As I gaze back on the road we’ve traveled to date, I see the theme of identity steadily journeying alongside. This travel term has surfaced questions about who I am and where I belong, as travel tends to do, and I see the same questions being asked by the different nations we visit and defining their past and present narrative.
On a day trip to Girona, Italy, our tour guide Alex said that identity is fiction and “you choose the identities you want to embrace.” What an interesting thought he had. I guess I had never considered how much we are in control of our identities. At the same time, we cannot help what associations others have with our identity or what they are perceiving.
In Catalonia, the fight to preserve identity continues. The Catalan’s are unable to fully embrace their desired identity in part because of the larger state of Spain. They want to speak freely in their native tongue and continue their traditional customs but certain laws and the constant flow of tourism makes this next to impossible.
Slovakia’s budding identity is still forming as the post-Soviet nation has only emerged from Austro-Hungarian despot in the last 100 years. The ability to explore individual identity and private investment is still new to them and the messy tension of that transition is apparent.
The German identity has been so profoundly impacted by Nazism that, when speaking with them, it feels as though WWII happened yesterday. The events of the war are present in the minds and hearts of German people, informing the way they see themselves more significantly than I had imagined. Their history is in the open.
Identity is always shifting, growing, deconstructing and reconstructing. As much as identity is fiction it is real, fought over, and sacrificed for. I’ve found that the very questions permeating my curious heart are the same questions that have followed humanity in every place it has called home. It’s been amazing to see first hand evidence of the rise and fall of vast empires and to see human beings, consistently in suspense and incomplete, remain through it all.