Culture

I guess that’s why they call it shock, because it feels like. . .

It’s hard to say. Other than your whole body is involved. Every sense is taken aback, put in it’s place. From the delectable tastes to the smells. And the sounds. The rain patters in a different dialect. White noise of crowds is even more indiscernible and now slightly off-putting. The reason culture shock is so powerful is because we so often feel immune to it. We think that we’ve seen it all. Nothing can phase us. And that is exactly when it does.
Since I was a child I always had an image of a Japanese airport in my mind. Looking back now I know that this airport was really a place to store stereotypes that I was accumulating as a misinformed Western youth. The place was full of neon colors and you could find anything you wanted in this or that vending machine. It was extravagant. For some reason there was an excessive amount of conveyor belts as well. My stereotype of Japan never left he airport. For some reason I never really imagined what it would be like there.

Getting off of the plane at Tokyo Narita Airport the most shocking thing was that it looked like every other airport I have ever been in. Sanitized seats, walls, floors. Brightly lit. Something of a dull drone was delicately draped over the excitement of being in a new place. But perhaps that was the remnant from 12 plus hours in planes.

The language divide is different. When traveling in a country of other Romantic speakers there is an underlying commonality. Signs, while ambiguous can still at least  be sounded out. This is not the case in Japan (although there is a fair amount of Latin alphabet usage in public spaces). You look at a sign with symbols, and can recognize it as that, but only that.

It makes me wonder, above and beyond human nature, what are shared commonalities between cultures; and how much off my culture do I carry with me despite my personal attempts to delineate from it? I find myself critical of my culture often, sometimes in the realm of hyper-critical. To find flaw within your culture and voice it is no different then to notice you don’t like the way the furniture is arranged at home. I have reached the point in conversations multiple times where someone will reproach my critical nature and say something akin to “well if you don’t like it so much maybe you should move to (insert far-off sounding country here).” I’m not sure if this is because I’m being a little too worrisome about where the sofa is, or if they are too attached to it’s location. Either way, culture, and our attachment or aversion to it, is a very divisive topic.

Maybe what is most shocking is the realization that I am so deeply ingrained in, and attached to, my culture, despite my criticism.

It isn’t because people are different from place to place. They actually aren’t. Leather bags, food and water goes in, excrement comes out, that’s about it. It’s what they do that varies. It is what they do, and how they do it that will make your eyes widen at the sight of the same food you’ve eaten a hundred times at home, change the smell of a city from acrid to intriguing, and even make the call of a bird sound that much different. Almost like it has an accent.


Marco Pollo

When was your worst case of culture shock? How do you manage it when it occurs?

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Blame it on the Tetons

I work with the band Indigenous Robot…

as their tour manager. A perfect arrangement for a vagrant like myself and a band like them. Since I started helping them at last year’s South by South West, we have traveled through nine states, one Canadian province, four cities in Japan, and I have heard them place at least 80 times in 65 days. That’s an average of one show every five days.

Thursday night they played a great show in Denver at the Marquis Theater with the legendary mr. Gnome. The weekend was supposed to look like; Friday-10am drive to Salt Lake City and spend the night there, Saturday drive to Boise, play a sold out Record Store Day after-party at the Neurolux with mr. Gnome, Sunday the band would leave me in Boise to return to Denver and I would find my way to Seattle for the birth of my nephew.

Obviously, that isn’t anything close to what the weekend looked like, because we wanted to cross the Rockies in spring, and we had plans. Continue reading

Editor’s Note

It doesn’t matter much what one believes, humans have primarily had a nomadic lifestyle during their residency on this planet. Or at least as far as I can tell. Despite centuries of attempted domestication humans have still not been able to overthrow this instinct, inclination, what-have-you. On a daily basis millions of people temporarily displace themselves from their place of residence to jobs, schools, and all other tedious activities. In fact, we have reached a state of out-sourced consumption that we no longer source food, clothing, or household items within walking distance of our homes*.

A lot of families don’t give birth in or near their own homes. The first breath is often taken in an overly sterilized, foreign environment.

Yet many have lost their understanding of travel. It has been allocated to the week and a half of paid vacation allowed by an employer. While that employer spends months of the year away from their home on business trips, paid for by the labor of others. While still others are forced to relocate, finding their traditional, familial lands polluted and untenable. Immigrating from the horror of losing everything they’ve known for generations, only to be reprimanded and criminalized once they make it past invisible lines drawn long ago.

There are many words in the English language for those who travel.

Traveler. Raconteur. Hobo. Sojourner. Globe-trotter. Wanderer. Vagabond. Drifter. Nomad. Immigrant. Tourist. Rambler. Expatriate. Chauffeur. Pilot. Business Executive. Vagrant.

It happens by choice. It happens by chance. Some run from a problem, while others run towards a solution.

This is not a travel blog. It’s not going to tell you where the best place to eat in Austin, TX is. Or which neighborhood won’t be as “scary” (read: low-income community of color) in Paris. You might get some insights on the places, but only as secondary bits of information included to give you a more holistic view of the people.

Writing should be a tool. One that is used to strengthen our understanding of the world around us and our fellow inhabitants. Don’t read this if you come to judge. Read to learn. This will be an unfolding discussion from people of all walks of life about why they travel. Whether it is only miles in a day to and from work, or train-hopping across a continent to see the sun rise on the Atlantic.

I am not a “travel expert.” You will learn more about me, and why I travel, as time goes by. For those who care about numbers, I am a 24 year-old who has been to 27 United States, Mexico, Japan, and Canada over the last 5 years. The last time I paid rent was May 2013, and I am used to living off of $3,000 or less per year.

I come from a place of U.S. educated cis-gender male privilege. I do my best to acknowledge that. In acknowledging that I aim to make myself accountable to the accesses I do have, and making it clear that this will not be the only voice heard here. I will use this platform to empower those voices often ignored in these spaces. All are invited to contribute, and those without access to a computer, or internet will be given it through interviews.

As editor I am committed to this in order to ensure this is the most inclusive and informative space possible.

J.D.

*That is a generalization, of course, one informed by 24 years of life coming from a privileged upbringing in the United States.