"I can go on the road–because I can come home. I come home–because I am free to leave. Each way of being is more valued in the presence of the other. This balance between making camp and following the seasons is both very ancient and very new We all need both."
–Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road
Writer Abroad just finished a wonderful memoir by Gloria Steinem. The best part (sorry to spoil) was the above quote at the end. I think most travelers, expatriates, and repatriates can probably relate to it.
It wasn't until the end of Steinem's life that she actually had a permanent structure to call home. She traveled nomadically from place to place with her family and later, as an organizer. At the very end of her book she says:
"My father did not have to trade dying alone for the joys of the road. My mother did not have to give up a journey of her own to have a home. Neither do I. Neither do you."
In her repatriate way, Writer Abroad is discovering that you don't always need to live far from family to embrace the joys of traveling. Or to feel foreign (you can go to the local Asian grocery store for that). But what Writer Abroad is finding difficult in her home country is convincing her countrymen of the benefits of basic social programs that she enjoyed in Switzerland.
She tries to convince any American that will listen that really, it's ok to demand public transport that doesn't leave you stranded. It's ok to demand paid family leave. It's ok to demand a healthcare system that won't leave you in debt if you have a medical issue.
The hard thing (please someone explain why) is to find Americans who aren't afraid of a foreign version of better. Too many scream socialism in your face when they don't even understand its definition. This only shows Writer Abroad how badly some Americans need to travel. Because if you see the world, if you experience other ways of life, you come to understand that sometimes other nations have good ideas. America is not Denmark. Or Sweden. Or Switzerland. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't borrow some of their good ideas, does it?
After all, T.S. Eliot once said, "Good writers borrow. Great writers steal."
The same could be applied to nations too.