For Adam’s birthday I got him The Wes Anderson Collection, a handsome coffee table book full of quirky interviews, behind the scenes shots and stories from the acclaimed filmmaker. Adam loves pretty much everything Wes Anderson so to me this felt like a slam-dunk gift. Booms!
In fact, it’s proved a bit frustrating, namely due to the author/editor’s slightly presumptuous interview style. If there were such a thing as leading the witness in what should be a flattering portrayal of a beloved artist’s work, then Matt Zoller Seitz is also making a classic slam dunk here. The slightly awkward interviews read as if Seitz is looking for a specific answer to his long and drawn-out queries, and quite often Anderson humors him with a one- or two-word response. It’s a little cringe-inducing, but according the Adam the insights, personal anecdotes and rare look into Anderson’s motives and methods make the second-hand embarrassment worth it.
On Friday night, over a bowl of what might be the ultimate pumpkin soup, Adam asked me if I thought my travels had changed me in either positive or negative ways. Apparently, according to the book, Anderson has a friend that has traveled extensively throughout the world yet has remained impervious to change. He wrote journals detailing his travels, which Anderson and friends called, “The Musings of a Completely Unfeeling American Abroad.” This friend experienced cultural changes and shifts yet they neither fully worked their way into his conscious or habits, nor manifested themselves in personal changes or growth. This fellow was supposedly a blueprint for the brothers in The Darjeeling Limited.
Back to Adam’s question, I certainly think I have changed via my travels, whether to Europe or Asia or simply around the United States. I can’t imagine remaining resistant to change like Anderson’s friend. I feel more exposed to varying cultural attitudes and norms, and in turn more open minded to different ways people live. I feel more appreciative of basic human rights that I, as an American citizen, take for granted. I have found, through a few moves around the world and the process of setting up home with nothing to start but a set of four wine glasses and a meat thermometer, that I can live with less than I thought.
I recognize my first trip to Europe with my mom, dad and younger sister as the beginning of my personal growth with regard to travel and exploration. I remember my sister and I couldn’t get enough of one German tour guide’s pronunciation of the words “castle” and “Renaissance.” With the first word she insisted on including a hard /t/ in the middle and with the second she put the emphasis on the second syllable instead of the first. From 14 years in the future I sort of want to slap myself around a bit thinking of how insensitive we were, mocking her through our fashionable braces and middle parts.
Yet what was that behavior if not shock and discomfort due to displacement from the norm? Only a handful of times had I been in the presence of someone whose first language was not English and I was a little unsettled by her inability to speak standard, midwestern English just like me. Having attempted to learn a few foreign languages myself I can appreciated how incredibly difficult English is to learn and with hindsight I see that this woman was extremely intelligent and well educated. But how can one get to this place of acknowledgement without repeated exposure to new travels and new cultures?
So, yes, I think I have changed quite a lot from my travels and in mostly positive ways. Adam and I are glad to report that through our journeys we haven’t picked up a shiny new (and murderously competitive) obsession with “football,” aka soccer. We haven’t started adding “u” to words like “honor” and “favorite” like an acquaintance of mine did. Though we do add in the odd German word from time to time; you may catch a genau (exactly) or richtig (right) peppering our conversation. But that’s more a mockery of our own ineptitude rather than an attempt to show off our linguistic skills.
And what about you? Have you experienced any personal changes through your travels? Do you tend to absorb or maybe even integrate various cultural shifts that you’ve been exposed to?
image 1 via
image 2 by Laura Wilson via Architectural Digest
image 2 via the author’s website