George Bernard Shaw once said, “I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad”.
I believe everyone is right for himself, and this is the right moment to say that feeling at home in a foreign country rather gives me a nice little warmth, comfort and security of the familiar.
I'm originally from Bulgaria, a small country located in Southeastern Europe. I had the opportunity to visit Istanbul, Turkey a while ago and needless to say, that was quite an experience. Aside from museums, historic monuments and other tourist sights, I was literally sunk in the magical atmosphere. While I was busy staring at buildings and people, a street musician pops out of nowhere and starts playing the most sensual traditional tunes - just for me, and then kisses my hand; Then, I get lost for a minute and find myself in the middle of a narrow, rambling, mysterious dark street with light at the end turning out to be a mini fruit & vegetable market - where no single person is around; Then, as soon as I sit at a street diner, three different waiters show up ready to do anything, I mean anything, for me.
The funny thing is, Turkey is completely different from Bulgaria, but despite all the mysteries and differences (in language, religion, architecture, mentality, lifestyle, etc.), I felt somehow at home. It could be the history - Bulgaria was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire for centuries, so it did inherit a lot from them. Or, it could be the people who are so hospitable and strangers treat you as if you are their closest family without wanting anything in return. How amazing is it to feel so comforted away from home? Like you've been there before, but not - it's an engaging game with the consciousness.
The visit in Turkey of course left a permanent mark in my memory, and I expected the same from my time in the United States. My first reaction when I landed on the state of Georgia was, It's nothing like in the movies. The only familiar thing was the language - yes, I did speak English at the time. Here I am on a road trip from Miami all the way up to Boston - and nothing on the way looks so unfamiliar in my life. I loved it, but I never felt happier to meet other Bulgarians like that one time on the streets of New York. Well, after six years spent in America, the country did turn into my home-away-from-home, and I was finally completely in my comfort zone. I would never forget, however, the joy of seeing other Bulgarians in a place so amazingly different from home.
I was quickly dragged out of the comfort zone when I hit the road again - this time to Australia. They say America is similar to Australia. Well, is it so? As far as the RV road trips are concerned -yes, in Australia people do that a lot, especially those foreign backbackers trying to see everything for the time they have while on Australian Working Holiday visa or Australian Work & Holiday visa (for US travelers). I admire these folks because they literally manage to see everything on an impossibly low budget. Another thing that looked familiar - the palm trees that remind me of Florida, the dry outbacks, barbeques with friends, as well as the nice long beaches, surfers, people relaxing in the beachside bars. Yes, you got those in some parts of America, too, where people don't stress out on economic downturn, and don't live in constant stress about work, traffic, fashion. Being on the grind is not their definition of happiness. They actually surf and are really joyful. And this is a typical lifestyle in Australia.
Wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Ocean Road, the Ayer's Rock, the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour (the list goes on) are truly unique and everyone who's been there, remembers these unearthly places with nostalgia. Here's one thing that you don't have in America - playing with kangaroos at the beach. You could see these charming and energetic animals everywhere in their natural habitat - not in the zoo. And you are free to pat them - if you dare.
Going back to ‘feeling at home when abroad’, there is really nothing negative about it. The more you travel, the more you feel at home wherever you go. Nothing is more fulfilling than being a citizen of the world. My next destination is planned to be Abu Dhabi - who knows what awaits me there and how this place could turn into one of my homes away from home.
About the Author
Bella Paige is originally from Bulgaria, passionate about traveling and music. She works for Visa First, an Irish company providing visa and travel support services. She's planning a huge trip with friends soon - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar and then, all over Europe.