Embracing The Slash

No, not Slash.

You know how you meet people who are Slashes, even on LinkedIn?

Author/Speaker/Life Coach/Personal Organizer

Artist/Photographer/Marketer

Full Stack Developer/Entrepreneur/Innovator

Rabbi/Tour Guide/Graphic Designer

and my ultimate favorite, Actor/Model (which, as we all know, means waiter).

All my life, I abhorred The Slash.

Be one thing.

Focus on one thing.

If you can't be one thing, do me the favor of at least advertising one thing.

And if you can't do that, advertise them separately or one at a time, at least.

People get confused easily - are you THIS or are you THIS? People like boxes. Categories. It's easier on their brains. Plus, they want you to be not only an expert, but THE expert in the one thing they're hiring you for. So from my perspective, The Slash only served to weaken each individual identity, because I could only see people in marketability value (I come from a recruitment and human resources background; it's hard to shake.)

On this trip, I have met many people. Tourists, backpackers, ex-pats, locals. These people are story-holders, and I'm a story person.

I want to know all the stories.

I learned, very young, from my prom date and now Wharton Business School-professor SLASH Author, that the one with the best stories at the end of life, wins.

So I'm a story collector.

These people I've met have very little in common. They don't even share a sense of adventure - I met one guy from Denmark who has been in this little town in Southern Goa, in the same two-room-apartment, half the year (he goes back to Denmark for monsoon season) for the past four years. He hasn't seen anything else in India; doesn't go further than his bicycle can take him, and he's 60ish, and rides his 1974 Schwinn slowly, so he's not going very far. He doesn't own a watch or a phone, and says, "I eat when I'm hungry, I sleep when I'm tired, and I swim every day. It's a good life."

Needless to say, there are all sorts. Here's what they have in common: The Slash. They're all several different things; many of them have had several different lives (no, not Dharma kinds of lives) and The Slash fits. Like, it's necessary.

Traveler/Musician/Yoga Instructor

We met a Lithuanian/American (born in America to immigrant parents, but then her parents moved her family back to Lithuania when she was 10) who is 100% fluent in English and Lithuanian, the way my husband is in English and Hebrew. Probably the way any immigrant is when he or she relocates internationally at that age. She's a traveler/musician/yoga instructor, and she really absolutely is all of those things, in constantly shifting percentages. She lived in Vietnam for two years. She's been in India for nearly a year. She eats very little, learns new instruments, teaches English online when she needs money, and picks up jobs here and there at hostels and backpacker places, like advertising, registering, and managing the list of attendees for ecstatic dance. She writes, she naps, she finds a new place and new people. We talked about Lithuanian culture, and how it is to travel as a young woman alone, and dating Indian men.

Artist/Corporate Whore (his words, not mine)

We were staying in one place for two weeks, and in every place we stay, Eytan and I find a "stoop" to sit on at night and chill, away from the kids. We chat and drink wine (although most of India has been wine-less, we are in Goa now, we can actually sip local Goan wine, which the Goans prefer over the ever-popular Sula, which, while made in India, is not Goan and therefore inferior (according to the Goans)). Anyway, we are always hanging out (loitering?) in front of the room, whether we have an actual stoop, a balcony, a log, or we drag chairs from the room out onto the dirt. In this particular place, there was a bit of a yard, and there were only a few of us staying in the two story building, and we thought we knew everybody (you can't not know us - there are six of us and we're loud.) On our 13th night there, at 11pm, this guy wandered, unsteadily, down the stairs and said that we've been here long enough that he thought he ought to meet the neighbors. We'd never seen him. Apparently, he's a Siberian artist and rents a room on the second floor for "the season" (5 months) and sleeps all day and paints all night. Five nights a week, he paints what moves him. He doesn't open the window, so he's in fumes, I'm assuming, and perhaps that has addled him a bit. Shaggy hair, grunty, raspy voice, as he explains to us that two days a week, he paints what the corporate whores force him to paint so he can eat.

