What We Learn in Foreign Lands

When I was young I used to like the idea of traveling to foreign places. Travel tied into the desire to learn about places other than home. Home was where the hatred was, as Esther Phillips might say, in that painfully nostalgic rendition of Gil Scott-Heron’s song that she makes it hers.
For a long time it seemed that anywhere but home was better. I might haven wanted to be someone else, not just somewhere else. Like many a traveller I wanted to lose myself among foreigners, to reinvent myself. Although I have gotten to know that I am a anxious traveller (particularly concerning the business of traveling itself, rather being there), I took opportunities to go flying about and see something of the world.
I have been to quite a few lands. I started writing this from Aoalstraeti, Reykjavik, Iceland, in the charming Hotel Reykjavik Centrum. The week before that I was in Helsinki, Finland. In month’s time I’m supposed to fly to Paris, France. It seems enviable.
It was sunny yet cold in Reykjavik. It started raining a few hours before I started writing the post. Just a enthusiastic drizzle, then gone. The sun does not set. We stayed up till early hours of the morning, which looked like an afternoon. I had gone out in the morning, taking a long walk away from the beaten tourist paths.
What I liked, what I like when I am in foreign place, is to take long walks. The main street in Reykjavik-for-tourists is, naturally, chockfull of tourist, despite the weather. I wonder as I wander the city how it is at the height of summer.
Even with all the foreigners around Reykjavik appears to be an interesting city to take in. The streets provide a feast of intriguing architecture. Buildings of zinc exteriors sit cheek by jowl with concrete and modern glass structures. I made an observation to my fellow travelers that I might go into shack building if shacks can be this sturdy and cute and well planned. There’s a important lesson there about providing the people with housing.


What I have learned from being in Reykjavik is that you cannot find home anywhere but at home. Flying all over the world may appear enviable, but appearances can be deceptive. However beautiful other countries are, what most people seem to desire is if they can making beautiful the country of their first dreams. Now that I am older I have come to recognise that I although the idea of traveling to foreign lands is romantic, what one learns most about when away is about the self and home. Travel gives you perspective about where you have been. When you see the beautiful Nordic women and men, you can help but compare them with the African men and women on your memory. A foreign land is one of the best places to learn about home.

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