.. isn’t it?
Most mornings, I listen to podcasts as I scooter to work. Most of the podcasts are about food (http://food52.com/topics/burnt-toast-podcast), some are about old Hollywood (http://www.youmustrememberthispodcast.com/), but my favorite to listen to are the ones about travel (ok, food travel, but travel nonetheless).
But the more I listen to these podcasts, the more I pick up this pervasive theme of ‘isn’t it crazy that these people, who are so not like us, go on crazy adventures halfway across the world?’. I’ve listened to accounts of of photographers hiding in trucks from the Taliban to document saffron harvests. I’ve listened to stories of single women travelers having to fiend off Mongol teens on horses, drunk on mare’s milk. And it’s not the stories themselves that bother me, but they way they are framed, from the interviewers who see these people as themselves foreign, from having foreign experiences – as if going to another part of the world to travel or to start a new life is out of our reach of an everyday person. There’s this implication that although we can read about it in books, we can never do it on our own: “Now, of course the majority of us can’t imagine stepping on a plane to an unfamiliar country..” or other such nonsense. But isn’t the whole point that we can all have extraordinary adventures, even if we start off as ordinary people?
Getting to be abroad and starting a life here is a huge hurdle, but once you’re past it, things just somehow start feeling easier. Everyone I know in Shanghai has had one of those situations where you get into it and then think “Shit, there’s no way I’m getting out of this one alive, not this time.”. But when you do, getting over the next hurdle just continues to get simpler. Whether it’s getting stuck in the Incheon airport hotel for 72 hours with no directions to get to a new job, making that flight-bus-train-bus connection despite hours of delays, or hitchhiking from the New Orleans airport with a stranger, I feel these situations make the prospect of living abroad less unattainable. It can feel terrifying to leave your city and start something new, and it still is, even to people who live abroad, but knowing that no matter what, you’ll likely be okay, makes that first step easier to take.
And so, I don’t think living abroad is dangerous (okay, living in some places abroad is dangerous, but no more dangerous than say, Detroit). What’s dangerous – in my mind – is imagining what it’ll be like to fail.