Travel changes you, especially long term international travel. Coming home can be perhaps the worst cultural shock. Despite the world recession, the over consumerism of America is mind-blowing. In this photo, we are landing in New York City last year ( having not been home in two years) and this tiny little kiosk at Kennedy Airport had eight different kinds of M & M's! Wow.
As we head back to the USA for our longest visit in 6 years to connect with family after losing loved ones while traveling, two Dads this past year, ( so staying for a few months this time instead of just 2 weeks as we did the last two times) I am reminded of my favorite, funny George Carlin set about "Stuff" and how much our perspective has changed on what is essential in life:
Just hearing everyone speak English everywhere is a big cultural shock as we often go years without hearing hardly any English except among ourselves. The bigness of everything..from the gigantic washer and dryer in our Santa Cruz beach rental to the several gallons huge Cosco mayonaise jar in my 83 year old mother's refrigerator ...shakes up our consciousness.
We have adapted to our minimalist, green travel lifestyle so own few things and are use to doing lots of walking, biking and using mass transit as well as drying our clothes outside like most Europeans and Asians. Like most Californians, we use to drive ridiculously short distances and pop clothes in the dryer out of habit, despite over 300 days of sun etc. Now it seems absurd.
"Crass materialism and a global perspective don’t mix.”
"Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body." George Carlin
One reason we left was to give our child a different global perspective, so I was pleased when she wrote this speech on her own in her Mandarin school at 10, to see some of it has sunk in. I wonder how the "new economy" will affect the USA and the world. How will it affect our kid's futures? I am an optimist and hope it leads us to better ways and sustainable living that enriches us all.
What do you think? Have you ever had reverse culture shock? As our homecoming approaches ( mid September) , these ae some of the things on my mind. I seem to have more questions than answers. On one hand I am happy Mozart gets to experience the joys of an American life, on another I worry about those influences and how one almost gets brainwashed into thinking one needs so many more things than what one really does.