So why go on about my trip? What purpose does this have beyond sharing some photos and stories of a voyage to one of the most interesting countries in the world?
I think travel is good. It’s beneficial to anywhere new to you. It is especially good to get off of Planet America once in a while, not to bash the USA, but just to get some perspective about how people in other parts of the world live, act, and think.
See, America is a huge country. Which is great! And while there are regional differences–think New Hampshire versus Kentucky versus California (in a three-way fist-fight, my money is on the Bluegrass State), there is much more similarity between the states than there is between the U.S. and other countries.
Okay, you can argue that Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Australia are all quite similar, but you get my point.
Spending a length of time in another country makes you think about your home. I had some particularly interesting thoughts and feelings, given that I and my entire family is Greek, and so is my wife’s. I’ve written about the changing nature of America and what being an “American” even means anymore, This was underscored in Greece, which has a cultural cohesion we just don’t have in the United States.
It’s interesting, because the United States has historically been billed as “A Nation of Immigrants.”
Or has it? This is actually more of a modern conception. The first few great waves of immigration, including the one my family came to these shores during a century ago, were actually tightly controlled affairs. And the integration was not as smooth as we’re lead to believe.
And of course you have the African-American population, who were brought here as slaves and then, even after the abolition of the slave trade and then, finally, the institution of slavery, had difficulty integrating into the wider white-dominated society. And they were here from the founding!
So going to any monoethnic, monocultural nation is a bit of an eye opener.
And it was kind of nice! Being Greek in America, you don’t exactly stick out like a sore thumb, at least from a visual standpoint (though most people guess my ethnicity on the first or second try). But there are only about a million of us here, we are a minority religious denomination, and not everybody understands the glory of moussaka, souvalki, roasting lamb, pig, or goat on a spin, spanakopita, balkava, or bougatsa.
People in America do get gyros. But I digress.
Anyway, I liked being around people who got the food, the music, the dancing, the religious traditions, and all of the other cultural touchstones.
And it got me thinking . . . it’s good to keep places what makes them unique, that keep Greece Greek, Japan Japanese, Saudi Arabia, Egypt Egyptian, Brazil Brazilian, and so on.
We see this sentiment to a degree here among the states as well. “Keep Austin Weird” comes to mind. Or how New Yorkers want to keen New York NEW YORK. The South doesn’t like the Damn Yankees moving there. Some in Oregon and Washington claim that Californians irrevocably changed their states. Hell, people in New Hampshire get pissy when Massachusetts residents pack up shop and move to the Granite State.
How do you preserve these state cultures then? Discourage people from moving there? How?
It’s a weird thing, but it really makes you wonder. We like to believe in freedom of movement, but there are also issues of national sovereignty. Obviously, nations can do things that U.S. states cannot. But do they? Should they?
Tough questions, and interesting ones. Do I have any answers. Absolutely not. But travel just makes a guy think about these things.
Anyway, that’s why this whole experience is important. Not my experience. Just travel in general. I highly recommend that if you have a chance to visit a foreign country, you take it.
In my life I have been to Canada, England, Greece, Austria, Germany, and South Africa. Each have offered insights into not only my life, but my homeland of the United States. Each have been worthy experiences. I only wish I had the time and the resources to travel more.
Where would I like to go next? That’s an interesting question. There are places in the U.S. I am yet to see. I’ve spent time in most of the coastal South and parts of the Midwest. But I’ve never been to California outside of L.A., never seen the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or the rest of the mountain west.
As far as other countries, I definitely have a bucket list: Italy, Hungary, France, China, Japan, Australia, India, Egypt, Israel, and Russia come to mind. As you can see, I’m into places that have a lot of ancient history. Maybe I’ll make it to these places someday. And maybe I won’t. We’ll see.
But what I do know is that I’d love to go back to Greece again, and soon.
So now a little fun: Some of my favorite things about Ellada–that’s Greece in Greek-talk–and some things that I find a little . . . less-than stellar. Continue reading “Travels in Greece, Part III: Why It Matters”