It’s been five years now that I have been an expat, first living in Turkey and now in Qatar. I hate to say it, but I’m done with it. I shouldn’t say that. I am done with living in cultures and societies that are so different than what I have grown up with. And by that, I mean temporarily done with it. I’m definitely not against living in a different place in the future. But, there is something about the culture that you grew up in . . . er, I grew up in.
After five years dealing with language barriers, different driving styles, different food options, very different political and social values, and different standards of living I have a craving to get back to something I know and understand and grew up with. Even now, as I am planning a March trip to somewhere, as I look at Google Earth at the options available, I am finding myself drawn to European destinations, particularly Germany. I could fly from Doha to Jordan for cheap and see one of the seven wonders of the world: Petra. But, I just don’t have it in my heart.
I would love to see Petra at some point in the future, and now would be an ideal time, but I have travelled in this area, and I get beat down by the poverty I often see, the aggressiveness of tout and souvenir salespeople, people trying to rip me off, and just the whole reality of being in a completely different culture, with different ideas, different priorities, different . . . just . . . different, for lack of a better word. There is nothing wrong with different. And although, underneath, we all share more in common than we share differences, it’s time to go somewhere I feel considerably more comfortable. I’ve spent time in Germany before and enjoyed it. It felt like home. It felt more like a culture I understood. It felt like I knew what was going on. I knew the systems. I knew how things worked. It was easy, comfortable and enjoyable, and that is what I feel I want and need at the moment.
I am a firm believer in challenging yourself and putting yourself out of your comfort zone as a way to have new experiences and to learn about the world around you. I believe strongly that travelling and experiencing new cultures is important. However, I have now learned the importance of one’s roots, own culture and going back to the comfort zone sometimes. That comfort zone looks pretty inviting these days, I must say. Maybe it’s my age? Maybe it’s because now I’m a family man, with a wonderful wife and two great kids? Or, maybe it’s because, no matter where you are in the world, home is where you were born and grew up. So, anything that reminds you of that, or is like that, is needed at times.
I think of my grandmother who was born and grew up in Manitoba, on the prairies. She moved to Thunder Bay after getting married. That’s where I was born. Though she lived in Thunder Bay for most of her life, she always missed the flatland of the prairies. It was in her blood and bones. It was her comfort zone. It’s time to revisit my comfort zone for a bit. I’m a Euro-Canadian. So, it’s time to press the confirm button on Expedia and head off to Frankfurt for a little while. Auf wiedersehen.
Chris Hearn is a member of the Manitoban’s volunteer staff.