Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Being a Cat Amongst Ermines

This feeling doesn't come only when travelling or on holiday - in your own country as well as abroad - but for now I'll just stick to writing about those times on the road. Or really a very specific time. But just to make an introduction to the subject, so to write, I'll keep it in a bit of broad perspective to begin with.
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The feeling I'm writing about is the one of not really fitting in, the feeling of discomfort, the feeling of really being from a very different place, a very different country, a very different city, a very different background and way of looking at things.

Sometimes this feeling can be turned into something good, it's exciting and it'll definitely be transformed into something thought provoking and mind evolving, something to treasure, something that'll make you grow.

Sometimes it's quite the opposite, even if it's really difficult to actually pinpoint the exact reasons for getting the feeling of inconvenience and I-want-to-go-home-blues, you have it and you're stuck with it for the rest of the journey no matter what.
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Or something, somethings, might possible happen a long the way - all that long way before you're able to return home and heave a sigh of relief being back in safe and sound (?) surroundings... - that'll get you to change your mind. A detail here, a detail there, a meeting, an experience, a word. Something that'll make you go ah, it isn't too bad really, perhaps it'll grow even more...

I can totally understand getting the feeling when travelling abroad, to a place with a whole other way of seeing things. The culture, manners and habits are, if not out of this world at least out of your realm of the world. The part you know and understand, and hopefully feel really at home, comfortable and relaxed with.

The reasons for the feeling isn't as easy to grasp when it happens in you own country. While away for the weekend or possibly a longer trip of some sorts, you might find that this is really different to what you're used to. The way people conduct business, the way they dress, the way they walk, the way they talk, look at you, interact - it's like another country. And not in a good sense.

The only things that are alike are the chain shops and ATM:s. Other than that, a foreign country that makes you feel completely uncomfortable and out of place, even when speaking the same factual language (with dialectal differences).

Some times you share the experience and the feeling of slight alienation with others and possible travel companions. Others the feeling is all yours to handle and live with.

Having that feeling when people rave about a place, a country, about it's beauty, experiences, people, food, town and country, gives it a new degree of discomfort.

Perhaps you can see the beauty of the place in a purely objective way, if you step out of yourself for a moment or two. But you'll never feel comfortable, never embrace it fully, never rave about it to others. And the homesickness never take a step aside.

It might possibly be a question of having too much time to watch, think and analyze every little detail. But on the other hand, when you fully embrace a place, a country, you rarely do that without also seeing the flaws.

It's the ambiance, the combination of details and the fact that nothing, no one, no country, no city is flawless but with its very own style and personality, cityality, countryality *Practica Pia times two* pros and cons that makes one embrace it/him/her in full.

I have a friend who'd always lived in the Stockholmian suburbs and being used to the huffs and puffs in city life. After uni, work took her to small towns and suddenly she was different. Different in the way that she felt really uncomfortable when in Stockholm, everything went so fast, the way they served lattes in cafés, the way people went shopping, the public transportation system. Everything she did had a feeling of awkwardness and discomfort. All of a sudden comfort equalled small town.

I wonder if living in a city, and it doesn't have to be a larger than large city like London, makes you feel more comfortable in another big city in another country, than in a smalltown, a village, in your own country? Myself I think so, I mostly feel comfortable in cities, no matter where they're situated, but I can feel so terribly out of place in a small town. The feeling of Scotty-beam-me-up can get really intense.

Oh my, the ramblings of feelings became a bit drawn out... What I was meant to be writing was that our recent trip to Dalarna was rather disappointing, because of many of the above mention feelings of being so out of place. Yes, I can objectively see why many people find the province a lovely and delightful piece of countryside as well as historically interesting.

There are many artistic craftsmen and old small scaled businesses in that province, many of whom you can visit in open workshops as well as buy all sorts of peachy things. The typical way they build their houses and the way they decorate them is just delightsome. It's very rural, very provincial, very old fashioned in parts.

Things that do sound very sweet and appealing on paper, and in pictures. But guess what. I could never shake the feeling of being a city cat amongst rural ermines. And I'd swap it for walking down the streets of a Yorkshire- or Scottish village anytime...
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Next posting will be about some of the things I saw and experienced in Dalarna, this time and before - yup, been there before, obviously never had the time to get the alienage-feeling those times... - and a whole lot of pictures too *surprise*

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