by Larry Colen



Living 8500 miles from home give one an excellent opportunity for exploration. I'm beginning to realize how much of that exploration is of myself, and in what ways.

The sentence "You don't realize what you have until it's gone" has been repeated so often that it has become cliche'. Being a cliche makes it no less true. Every place that I've lived in the past 37 years has been within a couple hours drive from each other. Even going to college in Davis, at my furthest from my home base in the Santa Cruz mountains, if something important came up, I could be "home" in a matter of hours. While I have a wide range of interests and hobbies, so many of the social groups overlap that I almost find it surprising when I go someplace, even trying something new, and don't know anybody there.

Another thing that I've begun to realize is that with a mutual support network comes social obligations. These obligations are not neccesarily onerous, as a matter of fact, they are usually enjoyable. Even so, just by having friends a surprising amount of your social calender will get filled up, before you even start looking for things to do.

Now, here I am. I'm living a third of the way around the world in a city that only shares a language with my home town, and that similarity is only nominal. My apartment here is about the size of the trees in my yard at home. Most of the trees here are about the height of my house. The population of the building that I live in is probably over 10% that of my home town. The population of any of the several housing developements within a 5 minute walk easily exceed that of Felton, probably by a factor of several times.

While I have several acquaintances in town, I don't really have any close friends. There are very few people on the island that I could go hang out with on a moments notice, merely because I was bored and felt like some company. On the other hand, I have almost no social obligaations. I don't have to go to a social event simply because it is expected of me. Even more important, no one knows me, or has any preconceived expectations of how I will behave.

This gives me an opportunity that I haven't really had since I went to college twenty years ago; the chance to try out different personas. To experiment with being different people. I realize that there is nothing preventing me from doing such experimentation at home but when nobody knows me, I find it easier to experiment with playing different roles. As a matter of fact, since there aren't even counterparts here to a lot of the social circles I associate with at home, if I want to do anything besides sit at home, I'm practically forced to try new activities.

I am finding this change of my routine to be very educational. I can not cruise through my daily routine on autopilot. I have to spend more time thinking about what I'm going to do. Then, when I try something new, or different I have the opportunity to analyze my reactions. Did I enjoy myself? Why? Would I like to be the sort of person who does this activity on a regular basis?

Last modified 01/24/98

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