(Zi)on the Road to the Grand Canyon

Please excuse the punny title. Dylan doesn’t quite approve, but he doesn’t really have to…I like it ;).

I am finally writing again about ADVENTURES! As I said in Summer Dreams, I have the summer off. It’s finally here: no more getting up at 5:30 to work out before working all day, breakfast and lunch and dinner prepped and ready the night before. No more stressful days with children and exhausted evenings of Netflix.

I make it sound pretty terrible – it’s really not. I do like my job. But, it was definitely wearing me out! It’s definitely a struggle sometimes to remain in balance. It will be much worse next year, with grad school and work and my nutrition program (yep!), but my hope is that the bustle will energize me.

Summer adventures are in full swing, and it’s only Day 3 of summer. Dylan and I drove for 13 hours yesterday to Salt Lake City. My main goal in SLC was to stalk Melissa Hartwig, inventor of Whole30 (no sightings yet). The secondary goal is to hike, hang out in coffee shops, and settle into two weeks of desert sun and outdoor escapades.

First impressions: it’s WARM! We left the cold and rain behind and found the sun. It’s awesome (but I am wearing so so so much sunscreen on my pale white PNW skin – Ghost Anne with Hat).

Dylan and I are making an effort to cook and eat whole foods as much as we do at home. I love having his support, and I think he loves the lifestyle as much as I do (win). In fact, it has stopped being “the whole30” and has started being my life. It’s honestly not worth deviating from when your breakfast is a kale and sausage omelette with some vanilla almond milk yogurt. And matcha tea with honey.

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Our first day, today, has been amazing. We slept in, then went for a hike on SLC’s “living room” trail. It was about three miles, uphill up and downhill down. It was tiring and hot, but short enough that we just got great exercise. Plus, the views:

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It’s called “Living Room” because there are chairs built out of rocks in the hillside. We reclined for a bit and had some snacks.

Now we’re out and about, having coffee and working. Dylan is not as lucky as me – no teacher perk summer vacation for him. Too bad 🙂

Next up: Day 2 in SLC and off to Zion!

(Zi)on the Road to the Grand Canyon

An Anne in Motion Stays in Motion

My position on “going home” was: I can’t wait, I’m so tired of moving!

Apparently, that was a lie. Since I got back, I’ve been moving non-stop. I gave myself a few days to recover from an intense case of jet lag, which made me feel like I was perpetually drunk. Thankfully that feeling subsided after a few good night’s sleeps reset my Circadian Rhythm. I’m officially on Pacific Coast Standard time.

I rested for three days, and then I went to Seattle several times. I spent a day on the Kirkland waterfront. I spent a day at the lake. On Friday, exactly a week after my flight from Barcelona to Seattle, I spent a day in San Francisco. Now it’s Monday, and I’ve been in Walla Walla for two days. I’m writing this from the Colville Street Patisserie, famous in Anne Land for being the birthplace of many thesis drafts last Spring. The cold brew is still awesome.

I fear I am addicted to traveling. My parents enabled me with the (to be paid off by me) gift of an eggplant-colored Honda Fit, which I’ve named Aubergine (Gina for short), and she and I have already gone many miles together.

The difference between travel here and travel abroad is that I’m visiting all of these places completely for the purpose of visiting my long-missed best friends. I guess this is really my style: I go where my friends are. Even in France, most of my trips were either to go see friends or to go somewhere with friends. It reflects something I realized about myself, which my close friend recently asked me to articulate.

While I am always overjoyed to meet new people, there is a large part of me that is energized by the cultivation of strong, durable, long-term friendships. In life, and especially in Nomad Life, it’s easy to meet new people. I met new people all the time over the past year, and it taught this former shy girl how to be brave and embrace strangers. What’s harder is building relationships that last, especially when there’s a time limit on togetherness. There were some people that I met, thought I’d become really close with if given enough time, and had to say goodbye to. That’s not to say we won’t meet again someday (I hope, I hope!), but every time that happened I became sadder that I had to keep moving.

So, I’ve been traveling at home to recapture those relationships I missed. I’ve been seeking out that feeling I get when I’m with someone who’s shared so many of my past experiences. And because I missed it so much, I’m looking at my relationships with fresh eyes, and I realize how precious they are to me.** The world is big, but friend and family love makes it comfortingly smaller.

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The best thing about home is: it’s where I grew up, and who I grew up with.

** I feel just as lucky to have friends I left behind in Europe that are equally precious to me, who made my year fantastic and with whom I felt totally at home. Val crew, I’m lookin atcha. Miss you.

An Anne in Motion Stays in Motion

You know you’re in America when…

…you aren’t on a budget airline (complimentary beverages?? hot hand towels before every free meal??).

…on said fancy airline, the safety video is full of Youtube characters. Seriously, this played before each flight:

…when you leave the plane, someone says, “bye now, have a great day!”

…and, in the “welcome to New York” intercom message on the plane, an attendant says, “Thank you for choosing Delta Airlines, we eagerly await the next opportunity we get to serve you!”

