The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

And the Alices go to … these 7 writers who get the curious, unreal side of international travel

 © Iamezan | Used under license

© Iamezan |
Used under license

Since founding The Displaced Nation on April Fool’s Day (no fooling?), Kate Allison, Anthony Windram and I have been coming across travel writers who understand just how befuddling the life of the global nomad can be.

We are inclined to think that they have channeled Lewis Carroll’s Alice.

Offering themselves up as examples, such writers talk about what’s it like for a crossborder traveler to be plagued with feelings akin to adolescent self-doubt: what am I doing here, and will I ever get over this feeling of displacedness?

And they’ve shown us how to emerge from such escapades as more fulfilled human beings, full of stories to tell, perhaps to our grandkids, one day…

In recognition of these models of displacedness, my colleagues and I have created a new accolade for the travel writing profession: the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Award, otherwise known as an “Alice.”

And The Displaced Nation‘s very first Alices go to…drumroll!…(listed in reverse chronological order)

1. ANABEL KANTARIA for Do we all need behavior lessons?, in the Daily Telegraph:

“Just remember, you’re not playing in your own backyard now,” my boss told me when I took my first job in the UAE. “You’re in someone else’s yard now, and you play by their rules.” It was probably the best piece of advice I was ever given about the UAE, and one that’s kept me out of trouble on numerous occasions.

Alice link: “I don’t think they play at all fairly,” Alice began, in rather a complaining tone, “… I should have croqueted the Queen’s hedgehog just now, only it ran away when it saw mine coming!”

2. SUZY GUESE for The Unexpected Benefits to Solo Travel, in Suzy Guese: Traveling with a redheaded temperament:

While I know people who travel with others can have their share of weird conversations, solo travel for some reason brings this about almost with every day. … From a musician at the Giant’s Causeway [Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site] who started talking to me by insulting my shoes, to a B&B owner who told me her “journey of life”, leaving in all of the gory details, I have had some strange encounters.

Alice link: “Your hair wants cutting,” said the Hatter. He had been looking at Alice for some time with great curiosity, and this was his first speech.

3. ANDREA MARTINS for Expat women living the high life or secretly struggling?, in the Daily Telegraph:

In mid-2005, April Davidson’s world was turned upside down following her husband’s job transfer to Mexico City. … She could not understand what was happening to her and she started taking medication for anxiety and unexplained stomach problems. Little did April realise that her feelings represented a completely normal piece of the relocation jigsaw, and that taking medication to cope with the transition process was again, not uncommon.

Alice link: “You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” said Alice, “a great girl like you,” (she might well say this), “to go on crying in this way! Stop this moment, I tell you!” But she went on all the same, shedding gallons of tears, until there was a large pool all round her, about four inches deep and reaching half down the hall.

4. SEBASTIAN DOGGART for Elegy to English shepherd’s pie, in the Daily Telegraph:

One of the things I miss the most about living outside England is shepherd’s pie. … The greatest desecration is found in Quebec, where they call it “Chinese pâté” (pâté chinois). To suggest this sacred dish has anything Chinese about it is preposterous.

Alice link: “When I’m a Duchess,” she said to herself…”I won’t have any pepper in my kitchen at all. Soup does very well without…”

5. SALLY THELEN for 4 Tips on Embracing Your Inner Weirdo, in Unbrave Girl:

This morning, when I went running [in Wuxi, China], I happened upon a group of teenagers dressed up as anime characters. A crowd had formed around them to gape at their hot pink wigs, Nutcracker-like jackets and French maid dresses.

I stopped for a minute to stare slack-jawed with the rest of the crowd.

I was baffled.

I was confused.

And, frankly, I was a bit miffed. After all, didn’t these kids know that I was the main attraction at this park?

Alice link: This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off, the Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back one or twice, half hoping that they would call after her…

6. SEZIN KOEHLER for My foreign body: geocharacteristics of a population, in Expat+HAREM:

When I first arrived in Prague I was a size 7, had an acceptable C-cup and chocolate-colored skin. Three years later I’ve become a size 12 and an overbearing DD-cup with skin the color of weak tea.

Aging plays only a small part….

Alice link: “Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!”

7. JENNIFER EREMEEVA for Conversation is a One-way Street, in Dividing my time: finding the funnier side of life in Russia:

“Let me tell you about New York,” he [a Russian friend of my husband’s] said, “I was really impressed: the streets are completely strait, from one end of Manhattan to the other — ”

“– Well, except for the Village down to Wall Street,” I interjected absent-mindedly.

“Jennifer went to University in New York,” said my husband apologetically to the group.

Sergei squinted at me suspiciously, and then, changing tack, began to expand on the virtues of vacationing at Valaam on Lake Ladoga.

