Travel has been a part of my life since I was a young child. I grew up in a multicultural, bilingual home in the Netherlands to a Polish mother and a Dutch father. My mom jokingly referred to me as a “product of a European Union,” and though it’s meant in jest, I think it’s correct.
Europe’s geography allows for easy travel, and for many Europeans, travel is a way of life. Vivid memories of changing landscapes come to mind of extensive road trips my Polish grandpa and I undertook to and from Holland. The smell of my grandma’s homemade chicken soup and her warm smile always greeted us, and I felt elated at my “home away from home.” Polish was never a “second language,” it’s ingrained in me. Our family has explored the Scottish highlands and London landmarks. We’ve ventured through the City of Love (Paris) and stayed with friends in the French countryside. Italy and Spain welcomed us with their authentic cuisines, rich histories, and friendly atmospheres. Egypt’s ancient civilizations drew us inside the pyramids, and the unforgettable, unique experience of visiting a Mosque ceremony opened my eyes to the major role of Islam.
When I was 12, my father came home one night announcing his company requested he move overseas. At first, the choice was between Japan and the U.S. Given my dad’s allergy to fish, and our ability to already speak English, the decision was simple. We began preparations for America. Middle school friends urged me to share first impressions, though a few had their own ideas of what America would be like: a heavily influenced sports culture, burgers & fries, rock ‘n roll, and the “land of opportunity.” In some ways, their assumptions were right, but there is so much more to it than that.
America is a “multicultural melting pot” of many immigrants aspiring to live the American Dream – attaining success through hard work and opportunity. American history emphasizes the immigrant plight and how receptive the country was to immigration. Americans pride themselves on their ancestry and identify strongly with their cultural backgrounds. However, American “education” on immigration feels lackluster at times. While a country of great opportunities, it can still deepen its understanding of other cultures. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “”No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.”
Every country has a cultural footprint. Travel encourages open-mindedness. It lets us experience new cultures – sometimes similar, or not at all familiar. Through it, we observe traditions, experience history, taste new cuisines, take in art forms, and appreciate alternative perceptions of life. An enthusiasm for travel, a keen interest in news, and connectedness with diverse people have translated into a true passion for journalism. Journalism reflects balanced storytelling. It digs for truths, reveals emotions, and allows us to share perceptions. It creates a dialogue.
On this blog, I’ll be looking at cultural assimilation through adoption of new cultural experiences, and how these can shape identity. I hope to share life-changing stories and lessons learned from immersion in foreign cultures. I’ll strive to highlight what makes others’ culture unique, but also look at similarities binding us all in the human experience. How do we define our goals and life’s ambitions? How do we overcome obstacles and embrace cultural differences?
Interested in discussing your own travels? Join the weekly #CultureTrav chat on Twitter, or share your posts and photos using the hashtag throughout the week!
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