Ever since breaking my leg by falling off a 12-foot roof one rainy day in 2004, mobility is something I have learnt not to take for granted. After nine months in a full length cast I decided I quite liked my legs being intact, and that I should make the most of them.
The manner in which different environments bring about different emotional reactions to different cultures has always fascinated me. For instance, why is it that despite sharing the same planet humans are strangers to their own kind?
Travelling around South East Asia in the summer of 2008 allowed me to investigate why culture and society is still a potent coherent for national identities today. From fellow backpackers to members of hill tribes in the Lao rainforest, civic and ethnic nationalism is essentially part of what ‘we’ are.
Even if I considered myself as a global citizen, freely travelling from country to country I would never escape the assumptions of others. Accents, languages, appearances, dress senses all converge to give others clear indications of who ‘we’ are, even if we are consciously unaware of it. True, you don’t need to travel the world to be aware of different cultures at work, hell; you probably don’t even need to leave your street. But until you’ve ventured outside your nationalistic boarders one cannot truly understand what exactly it is to be seen as the alien in a foreign country. It makes a mockery of extreme ethnic nationalism, instead highlighting the discourse that the world is there to be travelled, there to be shared, and people no matter what country they come from are they are there for each other. The latter may sound clichéd and sickly, but if the world is full of imaginary lines and walls, why do we persist in making them a constant reality?