…you go to Hudson to get some snacks and are overwhelmed by the 5 walls of options. Everything is in 10 flavors. They even came out with a new variety of M&M! (Crispy!? Delicious.)

…the new variety of M&M is only available in “sharing size.” (Honestly though, who even shares!? Not me…)

…in the security and customs lines, you strike up conversations with Midwestern strangers (about the weather, and bottled water).

…everyone is smiling.

…there’s a big jar of Adam’s crunchy peanut butter and some fresh bagels at home waiting for you.

…there’s also a family, and a cat. Welcome home to me!

You know you’re in America when…

What’s an American?

Paradoxically, I have thought more about “being American” in the past few months than I had in my entire life.

It’s what I introduce myself as. As such, it’s become one of my most well-known identities.

“Hi, I’m Anne! I’m American.”

It’s usually replied to with a comment about Americans. I can’t say that everyone I’ve met has had the same opinion on the United States. I can say that everyone I’ve met associates something with the U.S. and its people.

Some people assume I own a gun. Some people ask me if we only ever eat hamburgers. Other people think I spent my college days partying away in a dirty frat house, like the ones in the movies. Some people revere our pop culture, expecting that I meet celebrities in the street on a regular basis. Some people might assume I’m arrogant and entitled, overenthusiastic, naive, or that I didn’t learn French before coming here because “everybody speaks English.”

I have been met with all of these reactions, communicated to me in various forms. What this tells me is nothing conclusive about the views of Europeans on America, other than everyone I’ve met seems to have a view on it. What that tells me is that we have a privileged (or maybe not) position on the world stage, in that many people are watching us (but many others aren’t, let’s not get too assumptive).

There are, in my mind, two extreme approaches to process an incident through which one discovers a stereotype of the U.S., neither of which are all good or all bad:

A) Reject the USA, or its role in the world, and send everyone back home the message, “we need to improve our reputation abroad.” I have adopted this stance once in a while. It’s tempting for critical thinkers who enjoy reflecting on identities and the issues facing our nation/how we can eliminate them to work toward a better society (aka, liberal arts future grassroots movement champion kids). This position leads to becoming an expatriate and/or extreme political activist and/or considering oneself “basically French” at heart.

B) Reject everyone else and decide that life in America is better, compare everything to it and become immensely dissatisfied, count down the days until home. Argue that nobody sees the true diversity in America and that therefore their conclusions are untrue. This person moves back and criticizes the “other countries” that don’t have it as good as we do in the US of A. There is value to this viewpoint as well, in that the person recognizes what our privileges are as US citizens. (However, just so y’all don’t get me wrong, I do find this 2nd view pretty problematic.)

Here’s the approach I’ve eventually settled on:

There is truth in stereotypes. Question it, without rejecting or accepting it. Where is the truth? What does it say about US culture? What does it say about French culture? How can one inform the other?

I find myself staunchly between the two camps, trying constantly to see both sides. Maybe Americans think French people are rude because they try to give a French person a hug (like we do back home), not realizing that French people reserve hugs for intimate and familial relationships. Maybe French people think Americans don’t speak French because they’ve only met Americans who don’t speak French. Even if a stereotype has become generalized and extreme, it must have arisen from some primordial stereotypical act that someone witnessed at some point, and that analysis by an external source could be a window for us, as we travel, into what it means to be “American.”

We are all our own kinds of American. Sometimes my particular kind might confirm a stereotype, and sometimes it will disconfirm it for some unsuspecting Frenchman. But I’m not worried anymore about being or not being American, I am using how people analyze me to figure out my kind of American.

I do think that, back in America, we think that French people eat baguettes and cheese all the time, drink copious amounts of wine, and that rudeness and snobbery are somehow more common in France (but so are romance and sexiness). In short, all of France is reduced to Paris. There’s truth in that too, and falsity. They do eat a lot of cheese and baguettes, but most of the French people I’ve met have been just as warm and friendly as we’re used to, maybe even more authentically so sometimes. It’s all complicated.

The most important thing, to me, in coming here, was not to confirm or disconfirm these assumptions, but to gain a richer understanding of how and why we’re different. Sometimes I encounter the illusion (in Americans) that Western Europe is culturally the same as us, and that in going there we will not encounter as much difference as we might in a more exotic place. This is true in that our lifestyle was at some point based on theirs, and a lot of us have ethnic roots in Western Europe so we look similar. This is false in that even countries within “Western Europe” are, culturally and linguistically, vastly different from one another. Different languages bring different cultures with them. Different aristocracies, histories, roles in world wars, political and economic systems, culinary traditions…all of these make “Western Europe” vastly diverse, and totally different from the United States of America.

It is so fun to think about why those differences exist. Being here is about encountering difference, for me, for one reason: it makes us reflect on “the other,” reflect on ourselves, and come to new understanding of both. We can be more informed people about both sides. Being here is precisely about “thinking more about being American than I ever have in my life.”

And my identity conclusion? I’ll keep my “American” enthusiasm. But I could do with being more choosy about my cheese. 😉

What’s an American?