After 11 of months of traveling in Latin America, I felt a considerable amount of stress relief coming back to the United States, my home. I always seek my comfort zone for relaxation, peace and ease of life. That’s absolutely a contradiction to the fact that I do seek out travel, adventure and off the beaten path places. The truth is, I will only seek them out with Aracely leading the way. She is the outgoing, social, friendly, non fearing leader when it comes to exploring new cultural environments. After having been through the experience of visiting a new place, I am always grateful for it, but it’s not something I would have done on my own.
No Longer a Tourist
When we returned back to the United States, I enjoyed walking around without a tourist beacon on my head. I felt confident speaking to strangers in my native language and I knew how to go about getting anything. I was back in Maple Shade, New Jersey, where I spent my entire life growing up. The only thing I feared was running into some old high school friends at the local Wawa and having to explain my bizarre new lifestyle of running a travel blog. I would be faced with the questions, “Didn’t you go to college? Didn’t you work in New York City?”
I am now in the Miami suburbs visiting with Aracely’s family for a few weeks and the comfort zone is lost. I figured traveling in the United States would be easy. All roads are paved and clearly marked, I have my own car, I know if I am in an unsafe area and I speak English. Have you ever lived in Miami? A vacation visit to South Beach doesn’t qualify. That’s like only seeing Time Square in NYC; it’s not the true atmosphere of a place.
The realization began immediately while grocery shopping in Publix.
Some background information first. Aracely was born in Ecuador and speaks fluent Spanish.
As we went through the check out the store employee began to speak to me in Spanish. With a curious look on my face, I turned to Aracely. Aracely and her conversed for a few seconds and I picked up a few words. This discussion was about my lack of Spanish language skills. The lady wanted to know why I didn’t speak Spanish. “Because I am in the United States!” I defensively screamed in my head. Instead, I sheepishly uttered, “Yo hablo Espanol un poco.” She smiled and said something about that being good.
Did I mention that I also bought some Cusquena Beer from Peru while in Publix? I was ecstatic to see a wide selection of beers from Central and South America. We don’t get this in Maple Shade, New Jersey.
A Tourist Again
It’s been several weeks now that I have been in Miami visiting since we returned from South America. That same feeling of stress I had while traveling is back again. We are back on the road in foreign lands, or so it seems. I stand out, I don’t know where things are and I don’t speak the language. Miami is truly an extension of Latin America.
All over the United States, especially in large cities, immigrants cluster into small areas as sort of a safe haven during their transition into a new culture. I admittedly, would do the same thing, seeking out a comfort zone. Miami is unique in that it’s not a small area. The entire Miami/Dade Country has become Latino dominated.
My Political Disclosure
I am not bitter about English not being the dominate language here. All of us in the United States, less the Native American Indian, who also didn’t speak English, are here as a result of someone in their family line immigrating to the United States. And guess what? They probably didn’t speak English when they got here. English was taught to their children and from that point on English was the dominate language in that family. This is how it works amongst all of Aracely’s family and how it will work in Miami. We so often forget the past.