When we started up The Displaced Nation on April Fool’s Day, many people wondered: is it a site for
fools, be they expats, travelers, or both?
From the perspective of outsiders — people who aren’t in the biz — that distinction may seem frivolous. After all, many travelers become expats and many expats travel.
But from the inside, it’s very clear who the travelers and expats are. Both are interested in viewing the world’s rich tapestry firsthand — but expats tend to focus on the intricacies of particular patterns, whereas global travelers want to take in as much of the picture as they can, including the tattered bits.
So, who is more displaced — the expats or the travelers?
The answer is neither. Feeling displaced is a state of mind. To continue the tapestry metaphor, part of you identifies with the new patterns you’re looking at, while another part thinks it’s a confused mess compared to the patterns you’re used to.
Not all global residents feel displaced; same for global travelers. And there are even cases where a person has never traveled except in an armchair — but has ended up feeling displaced by what they’ve read.
As a student of Shakespeare, I’m often reminded of the King Lear line:
“Who is it that can tell me who I am?” – William Shakespeare, King Lear, 1.4.230
Except that King Lear felt this way at the end of his life; many of us global voyagers get there rather earlier.
Is it any wonder we feel like fools?!
Now, if you’ve noticed that our site tends to be expat-centric, it’s because two of our writers are expats and the other one (me), a former expat.
Reflecting this imbalance, I’ve started commissioning guest posts by writers — switching metaphors here, but only slightly — who can spin the kind of travel yarn that focuses on the ways travel can make you feel misplaced, displaced, out of place — and, in the process, challenge who you are as a person.
Thus far we’ve featured three such yarns:
1) My first flirtation with the lawlessness of global travel: 4 painful lessons, by Lara Sterling
Sterling has done it all, from round-the-world trips to expat stints. In this article she reports on the shock/horror she experienced after falling in love with a German traveler and following him all the way to war-torn Guatemala — only to discover he was engaged in criminal activities. Part of her was with him, fascinated — they were in a lawless land, so was there any reason to abide by the laws back home? But another part of her was repelled, and couldn’t wait to get back to the United States.
2) In search of 007th heaven, a travel yarn in three parts, by Sebastian Doggart
Doggart — a Brit who lives in New York City and blogs for the Daily Telegraph‘s expat site — tells of the pilgrimage he made to Goldeneye, the Jamaican coastal retreat where Ian Fleming wrote all the James Bond novels. As a Bond fan, he had fun identifying the sights that made it into Fleming’s stories and films. But he also felt alienated that Goldeneye had become GoldeneEye, a playground of the rich and famous — sensing that Fleming, who wrote for the masses, would not approve.
3) How foreign is Fez? A travel yarn in two parts, by Joy Richards
Richards lives in her native England and travels whenever she can. Here she describes her first foray into Fez, Morocco, which was also her first time in an Arab country. She decided to go with the flow, finding that she could relate to the Moroccan sense of shame through her parents’ values, didn’t mind “covering up” (is it any worse than being urged by the Western media to put your body on display?), and had a knack for bargaining. But the flow stopped as soon as she became aware of corrupt police tactics along with some cracks in the society’s facade.
* * *
As The Displaced Nation assumes its normal schedule next month, we hope to feature still more travel yarns.
Meanwhile, can you kindly do us a favor by answering these questions:
1) Would you like to see travel play an even bigger part in our article mix?
2) If so, can you suggest any candidates for guest posts, as well as countries/regions you’d like to hear more about?
Much obliged, as always, for your input!
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post on the less-than-enchanting challenges of vacationing with family.
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