I still remember the first time I visited London: 14-year-old me was awestruck at the old buildings, the British accents, the aura of history that pervaded the place. I, a kid who had lived on a farm her whole life, felt as though I belonged in London. London felt like home.
Now, nine years and three moves later, I live in London. But the London of now doesn’t match up to my teenage dreams. When you live in a place, the glamour wears off quickly. It’s the difference between love at first sight and that same love ten years later–as you live with someone, you find they have rough edges and sharp corners too, but you love them even more for all that. As a child, my world was stable. I lived in the same house for the first twenty years of my life. I knew where home was. But now that I’ve lived in three different countries in as many years, “home” is more of an abstract concept. I don’t know where I belong any more. Travel is great. We’ve learned so much from living in new countries, far away from everything familiar. We’ve found out that what we’ve taken for granted all our lives–small things like ovens, big things like freedom of speech and unfettered access to the Internet–are not the same for everyone everywhere. People do things different ways, have different values, and sometimes even use “rubbish” as an adjective (as in, “This is a rubbish blog post”).
But traveling has made me evaluate what it really means to be American, or Chinese, or British. I see how different each culture is, and yet, in many ways, how similar.
Growing up, I thought Britain was just another America across the ocean where people spoke with cool accents and had ancient castles and stuff. Now? I don’t know what Britain is–but I know it isn’t that!