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  • Elizabeth Cochran

What travelling taught me about individualism and collectivism

I am new to the world of travelling, yet my almost 4 month experience nonetheless left me changed. I know that is seems cliche, but if I didn't come back altered or changed then I wasn't doing my personal duty. Change brings growth and reflection brings wisdom. Now, here I am in constant reflection mode of comparing the experiences I had abroad in contrast with the United States.

While I was studying abroad in Morocco I was constantly learning and experiencing new things every day. I feel a sense of emptiness now that I am back in the United States, only in wishes that I can go back to Morocco again. I find myself talking about in Morocco they do this and when I was in Morocco I learned about the meaning of this tradition. I have had to ask myself is this just an addition to processing my return to the states or is it something more? I can acknowledge that it is indeed both. I have in fact been processing being back. With the transition back I was in constant mode of contrasting the culture I grew up with of small town rural America and now in the city to my experience in Morocco. Yet, it has been almost 2 months of my return and I continue to feel that longing for Morocco and craving the adrenaline that immersion brings.

Why is this though? I believe maybe that myself is telling me that I need to explore more. My brain is in search for new experiences and a new challenge. It is a exuberant feeling when I come across a person who is genuinely interested in learning about Morocco with a burning curiosity to know of Morocco. This is what brings me joy and light; to be able to share and connect about the humbleness of travelling. I think now about the next place I will go and better yet all the places I want to see. My future is fluid and life is an open door in which I can go explore. I explode with excitement when I think about all that I learned from Morocco and what all I can learn from other cultures and the people I meet.

Moroccans love any excuse to throw a gathering. This includes sharing time together and having a lot of food together. Spending hours to catch up have a meal, or just dessert, and of course mint tea.

Since being back what I find myself comparing is the individualistic culture of Western societies and the collectivism culture that resides in Morocco. The "homesickness" of Morocco I experience I believe is due to this big contrast in the two cultures. The two societies in of itself are vastly different from one another; one is individualistic ideals, individualism in family order, the list goes on, while in contrast the other is family oriented, for the good of the community, family gatherings for any occasion. I find myself missing the sense of belonging I experienced in Morocco. I had a abundance of acceptance from the Moroccans I came across and felt that I could just be. This acceptance from the very beginning is what stemmed my love and appreciation for their country.

I am able to see that because of this mindset it brought me good energy and positive outcomes. I was able to immerse in the culture, question my perception, and push my limits. For this I am thankful. Yet, when I am in the grocery or going for a walk I think about my times wandering around the markets in the medina. I would pick out my own fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and have numerous conversations and exchanged hellos. In the states I am lucky to get the cashier to even take a long look at me and a sincere hello.

It makes me wonder where has the authenticity and connection gone here? People are immersed in their phones, their to-do lists, worrying rather than being immersed in the people that surround you. This makes me think about psychology and people overall sense of well-being. When I came back I saw that everyone seems so consumed in themselves and what they need to deal with. Hardly any one is asking people in the stores genuine questions to get to know people.

I view this observance as such, there are both pro's and con's to having an individualistic culture.

Pro's: people get shit done, they go after their dreams, work really hard to obtain the life they want, and can work to reach this goal. I also see that this also sets up a false sense of security in what defines happiness.

Cons: Unfortunately happiness will not come after all of those accomplishments if one cannot appreciate the process and where they are at in the present. Individualistic societies value the success of work and reaching your goals, yet forgot to emphasize the importance of appreciating the process and the now.

Read closely and determine what this next paragraph would mean for you for your life.

Loneliness can ONLY be filled through the sense of belonging to a community and human connection. Not false dopamine highs from products, social gratification through Instagram likes, or the success in your job; I am talking REAL CONNECTION. That means quality time with those around you, that means taking the time to reflect on your day, have genuine conversations with those you love, and to slow down and appreciate those around you. People and understanding your meaning give you a purpose. Human connection is what can bring you happiness.

Moroccans had taught me the joy of knowing others intimately and being genuine in getting to know others brings a abundance of knowledge and love. Even with this "homesickness" I experience of missing the genuine connection of Moroccan people, I have become aware of a huge problem I see in America. America is simply lacking genuine connection and not being present with those around them. Work is at the top hierarchy in most American values and I am an American am changing my view of what success is. So for all the Americans reading this take the time to have a genuine conversation and check in on those you love. Your to-do list can wait a bit longer ;)

For me, I now can view that success is not something external or a physical thing to obtain. Success is the appreciation of where you are and bringing to the world what you want to create. Success is spreading knowledge to others, spreading kindness, spreading love and touching people's heart with genuine care and smiles. I want to spend my days to appreciate life around me, talking about ideas with others, sharing our tribulations, and taking the time to reflect and enjoy with those around you.

I hope you find for this view of my collectivist experience and the individualistic experience to be insightful. Hopefully it made you ponder your day-to-day life and brought some wisdom to you.

If you liked what you read, please support me and my website and buy me a coffee. I appreciate you being here. Thanks.

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