I’ve been traveling for many many years. I’ve not necessarily traveled great distances or to many countries. I’ve only traveled to three countries, and road trips are the best. I’ve traveled extensively across western Canada and western USA, and Dominican Republic. I’ve also lived in 4 Canadian provinces, and they are all unique one from the other. What is acceptable behaviour in one province, may not be acceptable in another. That same philosophy goes between countries. However, generalizing, people are people no matter what culture you are from, no matter what country you live in, if you’re cut, your blood is still the same red.
I’m often asked how travel has changed me. I’ve often been asked what has changed about me since before DR was on my radar? Looking back, I’ld have to say that I’ve not so much changed as I have evolved. I think that I am far more well-rounded and a damn sight cooler than I was at 25. Experiencing other cultures first hand and embracing those cultures as your own makes you a better human being. On the one side, people gravitate towards you and want to be around you because you’ve experienced a different sort of life. On the flip side, those that you’ve know for many years are intimidated and exclude you. You become very used to exclusion from historical people in your life.
Socializing when you live in a foreign country, it’s either a sink or swim situation. I’ve always been gifted at being able to talk to anyone. You have two choices, make new friends or be alone. This is somewhat difficult with language barriers. Face it, I didn’t move here to be a part of any expat community, I came to embrace a different way of life. And damn, was it difficult while not speaking the language. So I learned Spanish little by little and continue to learn. Living with a language barrier in a very predatorial country teaches you some hard lessons. That being said, in DR as a gringa, you learn very quickly to trust less. If you for example wouldn’t be a friend with person X in your own country, why the hell would you be their friend in another country. Unless you know someone for a very long time, trust is often misplaced … need I say more. I’ve made it a hard and fast rule now to be very guarded and very selective. Face it, your intimate knowledge of a person is simply what they WANT you to know and nothing more whether true or false. This applies worldwide. If the person is good, all is well. However, if the person is a ne‘er–do–well, they are just another parasite, and to what degree you will discover at a later date. So, though I am social, I have become very private with my words. Small talk is good! Closeness is bad.
I was always confident in my abilities before I moved here. Yet, here that confidence has grown. I had wavered for a while after having gotten sick and being bullied at work, but that came back in spades. How can you not be confident? If you aren’t you will simply drown in despair.
I’ve become more adaptable. Not having a lot of patience, adaptability has come on slowly and it is still growing. You try to get used to the line-ups, the constant running around, being shoved off from one person to another in search of whatever you are searching for. You become adept at recognizing parasitic infections, salmonella, etc. You watch how street vendors are preparing their food and you get to know which ones to stay away from. AND, you always wipe the top of your drink bottles before drinking. This country is the capital of countries when it comes to baseball and bloody hell everyone it seems is throwing curve balls at you. Once you’re with the program, you can knock those bastards right out of the park. Simply put, the more you get to be in the know, the more adaptable you become.
I’ve always been adventurous. That slowed somewhat when I moved here. The language barrier almost did me in. With each new day I learn more and more of the language. With that I’ve once again become more adventurous and independent. I no longer take a cab, I’ll catch any bus to anywhere, hop on a moto concho if my body allows, or take a carro publico.
Though I’m adventurous, and though I’ve always been street smart and though I am well versed at self-defense, I’ve become more street savvy. I never carry a purse, only a limited amount of cash. ALWAYS have at least 200 pesos in my pocket so that if I do get mugged, I have something to give them so they don’t kill me for wasting their time. I’ve become more observant. I’ve learned to show zero fear, to keep my mouth shut, and to keep aware of my surroundings. This is a violent society.
I’ve always been empathic but have become more-so here. You see Dominicans looking down their noses at their poorer countrymen and as an activist for the rights of the person you simply cannot condone this behaviour. My empathy grew.
I think that learning is a life long process. I’ve processed so much more information living here. Learning the culture, geography, history of this country gives you great satisfaction. After all knowledge is power and gaining knowledge is gaining power. You can’t gain this out of a textbook, this is all “on the road” experience.
I am farrrrrrrrrrrr less materialistic. I don’t need the $200 dress or the $80 blouse. I don’t need the $100 shoes. A $3 Dominican top and $2 sandals will do me just fine. When I moved here I minimal-ized. I got rid of so much stuff, I swore that I would only do with the essentials from here on in. It was far too much work to sort through.
I am becoming more relaxed, slowing down, a little more easy-going. I’m learning to go with the flow and have a ways to go on that but I’m working on it.
I’m happier because new experiences stimulate the brain. Challenges and pushing boundaries pumps the adrenaline, that makes me feel alive! The slower island pace though infuriating at times has far less stress. Less stress = happier.
I’ve lost a ton of weight, I feel lighter and sexier. I’m far far far from skinny, and my loose skin is really unattractive, but I care about that a lot less than I used to. Best of all, my body image is changing. Here, if you are a larger girl, on the heavier side, you’re not viewed so much as fat. They view you as strong. That’s a topic for another blog. But my self-esteem has soared. I no longer hide myself in tent style clothes. I’m still self-conscious, but coming out of it little by little. I’m getting to be unafraid of tighter fitting clothes. Next … the bikini! Now that’s going to take time to get used to the idea much less putting it on. Maybe … after dropping some more poundage 🙂 I do still need to lose more for health reasons, but if I can’t I’m ok with how I am. My physical pains are different likely due to some of the excess baggage disappearing, not necessarily better, but different. Happy to not have extreme cold weather.
In short, I could have stayed in Canada, sulking, wishing I was somewhere exotic or I could stop being boring and do something about it. Back then I was unsure. Now, I’m very glad I made the move. This is an experience, the experience of a lifetime. That experience, that, I would not trade for anything.
Listen to the palms…
© Loca Gringa and https://locagringa.wordpress.com