I recently had the chance to visit Zimbabwe on a life-changing trip. It was wonderful!
Two weeks in the country is not enough time to appreciate all of it’s wonderful beauty.
Returning to home soil in Australia I have been reflecting on some of my travels. Including the similarities and differences – and it struck me how much is similar different country can be.
Although culture shock may hit hard (especially in the first few days), so much is the same. The sun still rises and sets, although the views and colours may be different. You need to get up and eat food every day, though this may look different. There is flora and fauna in every country, though it may look different. The night sky still holds stars, though they may look different.
How do you take your coffee?
I recall the first time I encountered the ‘difference’ between nations many years ago during my first overseas trip as a cash-strapped 21 year-old uni student. My first night was spent with family friends, who, when I arose for breakfast in the morning asked me how I take my coffee. “Oh, normal thanks” was my reply, to which my barista chuckled and said “What’s normal? Latte, long black, espresso shot, americano…..” & it struck me.
The normal I had grown up with, in my Australian family home was coffee with milk, no sugar. But was that ‘normal’ at all?
It’s such moments that I love recalling when on holidays. Whilst the striking sunsets, beautiful beaches, gorgeous cathedrals or exquisite meals I have consumed gain my attention, and fill up my camera reel, some of my strongest memories are in the mundane.
Visiting family friends in one of our closest neighbours, New Zealand I distinctly recall waiting in the car outside the grocery store. Next door was a fish and chip (or should I say “fush & chup”) shop. I remember glancing inside and seeing, behind the counter a 16 year-old part-time casual on this weekend evening, looking incredibly bored waiting for customers to come.
It struck me how similar this worker was to me or so many teens I knew at the time. Even across the great expanse of ocean between our countries, here was a typical Kiwi teenager, probably wrestling with the same things Aussie teens do too. There was a connection and comfort I felt in experiencing the new (travelling to a new country) whilst also seeing the commonality.
Breakfast is rice?!
Whilst New Zealand may be very close to home in both location and culture, I love seeing the commonalities and differences wherever I travel. To me I enjoy being immersed in culture when I travel, both the big significant aspects that set countries and cultures apart, but also the daily life routines.
Staying with friends who live in the area and just doing life with them is one of my favourite ways to experience a new country. Traveling to Cambodia I recall being told “Oh, you’ll have rice for every meal” and remember thinking this wasn’t physically possible for me – someone who might eat rice once or twice a week.
Well turns out rice was available at every meal! Breakfast, lunch and dinner, and my favourite breakfast consisted of egg and fried rice. For them that was their ‘normal’.
It wasn’t until a drive home in Australia, marvelling at the sunset, that I noted its differences compared to Africa. I am sure there are scientific and geographic explanations for the difference in lighting, landscapes and geographical location. For me, I marvelled at a world where the ‘everyday’ looks different, but so the same across the globe.
A world where I can gaze at the stars in the night sky and feel connected to family thousands of miles away who can see exactly the same night sky.
Phenomena like this help me realise the commonality and unity of humanity across the globe. “People, people, people are just people, people, people” (Brene Brown) and it’s true! People are people all across the globe. To come into a new country and judge based from version of ‘normal’ growing up in Australia lacks so much knowledge and experience from what someone else can teach me in a new culture and country.
Traveling to a few different countries I always love the experience and have learned to live life with eyes wide open taking in everything from a new experience.
The background, culture, and way of life other people have overseas has so much to teach me as I encounter different countries. It sounds so cliché but travel really does broaden your horizons.
Kelly Thompson is the newest member of the Sports journalist team. Kelly currently plays AFL for Casey Demons in the VFLW, and practices what she preaches as a HOPE (Health, Outdoor, and Physical Education) Teacher in Melbourne’s southeast.