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IPFS News Link • Travel

"Living" Wherever You Go

•, by Jeff Thomas

This instilled in me a tendency to not identify fully with either country.

This, of course, is not the norm. We're told to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or sing "God Save the Queen" or whatever other tedious repetitious act, in order to cement a sense of belonging into our brains. We're meant to develop the belief that we have one home for life and that's it. Little wonder, then, that so many people have such a hard time becoming independent thinkers and breaking away later in life.

For me, the dual countries prodded me to always be comparing them as alternate possibilities instead of simply accepting one or the other as the norm.

And I'm still doing it. Throughout my life, whenever I've travelled, I've treated other countries as though I live there. I avoid hotels if possible, avoid the tourist restaurants and talk to locals about their daily lives. One of my favourite habits is to have breakfast each day at their equivalent of a diner. I sit at the counter and talk to the other diners and tell them where I'm from. Then I ask them about their latest election or some other political event in their country. I studiously avoid taking up sides or even offering an opinion. I say that I'm trying to understand what's happening and offer to have them educate me. Generally, they relish the opportunity to expound on their own take on the subject. This invariably divides the diners into camps, each camp trying to explain to me which of their leaders is a saint and which is a demon. The conversation invariably gives me a very real cross-section of the thinking in that community and, often, that country overall. This can be a major factor in deciding whether I'd consider living there.