ME.

A roommate once asked me, in a less than friendly tone, why I was so fixated on travel. He immediately followed with his own answer to his question. He informed that it was because I seemed to be trying to be “better than” my surroundings. He told me that I needed to accept what my life was and just enjoy it like everybody else. According to him, people in Alabama only travel to two places: the beach and their hunting lodge.

I haven’t spoken to him since 1995.

Ignoring the fact that he was a bit of idiot, his question to me has rolled around in my head for 20 years now. Traveling, planes, cars, and even on foot has always been something that excited me. When I was a kid (in a pre-9/11 world) my parents would take me to the Atlanta airport just to see the plans. It was an outing for a Sunday afternoon. I still vividly remember the first time we walked through the international concourse and I saw planes from all over the world outside the windows. The idea that a person could get on board one of the planes, and in only a few hours could be on the other side of the world, boggled my mind. In a way it still does.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve thought more and more about my ex-roommate’s question. In fact in recent months, it’s weighed heavily in my mind. Maybe I’m approaching middle age, or maybe I’m just at a natural crossroads in my life, but I’ve been asking myself this same question. It’s the reason I’ve largely been absent from this website for the last few months.

The simple truth of the matter, is that I’ve always been the kind of person that never really fit in anywhere. This isn’t to say I was an outsider, or that I never found my place. It’s only that I never really seem completely comfortable in most situations – at least not in the way that other people seem to. I’m too “progressive” for most Southerners, but too “traditional” for Northerners. I’m too American for Europeans, and too European for most Americans. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut in most situations so as to not be looked at like I’m growing antlers.

For the most part this has worked. Through trial and error I’ve learned how to negotiate most social situations, but in the last couple of years I’ve learned that there is a draw back to this. I always seem to hiding a part of myself. I hold something back – a story, an opinion, a fact about myself. I wonder sometimes if there is such a thing as being too well traveled.

I think the answer to this is, “yes.” The key to the question is “sometimes.” Yes, a person can, in some situations be too well traveled. That person knows that there is something else out there. There are other ways of doing, other ways of thinking, and even other ways of living. Because they’ve been seen, experienced, and lived, the “other” isn’t so threatening anymore. The fears of the “unknown” that so many people live with without even realizing them, aren’t really there. Of course I still live my own demons and insecurities (we all do), but because of my experiences, I try to push through my fears and insecurities. It’s a struggle, but that’s life.

So what’s a guy to do?

For most of my life, I’ve tried simply to be as nonthreatening to those around me as possible. I don’t mean in violent sort of way, but rather not to challenge peoples’ beliefs, ideas, and attitudes. I’ve argued when necessary, and tried to do the more and right things. I’ve called people out on racisim, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination, because I’ve seen that people are happier when those things aren’t in their lives. I’ve been to places where they play such a minor role in society that when they pop up, they are shocking to the population. I can’t say that much has changed when I’ve done it though. People just argue and turn their anger from themselves and the minority group they are busy despising on to me. I’ve survived and I’ve carried on.

Over the next few months, I’m going to continue to work on “Toland Travels,” but I think I’ve limited myself in the past, and I’m going to focus on other ways to reach out to the world around me and to encourage everyone to experience the world in new ways. Frustration can lead to growth and new opportunities.

Stay tuned.

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Categories: Advice, My View of Things

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