Thinking about travel makes me think about the things I have learned from the various places we have lived and visited over the years.
From France, I learned mindfulness and pursuit of pleasure in daily tasks. From England, a sense of tradition and history.
From Northern Minnesota, the peace of waiting for the call of the loon and the pride of self-sufficiency.
From Houston, a dogged will to keep on keeping on and an unflashy acceptance of difference.
The list goes on and on, but each new place that I visit changes me and forces me to adapt to the culture and pace of the people there. It broadens my worldview and deepens my understanding of myself and of how different I am from others.
Acculturation is a process by which an individual adapts to, and adopts, a new cultural environment. It’s at once a social, psychological, and behavioral change that allows one to fit into their new environment and to carry a piece of that environment with them as they go.
Sometimes that acculturation process can be a negative, when one loses sight of their own moral and personal values in order to conform. But acculturation is not, or should not be, conformity. It’s adaptation and incorporation. But it should not require one to sacrifice who they are at their core, even as they adopt different styles or points of view.
Acculturation is a learning and a growth and while growth can change a person, it should be seen as adding and deepening personality and life, rather than something to be feared.
This is a thing that travel allows – it allows one to look at themselves from an the perspective of an outsider. To consider what they want to see and do and accept differently than they have and to also observe that which they love about themselves.
I am a Minnesotan. I was raised to weather the harsh winter and to revel in the crisp damp air of the fall. I was taught to be nice, even at the expense of being right. To appreciate a good casserole, a warm fire and a bubbling hot tub by a snowy lakeshore.
I could not wait to leave when I was 18.
Now that I have been gone a while and have acculturated to new places I can see Minnesota and myself there through the eyes of an outsider. I can see how nice can prevent honest, can deny problems and avoid blame even where blame is useful and due. It papers over cracks and deep seated injustices. From the perspective of a Houstonian, where the lack of zoning pushes poverty up against wealth, I can see the Minnesota control can hide economic crisis and prevent many from seeing that which is truly going wrong. I can see how sheltered I was from any kind of examination of the privilege that came with my life there.
I can also see how much it made me appreciate the natural beauty of the world and the calmness that comes from a paddle dipping into the still waters of an early morning lake. Minnesota taught me to keep on with things and to find a way.