The whirlwind of traveling to China, turning 30 and family holidays has finally come to an end. There are a few interesting common grounds I’ve learned to be true with travel and age. One being that you cannot possibly understand your true perspective on things until you have actually been there, no matter how much you think you know. I guess that might be a confusing statement, let me explain. When I was in my early 20’s I was absolutely dreading turning the big 30. I felt like my life would be over in certain ways. My ass would never be as firm, I would forever loose the chance of becoming a super star and the reality of my internal clock would start to click. With the knowledge I felt I had in my early 20’s, all of these things became truth in my reality at the time.
In planning my most recent trip to China, of course I researched culture, food and clothing in order to assimilate as much as possible. As much as a 5’8 white redhead could at least. I wanted to make sure I didn’t offend anyone, so I did not blow my nose in public, avoided public bathrooms, prepared to stick out like a sore thumb in crowds and packed sensible shoes. I strapped myself into my seatbelt on the airplane, grabbed the inflight magazine and prepared to start my long awaited and well researched trip. Once I opened the magazine I found a section that was all about western culture. Since I had just done so much research on their own culture I was curious to see what they had to say about ours. Here are just a few things the magazine had listed under corresponding photos that helped to illustrate their point.
1.) “People in the US like to travel alone.” – This was coupled with a photo of a white male setting up a tent in the middle of nowhere and yes totally alone.
2.) “On Memorial Day, many people in the US like to buy stationary”… Um?
3.) “People in the US like to enjoy outdoor activities in their time off, like camping, hiking and Frisbee” – I suppose this one could be true enough, if not a generalized statement.
It was in this moment that I made a horrible realization. Could it be that all of those “truths” I had read about the Chinese culture could be as ridiculous to them as these were to me? Yes. Yes, it could be true and was! Need to blow your nose in public? Please by all means do what you need to! Sensible shoes? Only if you count the 6 inch stilettoes that the girls wore EVERYWHERE, including on the steep steep great wall walk. All Asians are thin and short? All Asians are as diverse as we are. Public bathrooms are a disgusting sight better left unused? Actually, for the most part this one was true.
My point you ask? There is simply no replacement for experience. In my experience so far, being 30 is amazing. I think my ass actually might be slightly tighter these days due to the decrease in alcohol that it was used to holding. Lost dreams of being a super star? Eh, I guess that depends on your definition of fame. Just last week my niece’s neighbor asked me for my autograph and not on a credit card receipt. Biological clock ticking? I’ll admit my uterus does start to hurt at the sight of adorable children, but I now know that these days child birth at 35 or 40 isn’t totally out of the question anymore.
So, in 2014 I hope to make more discoveries through experience. Perhaps one day I will be able to set some of the records straight, but more likely you will prove me wrong with your very own experience and perspective. On that note, I will leave you with the last wisdom my Grandmother provided me during our traditional “what would you change about your life?” conversation on her birthday “Don’t get married and travel more.” Perhaps, I will have to let you know the experience outcome of the first suggestion in about 6 months.
Happy New Year