Americas

In and Out of Place

At the 235th USMC Birthday Ball

Things to know about me:

I love eating outside. I used to row in high school and college and miss it dearly. My favorite color is yellow. Ice cream is one of my main food groups. I’m always going somewhere, which means where I’m from is a constantly increasing list of my past. I’m stubborn as hell, and the longer I work at something, the longer I stick to it, because at some point it becomes less about what I’m doing and more about pride. I am a diehard feminist. I hate being chained to circumstance and will fight to the death to be the master of my own destiny.

Oh, and I’m a big stinkin’ liberal. And I have just moved from Durham, NH (where hippie kids played guitar in the hallways of our high school) and pretty liberal Massachusetts (where most of my friends were lesbians and rowers with bigger muscles than both of my guy friends), and Washington, DC (93% Democratic) to the outer limits of Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps base in North Carolina. I’m sure there are liberals around here somewhere. When I find them, I’ll let you know.

I’m not one of those ultra-liberal haters that refuses to associate with anyone with an American flag within 200 yards of their house. That’s crazy. I have always done my best to listen to both sides, to seek to understand political views that are not my own, and to not judge people for their lifestyles or their beliefs. That being said, moving to a “red state”, and to a military base nonetheless, is a bit of an adjustment for me.

At five in the morning I get woken regularly by the sound of practice artillery rounds shaking the house. It is my literal awakening.

I think that everyone believes that they are culturally tolerant and adaptable, myself included. It was very easy for me to adjust to peeing in holes and sleeping among cockroaches in post-earthquake Haiti, or to watch my friend Dany bring various different girls home in São Tomé. I have no problem with hiking (and not showering) for five days in the White Mountains, or driving for twenty hours and stopping only for gas. Yet sometimes we are fortunate enough to be thrown into a situation that makes us realize that we are actually only adaptable in certain directions. You can sit me in a room with people from the other side of the world that don’t even speak my language, and after an hour I will have made at least five friends. But you put me in that same room, except it is filled with ultra-conservative Americans, and I will feel more shy and awkward than I have ever felt in my life. It’s funny the mental blocks that we put on some people. Do I have more in common with conservative Americans than I do with that group of people from the other side of the world? Probably. Yet sometimes we are so polarized in our minds that we become alien to one another. It has certainly happened with me, and I am embarrassed to admit that it has gotten this far.

In light of the recent elections on November 2nd, sometimes it seems our country is so divided that it will never be able to find itself again. Yet there is a beauty in variety. We are free to voice our opinions, to disagree, to learn and to grow. We can constantly challenge one another– if we are open to that challenge, that is.

Let this be my rediscovery, and my rebirth. Let me not judge myself or isolate myself due to my own preconceptions. Let me open up and exercise my thinking. Let me make the most of being in a place I may not have expected myself to be, and let me be all the better for it.

Beth Santos
Founder and CEO of Wanderful, creator of the Women in Travel Summit, enthusiastic lover of ice cream, picnics and art.

You may also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Americas