I had to pick an X, and none of them thrilled me. My final choices were X-Acto (I could tell you of roommates who lost fingers making models at USC School of Architecture) or xoanon, which is a primitive wooden image of a deity. I settled on Xenophile:
xenophile |ˈzenəˌfīl, ˈzē-| noun:
an individual who is attracted to foreign peoples, manners, or cultures.
So here I go, raw writing on xenophile, seeing where it takes me:
I am alternately attracted and repulsed by foreign cultures. I grew up in a family that traveled by car, up and down the coast, and into the mountains to visit my grandparents at their ranch. No one but my great aunt traveled out of the country, and she went to exotic places as a representative for the USA studying education in Russia, Germany, and the orient. She always sent me something real from the places she went, not a touristy thang.
I was single, had a bit of money to burn, and had just started my own business at 25 when a girlfriend coming out of a relationship said, “Let’s go to Europe for Christmas.” It was a whim, and I expected to be gone for two weeks. We started in London (which I could miss, as I hated the food, and when traveling it is all about the food) to get our grounding but I really was not happy — though I loved the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Tate. We took a train and boat and then another train on Christmas Eve into Paris. It was surreal, and we got no sleep, crammed into each compartment with strangers holding goats and chickens and baskets of meat and breads. When we arrived at the Gare De Lyon I felt I had come home. I was entranced. I turned to my girlfriend and said, “I’m not going home.”
I wrote back giving up the lucrative contract I had just been awarded, and let another friend who needed a place to stay have my apartment. I told my boyfriend that he needed to move on. I did not do touristy things except the art museums, but instead wandered the streets of Paris, eating at tiny cafes every soft cheese and warm bread concoction offered, talking to people and reading books I traded with other English-speaking people. I fell in love with Picasso and Monet all over again. I don’t know where I went because I didn’t document it, just wandered. It was the first time in my life I had ever had no plans, no place to be, and no deadline. The French people were delightful, and tolerated my tries at their language. I stayed for several months, traveling by train to the French coast (Mont Saint Michelle) and Nice in January, then back. I landed a job as a nanny to a film producer who wanted his daughter to speak English. That didn’t work out; I was bored. Finally I came home, but the experience changed my life. I did not want to practice architecture anymore and gradually developed a plan to move on to a different life.
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Pictures of France from Wikipedia!