Travel Log 1 “Laying a Foundation” By Abby Spooner, Marlborough MA

In the weeks following our workshop I have found myself already riding the metaphorical rollercoaster we discussed on the first day. As my departure date creeps closer this is one of the ideas from our workshop that has stuck with me. During this time I find myself wanting to cling to these last few days in the comforts of my American habits as if I am even lower in the “not good” section of the graph than the image depicts. Although holding onto every last bit of what is safe and comfortable may be my initial instinct, Slimbach and our workshop taught me that these thoughts are nothing but tricksters attempting to keep me in my Old Status.This concept is the part of the workshop that I have reflected on the most. Based on what I know about myself and what I learned during our weekend of study, I know that this transition is going to be the most challenging part of the experience for me. I am excited to go abroad. However, I am also hesitant to leave home and more specifically, Quinnipiac. Classes have just resumed at school and as my friends get back to their normal routines, I am home preparing for my adventure. It is difficult not to be a little envious of them; they are comfortable, secure, and content, while I am confused, anxious, and terrified. It is as if I am stuck between the desire to return to Quinnipiac as usual, and the craving to get out in the world to explore, learn, and create. Although I feel vulnerable when considering the upcoming changes in a few short weeks, I also feel inspired and enabled to handle the forthcoming challenges through the physical and mental preparation associated with this rite of separation.

The words of Richard Slimbach have been particularly helpful and encouraging during my time preparing for separation. An idea of his that sticks with to me is his subtle concept on cultural strangeness. This idea incorporates all aspects of the ABC model, honing in on our emotions, actions, and thoughts of and towards another culture. Slimbach states, “‘half strange and half strangely familiar.’ Instead of indulging a sentimental longing for an irrecoverable past, we should treat the complexity of our contemporary situation

as offering a “teachable moment” that is truly extraordinary” (Slimbach, 4). In this instant Slimbach is encouraging us to not linger on our own perception of “strangeness” but rather feel, behave, and think as if a participant in the new culture in order to fully benefit and learn from such an experience or “teachable moment.” This critical attitude that Slimbach is encouraging parallels the ideas laid out in the ABC model of reflective practice. In order to change our critical attitudes we much first let go of our idea of “cultural strangeness”. Based on these lessons I plan to not look at my new culture in New Zealand and compare it to my American one. I may find similarities and differences. However, these anomalies are not what are important to notice. Slimbach is emphasizing that it is more important to learn rather than observe. The instant we begin comparison, we are no longer a participant but rather a critic and our behaviors, thoughts, and emotions are no longer able to touch and feel the culture in the same manner. This is also a concept that is emphasized as a major goal of the liminal phase. By preparing for the liminal phase during the separation phase, the transition will hopefully be a smooth one. A quote that I feel brings these ideas together is by Carlo Goldoni. He said, “a wise traveler never despises his own country.” By combining Goldoni’s idea with Slimbach’s and the concepts of the ABC model and the Rites of Passage model I am able to infer a deeper lesson from all these academic sources: If a wise traveler never compares his own country to the country they are visiting, a hatred for ones own country can not be achieved. Rather than submerging to the strangeness of this new country compared to our own country, a traveler must embrace their new experience through pure emersion in a liminal phase where achieving a heightened awareness for learning is the ultimate goal. This is done through feeling, thinking, and behaving as the new culture does.

 

IMG_6492As I prepare for my own journey and attempt to embrace cultural strangeness I have found that perfect mentor for the experience in my chosen travelogue. I have chosen a book titles “The Long White Cloud” by Kristen Faber. The book is a recollection a mother of a family of five makes following their yearlong experience moving from the suburbs of the United States to the North Island of New Zealand. I am interested to learn howher, her husband and their three young children adapted and to a new culture that began strange, but has since become home. I can only hope my upcoming adventure follows a similar path.

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