I’ve finally recognized what the humbling and calming feeling is that comes with travel – it’s not knowing how to do the most basic tasks. I’ve been able to wash my own clothes for years, in France, it’s a struggle to navigate the very different and complicated washing machines. Grocery shopping is more of an adventure than just a standard, necessary chore with different products and reliance on pictures rather than words. Watching TV doesn’t provide the mind numbing that it does in America because of the processing it requires to translate the French. It’s the same actions done in a different manner and it throws the brain off course.
There is something about having to learn how to do the basics again while continuing to surround yourself with the unknown. Every day I have woken up at 7:15 a.m. to not know which of the four sites I would be working on, what time the day would actually start, and what tasks I would be completing that day. Being forced to embrace the experience as it has happened may be one of the reasons it flew by. It has now become that the unknown is my known. Having dinner with the nameless, not knowing the address of where I am staying, and sharing a ride with a random combine mechanic have all become situations that aren’t uncomfortable or barely even perceived as unusual.
In America, I know I would never leave a dinner not understanding who everyone was, I would at least use my phone to determine what city I am in, and driving with strangers is an obvious bad idea. It’s a unique situation to be surrounded by everyday activities that are unfamiliar regardless of how familiar they should be. I’d recommend everyone to understand the feeling sometime in their lifetime.