Tag Archives: culture shock

Travel Gap

I was on the couch one day with my Grampa. I had just returned from Europe. He says “I don’t understand why you women are always out of the house now. Always doing something.” I say “We are catching up on the years we couldn’t.”

“Fair enough,” is his response.

I haven’t traveled everywhere yet, but there’s time and I frequently use books to fuel my travel obsession. Yet there’s something that I’ve noticed that continues to bother me as I wander through the Barnes and Nobles travel section. This week looking for Miami and Thailand information. Where’s all the books from women? I find a total of two.

-Wanderful, a book about how to look good in various cities, i.e, Stevie Nicks type wraps in New Orleans. (P.S. having been to NOLA I don’t suggest those type wraps on Bourbon Street or Jackson Square)

-We’ll always have Paris, a book I can only assume is about the enigma that is the famous city and one girls romance with the city or a man or both.

This week I settle with the books Havana by Mark Kurlansky and Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves. But I’m still perplexed. What is the system that is making it so there aren’t more books written by women in travel? Or simply more books of substance by women? Women have stories to tell. Especially about travel. Are women simply not writing about their experiences? Or are they being written and told by a publisher that unless it coincides with the typical gender expectations that it won’t make it to the shelves. The female gender has made it past the point of being able to write only home and garden type columns, or what to wear to fit a certain body type.

Now it may sound like I am bashing the women who have books on the shelves. My response is no I’m not. I am simply stating that the whole picture of female travel is incomplete. Yes, there are women who go to these places and make it a top priority to look good, you can take a look back to when I had photoshoots done in Paris and Barcelona. But there are also female travelers who run around wearing the same pants for days on end, whose hair is matted into dreads and has blades of grass wrapped inside. There are women who travel with children and raise families on the road while being a digital nomad and supporting her two loves. These are stories that could inspire an entirely different group to see the world.

Women have stories and they should be heard. In the past 5 years I have had the pleasure of meeting a variety of female travelers, they create their own maps and guides. Women who have sailed around the Caribbean at eighteen, women who have hiked to Machu Picchu, women that pack up and move to Japan all while raising a child, and women that move to Australia just because her instincts told her to. To miss out on these stories is to miss out on half of the big picture. We are out there and we are seeing the same countries as men, but from a woman’s perspective the same country could be a different world altogether.

Naturally Urban

Many have heard of random places throughout Japan that boast an uncommon amount of wildlife like foxes, rabbits, cats. In Nara, it’s deer. The deer have been a staple part of the cities life that without them the city wouldn’t be the same. What has caused such a high population? Legends, of course.

The legends go like this, when the city was built the god Takemikazuchi arrived on a white deer to protect the city. They are the steeds of the Gods and messing with them comes with consequences. Up until the good ol days of 1637 it was punishable by death to harm one of these deer, unfortunately after World War II they were no longer considered sacred and were stripped of the status, which I’m sure the deer themselves didn’t notice….but they are still national treasures. Talk about a demotion though.

The deer themselves are considered wild but act quite tame. They mind their business unless they want something and that something is usually always food. Shika-Senbei are available for purchase all throughout Nara park, these are essentially deer crackers. Pretty tasteless and have a cardboard consistency which I learned through trial and error the same way I learned to not put them in my back pocket or you might find a deer trying to get too friendly. But the deer go crazy and will chase you down for them, the more polite deer will kindly bow for the crackers, a lovely trick I’m sure was taught by the humans around them.

This city is a must do for any animal lover! The day I spent in Nara Park was completely magical and left me feeling like a modern Snow White. All in all if you find yourself in Japan take a weekend and go down to Nara, won’t regret it.

Multi-Cultural Shock

So where are you from?

It’s a question that has both plagued me and amused me since before I can remember and the answer usually starts like this, “well……so I’m Puerto Rican mixed….Dad’s German and Irish, hence Shannon Murphy ya know….but I was born in Puerto Rico by a Puerto Rican mother, raised in Pennsylvania, as you can hear by my lack of accent, and I’ve always been back and forth my whole life”. Most people have follow ups,

“So how’d you get into the country?” Well by row boat duh.

