One or more decades ago, I was biting my nails while waiting at the door of an office in the city hall. My mother was holding my hand and she looked at me with a warm, comforting smile. I was dressed my best jeans skirt and a silky blouse with large collar, as it was fashionable in the 80`s. I had to look the part. I was ready for the West. Behind that large door, there laid big dreams and even larger future aspirations. Right there, they held the keys to many countries and I was so damn lucky to be about to get access to them. The passport office never sparked a larger fame than back then.
We imagined other countries being magical lands where people, things and thoughts are all diverse and getting a taste of it is a privilege of a rare.
Then suddenly, me and my uncommon, imported jeans skirt became part of it and I started to collect stamps on my passport. The World had opened a window.
It was only few years back when I have decided to go abroad to learn in an international environment, during my practical training for my studies. I have left home with a gigantic laptop- it was a real dinosaur- taking up the size and weight limits of my hand luggage; and a mobile phone which turned out to operate on a different frequency hence was a useless brick in my new hometown. These days were just a years ago when we excitedly sat down with the dial up internet and hoped that through the MSN messenger, we get to exchange few words and if the weather is clear on both sides, we even catch a glimpse of our loved ones.
Not many months back, I would still walk on the street with a map in my hand and ask the local strangers for directions. I would connect through conversations and get tips and ideas from people I can see, hear and touch and most likely they have really had the experiences they are suggesting.
Only weeks ago, it was yet not the norm to find commercial chains on every corner of the Globe rather, I immersed in typical tunes, smells, settings and homecooked-like food and beverages. Culinary attractions? Traditional dinner shows? Showcases of cultures? These were never heard expressions. Instead, you walked, talked, lived and felt the typicality of a place. With closed eyes, I could tell where I was. Not because I am a magician only because the trademarks of the regions were so significant and notable. With open mind and heart, I have shared my heritage in an exchange of the newly discovered places`.
It was very clear though who was visiting.
The World was less connected. The places had real differences. We experienced unique. We enjoyed everything human.
These days, we are becoming digital, our new words are common expressions, the modern vocabulary is getting more and more international. Rituals are formed in online communities with a shared knowledge and common belief systems bridging over continents. We want to belong to the societies who are representing the things we feel they are representing us. We seek the most suitable circles to express our individuality. We are not confirmed to our local traditions and bind to practice the territorial cultural, social and religious customs. We talk more with our friend on the other side of the planet, whom we probably never met, than we do with our next-door neighbor. You can be thousand kilometers away yet have your family in your kitchen and cook than share the Sunday meal together. You can be part of any social group, any moment, in real time and with real picture.
Today, we do not need to cross a border between many countries, less and less visa restrictions apply, which enable us to have our desired free movement and so all the goods, companies, services and with those the norms of them. The World had opened many doors. At the beginning it comes as a beautiful waive when you only see it on the horizon. It glitters and bathes in the warm colors of the sunset and it`s so enticing and soothing from afar. It is that burger, you always wanted and now finally, you don’t need to go to another country to enjoy it. So, when you get to its home country, that burger won`t excite you anymore. You can get it anytime, anywhere, as often as you want. The burger lost its identity. The burger is commercial. The burger is commonplace item.
I wish it was only about the burger-me being vegetarian.
Am I an Expatriate now? Can I be a person who withdrew oneself from the usual environment? Am I someone who stands out or stands apart or stands aside, perhaps stands alone being anywhere?
How could I be an expat when the World is setting up to be all over alike, digitally socialized and above all, we are all the same humans!?
There were few romantic points about those times, when me and my uncommon, imported jeans skirt walked out of the city hall, looked down on my passport in hand and dreamed of the almost unreachable diversity of the World.
Photos by: Convertkit, Kipras Streimikis, Frank Vessia