Adventures in Culture and Travel

25 April, 2008

Getting Back To Oz

The Oz Factor is a term to describe the strange, seemingly altered state of consciousness commonly defined as "the sensation of being isolated, or transported from the real world into a different environmental framework...where reality is but slightly different, [as in] the fairy tale land of Oz."
It's been about a week since we flew back from London. I feel like I've returned home to some shadow of reality. I've managed to remaster driving on the right side of the road again, yet can't explain why I feel so lonely in my large American car. Perhaps I feel isolated in my vehicle because I'm not sharing the company of a few hundred of my neighbors as Londeners do on the Tube. Local etiquette has me perplexed. I don't believe once that I heared "cheers" from anyone as I checked out at my local grocery store nor did the cute guy I accidentally on purpose bumped into comfort me by saying "no worries, love."  The British may avoid saying thank you, but American manners leaves something to be desired. It's tough love as you realize the familiar faces of home have endured your absence and are reluctant to welcome you back.

As if some punishment for leaving, I immediately contracted a cold upon landing Stateside. I'm now apparently so allergic to this New World that I now cough and sneeze merely by arriving back on American soil. Returning to work seems rather unimportant now as I'm beginning to accept I'm having a hard time re-adapting. I'm tired and lethargic, and honestly I can't get our trip out of my head. It's as though London has corrupted me. Perhaps such is true anytime someone travels to other countries, though I never felt this way about Canada, the Bahamas or Mexico. It's as though I'm heartbroken. Depressed that the fantasy has ended. As if Dorothy in all her time in the land of Oz, finally gets home, and then tragically realizes she'll spend the rest of her life trying to get back to Oz.

My parents always used to say I had gypsy in my blood. Like some sort of calling to travel. I've seen a glimpse of the world and I want more. The problem is it really interferes with your mindset when you're trying to tell yourself you're just a mental case and really need to get back to reality.

In one breath, I want to say as I did when I returned from Philadelphia, that "there's no place like home", but this time I can't. As educational as the travels to the City of Brotherly Love was, I never felt attached to the place. On the other hand, London and Cardiff was profound. It didn't demand my respect as domestic travel often does, it romanced me and made me fall in love with it. It's of course likely to be treasonous to suggest such non-American sentiment, I'm sure, and it's duly noted that the grass is likely greener on the other side, but, I can't help but wonder how much better America would be if we chose acknowledge those things that other countries do better than us, rather than ignore them and pretend we're perfect.

Most Americans don't just think their country is the best, they know it. They believe it with a unshakable naivety because they've never known anything different. Ironically, the tragedy isn't merely the distinction that some people believe this in a spirit of blind nationalism, but it's that they never get to see themselves for who they really are, for how others see them. Those of us who serendipitous travel down the Yellow Brick Road are forced to confront ourselves as narrow minded and ignorant, and to return to a world in which no one will believe what we've learned. I'm grateful for my time abroad and while I can't say if I'll ever make it back to Oz, like any fairy tale that changes its reader when we they just stop blindly reading and become apart of the fantasy themselves, I am forever changed.