Crane Operator/Safety Instructor/Agronomist

We are rarely in bars (the only place you can take kids into a bar acceptably is the the rural Midwest, and that's only because the bar is often the only restaurant in town) but now that we've spent a month on the beach, and every place has a bar, it's like we're hanging out in bars all the time. We have seen very little drunkenness and almost zero disorderly, so these are pina-colada-getting-caught-in-the-rain kinds of places. We were post-swim and awaiting sunset, and we got to talking with a Texan (rare in these parts) who is really half Irish and half Mexican, has three masters degrees and had it with America and got on a plane to Ireland to invest in a farm. She got "sidetracked" and wound up in India, where she's been for six months, awaiting her daughter's temper to cool down, since "Mom, we don't go to India." Her mom isn't sure who "we" are.

Engineer/Hippie/But not THAT Kind of Hippie

Every morning, for a month now, we've been going to yoga down the street. At precisely 9:40am, this Norwegian engineer sits down to his breakfast of yogurt and fruit, and proceeds to comb through newspapers in English. He's in his late 60's, in great shape, and silent. Last Friday, I found myself waiting around at the restaurant while the challah was in the oven (it's a small oven, so to bake four of them, I have to be in the restaurant for almost two hours) and there he is, laughing and joking with a fellow of a similar age. I think: Stories. I sat down. Turns out the Norwegian has been here nearly 50 years, following the hippies in 1969 and then finding out that although he doesn't appreciate yoga, communism or hippie logic, he likes vegetarianism and India, so he stayed. We spoke about hunting whales (he is pro, it's in his blood, apparently, as a Norwegian) and seafood (he is con, since they are scavengers; then he proceeded to explain kashrut to me and why it was correct). Nope, not Jewish. Just curious and knowledgeable.

Icelandic Whale Hunter/Oklahoman Entrepreneur

He was running a business which was failing, in Reykjavik. He had been whale hunting all his life (introduced to me by the Engineer/Hippie, obviously) but could not get whatever business it was to succeed, so he told his wife, if it fails completely, we're moving to America. It failed. They moved. He got on a plane 30 years ago with no visa and no papers and got work immediately, managing a store in northern Vermont. The store eventually closed, and his brother told him he could find work in Miami, so he bought a car and drove there. Turned out the work didn't pay much, but the brother had a friend in Tulsa who said there was work there. Pointed the car west and drove to Oklahoma, where he founded a store and was very happy in Tulsa for nearly a decade. But then he met his second wife, a veteran stewardess from Mumbai (which she calls Bombay) who is a knockout in her 50s and makes friends with everyone within 50 miles, so now they live together in Spain.

Doesn't Need to Work/Working on her Mrs. Degree

Going by a name that I'm not sure is an Indian given name or has been simplified based on her target audience, she is in her early 20s, beautiful, and from a wealthy Indian family. She is not expected to work - never will be. But when one has designs on marrying a foreigner (wouldn't marry an Indian man on a bet, didn't say why) ones is best equipped in this department by working at the front desk of a nice hotel which caters to wealthy foreigners, no?

Graphic Designer/Online Entrepreneur/Traveler married to an Ultra Running Coach/Online Entrepreneur/Traveler

They are British and have three kids - 11, 9 and 3. Their youngest got along really well with our youngest, as they took turns drawing and riding bouncy inflatable horses around the room while we chatted. They live in Bulgaria in a studio apartment (all five of them) half the year, and travel the other half of the year. They homeschool and basically follow the Ultra Running Coach's races (does one even call them races when they're running 100 km? Or is it just an "event"?) They had a house in England, but they hated the nine-to-five life, so they sold it and bought two properties in Bulgaria, on paper, unseen. They sold one of them when their youngest was born, moved into the other, and started online businesses (the designer designs logos and websites, the runner has a following of disciples already) and said "outta here". Last year they spent six months in Kenya, the year before in Vietnam.

Singer/Actor/Model

We really met one. A real one who is actually all of those things, is not working as a waitress, and has levels of talent I've never witnessed personally (in an unknown). We were eating an early dinner (kids were hungry by five-ish) and there was a band (as there often is) tuning up for a show later on in the evening. No speakers and some instruments but not yet playing together. Then I see this stunning girl who begins to belt like I've never heard. It was an American Idol moment. After we take our jaws off the floor, we go home and look her up. She is actually successful at all three of these endeavors and I've now learned to keep my judgments at bay and my mouth shut!

While much of the learning I'm doing on the Big Trip is about relaxation, that's not the case with The Slash. I've actually learned to take The Slash more seriously. Because, if you dig a little deeper, and open your mind a little wider, The Slash is not a piece of punctuation; it's what fascinating people have in common.

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