Cobblequés: Behind Enemy Lines
In a previous life, the one that provided me with a bi-weekly paycheck, I traveled a lot. The job afforded me countless suitcases full of opportunities while in the service of my government. That’s how I managed to get the lion’s share of entry-exit stamps and visas in my well-worn passports.
Colleagues were envious, but not jealous, that I was able to “change the air” and leave the office environment on a pretty regular basis for long stretches of time. Whenever I’d pack up and head for foreign shores, I’d always tell my office mates, tongue-in-cheek, that I was going “behind enemy lines.” Truth be told, my pronouncement really wasn’t that far off.
The different languages, cultures, customs, traditions, politics, cuisine, scenery, just everyday life in general, in most of the places that I visited, were odd – foreign – to me at first, but after numerous return visits to some, I became more relaxed, more comfortable, and more at ease with my temporary abodes abroad.
I learned early on that whenever I traveled outside my comfort zone, the best way to approach it was by doing my utmost to adopt to the new culture for as long as I was in “their” fair city, village or hamlet.
Sample and soak in as much of your hosts’ way of life as you can. And whatever you do, do not go around comparing your way of life back home with theirs. Just leave your personal baggage behind. Don’t let it clutter or fog up the new-found moment or experience. In other words, don’t rain on your own parade. Of course, if they ask, do your very best to sum up your “neck of the woods.”
Being “behind enemy lines” can be, and should be, a lot of fun. Don’t blame misplaced luggage, flight delays, bad weather, etc. on the place you’re visiting. These are simply the bumps and bruises of the foreign travel experience.
In the end, it all works out and makes for interesting stories to share with your office mates when you return home. Remember, they’re envious that you got to go. So, embellish a bit.
I’m probably preaching to the choir with most of you fellow, well-seasoned “road warriors,” but it’s always good to remind ourselves that when we step off the plane, train or boat, that “we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
From the Panama Canal to the Great Wall of China, from the Akropolis to a mud hut in the Haute Guinea of West Africa, I’ve done my fair share of being placed, and placing myself, “behind enemy lines” and always made it back safe and sound. Most importantly, I returned home more enlightened and fulfilled than I was before I left.
Buon viaggio! Bon voyage! ¡Buen viaje! Boa viagem! Safe travels! 行っていらっしゃい Gute Reis!
യാത്ര ശുഭമാകട്ടെ! تروح و تيجي بالسّلامة!
©The Palladian Traveler