Alice link: “I’ve been to a day-school, too,” said Alice; “you needn’t be so proud as all that.” … “…[Y]ours wasn’t a really good school,” said the Mock Turtle in a tone of great relief. “Now at ours they had at the end of the bill, ‘French, music, and washing — extra.”

QUESTION: Do you have a favorite from the above, and do you have any other writers/posts to nominate for our next round of Alices? We’d love to hear your suggestions.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s interview with Random Nomad Balaka Basu. She appeals for citizenship in The Displaced Nation — and agrees to answer one Alice question!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to subscribe for email delivery of The Displaced Nation. That way, you won’t miss a single issue. SPECIAL OFFER: New subscribers receive a FREE copy of “A Royally Displaced Tea.”

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14 responses to “And the Alices go to … these 7 writers who get the curious, unreal side of international travel

  1. Kym Hamer May 31, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    No 3 by Andrea Martins has my vote!! I’ve just posted on something similar on finding a job as an Aussie expat in London which was inspired by an article in the Australian Times by Adrian Craddock – the ‘secret struggle’ is everywhere I think and not just limited to women.

    • ML Awanohara May 31, 2011 at 10:19 pm

      Will have to take a look at your post on Gidday from the UK. Meanwhile, can you provide the link to Adrian Craddock’s (love the name!) article? I was casting around trying to find more posts by men in the Alice mould, but they were thin on the ground…

      Remembering my own expat days (esp in Japan), I agree with you, it’s not just women who suffer an Alice-like disorientation. And Lewis Carroll, who wrote the Alice books, was a man, after all! Are there no Victorian men left? 😦

  2. amblerangel May 31, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Does this mean I have to read “Alice in Wonderland”- it’s just so…. Weird…..I think I’ll just read this blog instead as I find it more entertaining and will trust these quotes are truly from the book.

    • ML Awanohara May 31, 2011 at 10:27 pm

      You can definitely trust that the quotes are from the book. I didn’t do postgraduate studies in the UK for nothing. And besides, the Alice books are now available electronically, which helps!

      Yes, isn’t it uncanny that Lewis Carroll is so spot on about so many aspects of “displacement”? Once you start looking, you find the parallels everywhere. I, too, am kind of weirded out by it — by how much this rather fantastical Victorian story continues to resonate…particularly for us global travelers.

      Kate Allison was the one who saw the potential. She really knows her Alice!

  3. Sasha June 1, 2011 at 1:40 am

    Great wrap up!!! I’m a huge fan of the writings by both Suzy and Sally and now I have even more writers to check out!!! 🙂

    • ML Awanohara June 1, 2011 at 8:14 am

      Another writer we’d thought about including is Miss Footloose aka Karen van der Zee. Do you know her blog, Life in the Expat Lane? She writes about the curious, unreal aspects of expat life — and always finds humor in disorientation. I couldn’t find a good match-up with Lewis Carroll, though. Still looking!

  4. Melissa June 1, 2011 at 6:24 am

    It has only been a couple weeks (or thereabouts) since I subscribed to TDN, and I have to tell you my attachment keeps growing. As internet rabbit holes go, it’s funny and stimulating but also refreshing. Thank you!

    • ML Awanohara June 1, 2011 at 8:18 am

      Given this month’s focus on Alice, you’ve paid the site the highest of compliments by comparing it to a rabbit hole! Thanks — you’ve made our day! 🙂

  5. Sezin Koehler June 1, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Oh thank you, thank you for including me in this brilliant line-up of fellow displaced peoples! An Alice award, what an honour!

    I always say that just about everything I have ever written is in some way inspired by Alice’s adventures so I am extra-super-monster honoured to receive this label. 🙂

    Will you be making a badge that we can display on our respective sites?

    Warmest regards,


    • ML Awanohara June 1, 2011 at 7:25 pm

      I think a badge is a great idea. We’ll see what we can do! I’m glad the award suited you so well, Sezin. Glad, but not surprised. You definitely have a nose for the curious & unreal & monstrous!

  6. Sebastian June 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Very honored to receive an Alice from you. Glad you enjoyed my piece on Shepherd’s pie. I know that awards butter no parsnips, but do you have a certificate for the Alice that I can hang in the bathroom, or down my rabbit hole? best, Sebastian

    • ML Awanohara June 2, 2011 at 5:35 pm

      As mentioned to your fellow winner Sezin Koehler, we agree that an Alice badge, certificate, or combination thereof is in order. (And if we don’t produce some time soon, then off with our heads!)

  7. Suzy Guese June 13, 2011 at 12:43 am

    Thank you for giving me the Alice! I feel like I need to watch the movie, read the book, etc., all over again to come up with an adequate acceptance speech. Thanks again for the mention and introducing me to some travel writers I need to be reading!

  8. Pingback: Zuzu's Petals | The economics of migration, Alice Awards and other updates

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