I have just returned from a ten dray trip to Europe, spent on vacation with my wife. Certainly not my first vacation trip abroad and definitely not the first time I have traveled to other parts of the world to study consumer culture (as it’s my profession as well as my passion).
However, every time I do come home from a road trip around the world, I know the first thing I look forward to is getting home and indulging in some of my favorite creature comforts that I didn’t necessarily long for on the road but definitely reach for the moment I hit the ground. Things like a cheeseburger, a Peanut butter and jelly “sammich”, popping on the TV, a long, languishing hot shower, playing games on my iPhone without sucking up data roaming charges, playing with my dog, fabric softener, etc.
And as I was indulging in my microwaveable mac-n-cheese today I started wondering what all these creature comforts say about what kind of a creature I am…and how that projects to American creatures at large. Because while I may crave certain comforts after a long time away from home, those are many of the same ones I appreciate being without when I am on the road…and ones by which I examine the values of other cultures.
For example: in Barcelona there is not much to speak of by way of TV channels or “fast” food. But people do spend a lot of time on their meals…cooking and socializing, preparing and eating fresh foods purchased at local markets. And instead of watching TV they work long hours…albeit not efficiently…because human interaction is the nature of work, social and leisure lifestyles. And you rarely see anyone that’s not a tourist sitting around engrossed in their app-filled mobile devices. People don’t walk down the street tapping at touch screens or talking in to headsets. They talk to each other or take in their environment.
And as I wake up in a panic hoping I am ready to dive back in to work and craving the caffeinne kick and Bejewelled blitz fix to wake and shake me back into my routine, I contemplate my fast-and-furious American lifestyle. Am I nothing if not consuming? How do I change my impulsive ways and cholesterol-inducing cravings? Would I survive in a slower-paced, organic, not-so-technected world? Or is the only way this American can thrive if my food is packaged and my interaction is instantly gratifying?
I may never know without expatriation. So for now, I am back to my Mac and ready to roll…
- Strange Creatures (promisenspire.wordpress.com)
- Comfort Food: Different Perceptions (adventureamigos.net)
- Your Creature Comforts – Do You Recognize the Warning Signs? (ptl2010.com)
- Magazine Living: Creature Comforts… (curbed.com)