A Sojourner Forever

Category: Third Culture Kids

CamiTCKtravelI am sitting on an airplane again.  Actually, I love it. And this flight is even better than most - I have been upgraded to First Class. Yippie!!! The only negative about this flight is that it is not international, but I will be on one of those in just a few weeks. Whew, it’s about time! I need to be a foreigner again. I like being a foreigner. I was telling someone the other day that being a foreigner keeps me sharp, alert, on my toes. Some of my “mono” friends don’t really understand what I mean. When they go abroad they are just tourists. Yes, it’s true, I often go overseas for only a week or two at a time, but I never really go as a tourist….even when I go on holiday.

I have started to think that there are two kinds of foreigners (maybe more?), but in my mind, there is the “tourist” and then there is the “sojourner”...

I feel that tourists are there to take from the culture. What I mean is a tourist goes to a foreign land thinking the entire experience is temporary: “I want to see the sights.” “Look what I bought.” “Where is the closest letterbox so I can post my card?” The tourist rarely allows the actual culture to have impact on himself. He jets off to Berlin, Beijing or Baghdad (okay maybe not Baghdad -haha) and then he returns home with a few toys, stories and a lot less money. I highly doubt he is forever changed by his experience. He probably can’t tell his buddies much about the culture, but hey, he had a good time.

In my mind, the sojourner is different. The sojourner goes to another culture hoping he will be changed by it. His mind is stretched, his emotions are touched, and his heart is opened to a different people. He goes knowing that along with being an observer in another culture, he is also being carefully observed. He knows it is his responsibility to honor the culture rather than to go about his holiday or business, blindly ignoring the rules and customs of the land. This type of foreigner learns with his eyes. He waits to ask questions until he needs to ask because he cannot determine the right way to do something just by observing. It’s a delicate game he plays. He thrives on learning with his eyes. That is part of the way he honors the culture.

The sojourner ventures out into the alleys, he eats food from street venders (never McDonalds…unless he is in Taiwan and gets the rice burger…yum!). He tries balute, durian and drinks coffee at Java House instead of Starbucks.

The sojourner does his best to communicate in their language even when he cannot speak a word. Have you ever noticed if you are one of these types of foreigners, that you really don’t have to know the other language to understand what is said and for you to be understood? A tourist cannot do that. A sojourner can.

I would love to make “sojourners” out of my “mono” friends. It would rock their world!

Hmm, we have begun our descent. What a shame, I was having a good time thinking.

A “Sojourner” forever,

-Cami

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Camilla is a TCK who gets to travel with Libby Stephens. Missed her intro? Meet Cami!

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