I Have Returned!
I had a lot of takeaways from this trip, and they were different little pieces of each city that I fell in love with. In New York City, I realized just how free you were to be yourself.
I grew up in an extremely conservative area of the country. Moving to St. Louis, you understand that where you are is far more free than where you once were – after all, I was finally anonymous for once – but St. Louis is still the world’s biggest small town. And until you go somewhere where nobody gives a fuck what you do, you don’t really comprehend just how pressured you feel to conform to everyone else’s norms.
In New York, you can be a 65-year-old man who walks down the street in a hot pink bikini and nobody looks twice at you (true story). If you did that here, everybody would know about it. They’d definitely look at you weird, and most likely someone would call the cops. People in New York were so incredibly helpful and friendly compared to St. Louis. No one here looks you in the eye when you walk down the sidewalk, much less speaks to you out of turn. Strangers in New York saw us pulling our phone out to GPS our location and offered to give us directions before it was half way out of the pocket.
While there was absolutely a fast-paced hustle and bustle about New York City, it still had a wonderful energy about it that felt like limitless potential and possibility. Anything can happen in NYC. You don’t get that sort of feeling here in the midwest.
In Lisbon, the vibe was definitely different but equally as amazing. The thing that struck me most about the city (and the entire country, really) was that it was so incredibly culturally unified. I’m living in a city with extremely high racial tension, and feeling the complete, total and utter absence of it in Lisbon while simultaneously being immersed in the most diverse culture I’ve ever seen was a breath of fresh air.
Portugal is known for absorbing the culture of others, and it shows. Arabic, African, European, and Indian influences are everywhere you look – in the architecture, in the food, in the language. Lisbon itself is beautiful, clean, friendly…the food is amazing, it’s incredibly affordable and the surrounding countryside is gorgeous, and nearly everyone stopped at the crosswalk for pedestrians. I almost didn’t come back.
The hot topic of discussion was, of course, the American election. I met people from all over Europe and all of them wanted to talk about it with me. They all think we’re crazy, of course, but the most noticeable thing was that they all, for the most part, seemed capable of having an intelligent, non-emotional conversation about politics. Not at all the emotional vitriol that is typically slung around here in the states. That, too, was rather refreshing.
Also exceptionally refreshing was watching news coverage in Europe, mostly because they actually talk about news, and news from all over the world, not just celebrity gossip garbage, their own country or continent. In the U.S., of course, our propaganda machine only talks about itself or things that pertain to itself.
The other fantastic thing about this trip was the people I met. Anyone living in the midwest will attest that this isn’t the sort of place you can really discuss your spirituality with just anybody. I suppose the true testament of that was when one man I met in New York kept telling me over and over that he was so surprised that I was so open-minded considering where I lived. The entire trip, I found myself having meaningful, philosophical conversations with people, and that, too, was refreshing.
I think my biggest takeaway from the entire trip was that I need to move, and I’m totally open to that.
My first reaction to the reading was WOW. Your words captured a theme woven into my life right now. The reading has emboldened me to take back my power and inspired me to research some books, get back to meditating and provided a focus.Dina