop wanting to go out and party like they used to, and he didn’t start loving nature trails and organic vegetarian restaurants like she did. She had changed when she traveled to Argentina, and a whole side of her personality had remained hidden while another one came out. She expected him to shift in the same ways that she had, except maybe he changed in different ways when he traveled, and suddenly they weren’t compatible.
I’m not going to lie, the first time my boyfriend came to the U.S. it took me a while to get used to this other version of him, removed from his zone of comfort and confidence. It was a serious crisis of who is this person??! Maybe it was a good thing that we met up first in New York, on neutral ground, and had some time to adjust again to each other outside the pressures of family and friends and “real life” in my home city. And I still think our relationship is slightly different depending on where we are. He makes fun of me because whenever we have our stereotypical airport reunions where we run into each others’ arms, I feel “shy.” And I do! Because a million skype conversations don’t translate into being familiar with a person’s essence, especially if who you both are changes depending on where you are, and so for brief while, you have to get to know each other all over again.
Do you feel like you’re different when you travel? Has it affected your relationships?