“Are you here on a visa?” Baby I’m everywhere with my visa, and mastercard, and amex….I should really work out my credit card debt…..

“So are you worried about Trump?” Aren’t you?!

But I digress. Point is, home is tricky for me. Am I home in Pennsylvania with my mother and sister? Where there’s a Wawa on every corner and we chant for the birds? E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!! Or am I home when I am among the Islanders? Reminding you we are Boricua pa’que tu lo sepas, chirping with the coqui’s and filling our tummies and souls with cocina criolla.

Moving to Puerto Rico is about as easy as walking into your favorite store on payday, you can have anything and everything you want. The people will welcome you with open arms and even more open kitchens. You are welcomed with a “Siéntate vecino, dímequé pasa?” You might be put off by how loud everything is but let me tell you joy is not a quiet emotion. All the noise, the reggaeton, the bomba, the yelling, baby that’s all audible joy, that’s my people. This culture is sweet and easy and to the point.

Moving to Pennsylvania on the other hand is like walking into a Wal-Mart that has one T.V. on Black Friday and you only have 50 cents. Since moving back to PA I’ve learned a couple of things.

~DISCLAIMER~ Just because I say this doesn’t make this all true, this isn’t all Pennsylvanians, this isn’t all Americans. But this is my perception, and my perception is my reality.

So I’ve learned in PA, what matters when you talk to people?

Is it my grammar? Not really, I speak a sancocho mix anyway so that doesn’t matter.

Is it my stories? Cause I have a quite a few, want to know what the docks in Lisbon look like in summer? Or how I hung my delicates out of a Paris Apartment window to dry? How about I delight you in the story of how I turned Jimmy Buffett and his entourage away simply because I didn’t know who he was and I didn’t have time to care.

No, none of those? Catch me on a drunk day, you’ll have to hear them no matter what.

But again, what matters when you talk to people in Pennsylvania? Specifically in it’s suburban hell. Here’s some of my prime examples. “What university did you go to? Because my daughter went to a much better one.” ($105,200 at least)

“Oh, you stay in hostels? I could never sleep in a room with a bunch of strangers, that’s for people who don’t work enough to afford a nice vacation. My husband though just went to Los Angeles for an important meeting but he’s going to spend the week there for fun.” (FYI, he’s probably cheating on you. Also, $2,039 for the flight alone)

On a lucky day when I’m eavesdropping I also might hear something along the lines of, “Well I just had to have the new Tesla, my Mercedes is old” ($69,200)

Now what is my point in all this? Ultimately it is to show the insane consumerism in suburbia, and how it is absolutely ludicrous to think that name-dropping one’s “superior” or name brand items is completely asinine and that shade of green you may see me turn isn’t envy, it’s disgust. Am I saying that if you are financially capable that you should not have nice things? No. But to define your entire personality around your materialism and narcissism is in short. Obnoxious. These are the quality conversations I have had the “joy” of having since moving to housewife county.

This is nothing short of a culture shock to me. Yes, I was raised in the states for quite some time, but somehow this culture of grasping and clawing for the newest, most boujee item is not part of me. As I write this, it’s on a broken tablet/computer, I don’t even wish for an Apple Computer because why. My computer now is working the same way for me that a Mac would.

The weather is cold in Pennsylvania and read the disclaimer if you’re offended, but the people are close to the same. Yes, there are good people here but unfortunately my interactions with them have been far and few. So was I raised in Pennsylvania, yes. Am I a Pennsylvanian, a Philadelphian, a yankee? Hell to the no. I am Puerto Rican, straight from my lips, Irish looking as they may be. I am Boricua, straight from the colorful Caribe to your gated community. Enjoy my stay.

And between you and me, I am legal, educate yourself.