Stranger in a strange land

My recent visit to Sweden was full of mistakes classic of first time travelers. For someone who boarded her first plane at age 5, this was a startling series of experiences. I was already worried about traveling in Europe where I’ve glanced at increasingly xenophobic headlines in newspapers. Girls not allowed to wear their headscarves, people kept out of Parliment for not being ‘nationals’, immigrants rioting in the streets for rights. I was not sure how I felt about being brown in the midst of the land of the white.

Turns out, Swedes are wonderfully friendly.

The ‘hai’ they greet everyone with is an instant overture for friendship.

All the same – I missed my connecting flight to the conference site because no one could explain to me that I was at the wrong airport.

Once I got the hotel in the conference city, I thought I was locked in my room because I couldn’t get the door open. I even called the front desk to get someone to get me out.

Turns out, the door opens outward, not inward. So the more I pulled with all my might, the firmer I was shutting myself in. I’m sure there is a metaphor there, but the incidents didn’t stop.

I had to call the front desk to find out how to turn off my T.V. Turns out there is no off button, just a small red dot on the bottom half of the remote.

I could go on.

But basically it was four days of being reminded why other people are really anxious to travel.

And enjoying the 6 months of summer sunlight which lasts until 11 pm in the south and learning to laugh at my foibles.

Being out of your comfort zone isn’t fun, but it’s good for perspective.

What are some of your travel disorientations? Or feelings of being out of your comfort zone?

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