Today marks the end of my time in Europe. Over the past year I have taught in Poland and for the most part had a wonderful experience. There have been numerous weekend trips, twenty-six at last count and multiple countries checked off my bucket list.
To that end, the majority of my time has been spent in Poland. I can say living here is certainly different than visiting for a week. While I will be the first to say I have felt welcomed living in this country, I can only imagine what my experience would have been had the color of my skin or my genetic makeup been vastly different. There is a reason why Ukrainians were welcome with open arms and yet war refugees from northern Africa and the Middle East are not. For that matter ask the Chinese man who got hassled on the train yesterday by the conductors as we were traveling from Warsaw to Krakow
While I don’t mean to criticize my temporary home, I can’t help but do so because it feels similar to the United States from thirty years ago. And yet, it is different too. There is a culture that doesn’t allow for much criticism or at least those beating the drum are significantly louder making it appear as such.
Some will say I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I assure you that I do. Should any foreigner speak out or share their perspective, even about the nuances of daily life, it is immediately disregarded and the locals online (those more militant in their demeanor or nationalistic could be a better term) go on the attack. Look at some Reddit threads or even some YouTube videos to see those who feel inclined to comment.
I have seen this first hand. With my attempts at a YouTube travel channel on two different occasions I made vlogs talking about my life in Poland. Let’s focus on the word “my” which seems to mean it’s not valid unless it’s from a Polish man or woman that has been in the country their whole life. It’s one thing to create a travel vlog showing myself roaming the streets or countryside of Polish cities or towns, but it’s another to point out the transition to living here. That’s where this experience has become a mixed bag.
There have been challenges between learning the language, adapting to shopping culture, the lack of personal space and total disregard of it, as well as apartment living, and of course the post office, to name just a few. Some are trivial and others are asinine from this American’s viewpoint. Regardless of what I share, there will always be someone or multiple people who feel that they are the end all of what is right or wrong in Polish life.
Let me stress, I’m focusing on those individuals posting online, not on my colleagues or the friends I have made, who have been wonderful across the board.
I imagined YouTube to be more of an open forum for appropriate discourse, but unless it spins everything in a positive light, this is far from the truth. I know from over 180 videos on my first channel, that only the ones where I was upbeat and mesmerized by the wonder of Poland were my views high and comments constructive. Now shift to a video pointing out how it makes no sense that packages can’t be left in your apartment building door and yet everyone claims the streets are safe to walk at all hours of the night, you are considered too radical. Don’t dare mention your apartment being 12 degrees in the winter or all hell breaks loose.
I don’t get it, but then again I don’t understand why we have a universal online culture where people feel it is their right to destroy others. I know this isn’t just a Polish thing, it’s across the world. Many of these people wouldn’t be able to destroy others in a public forum, but the anonymity of the Internet gives many the power to spew hate without repercussions. I understand this is a larger topic for another day, but it makes me question how many private voices truly feel the same way or if their voices are simply minimized by those who lurk in the online forums, waiting to pounce - to justify their existence.
I wonder about such things and whether when I return to the United States I will face more of the same. And yet, I didn’t expect it from Poland. Maybe that is where I made a mistake. Hate is everywhere and for that I’m truly sorry. Nevertheless, I would hope in the days that come that the culture will shift and even in Poland, foreigners will feel comfortable to share their perspectives and their lives without being looked down upon and shown the door. While I have the luxury to return home, others don’t necessarily have the same freedom.
Certainly some food for thought. Till next time.
Those that have been following my vlogs know I have been quite busy since the middle of October. While the channel was growing well enough, I did something completely in my character but out of character compared to others - I blew the entire thing up and erased the channel.
That’s right. Last Sunday, I went to settings and deleted everything. So all 115 vlogs, 80 plus shorts, were erased from memory. One might wonder why I would do such a crazy thing. I was fast approaching 700 subscribers and probably in a month or two would have crossed the 1000 threshold. Things were certainly picking up and I had over 7000 viewing hours in the books.
And yet, I knew it was a necessary action. I’m going home in a few weeks. I’m leaving behind Poland and Europe for the familiarity of home. While I certainly have appreciated my time in Poland and all of the travels, the fact I had become “that guy” the American who moved to Poland was not working for me. My viewership was something like 75% from Poland or at least the subscriber part. To grow a channel when I’m going to be based in the States, with only Polish viewership would prove more than an uphill battle.
Sure I could have shifted gears on the channel, but like I have done over the years with this website and even with my books, I felt it easier to start from scratch. That’s the irrational, yet rational, artistic side taking over.
Even though I already miss not being able to look back on my Italian travels or Ireland or for that matter Estonia, there is something liberating about having those moments back inside my brain and not shared with the masses. I feel like it was a necessary step back to move forward.
You might be wondering what’s the plan now? Does this mean you are jumping right back into writing? There will certainly be more writing on the horizon, that I know simply because I’m going back to a place I will feel more grounded and able to tap into that creative part of me. As for vlogging, I started a new channel.
Yes, it took all of two days until I started fresh. I had every intention to leave vlogs behind, but I know for some that my humor, my travels, my stories resonate. It would be a disservice to disappear completely. Not to mention, it will be hard to promote any future books if I leave all forms of online media behind.
To that end, the new channel, Travel with Mr. Jon, is up. Unlike before there will be more than just incessant travel vlogs. Don’t get me wrong we will have a good portion, but there will be more shorts. Some shorts will be humor centered and others will be from nature or random things I see. We also will get into actual writing. I might have a few tips and recommendations having been at this in one way or another for twenty-five years.
Finally, I also intend to have a live weekly podcast/broadcast on my YouTube channel. The first episode will be when I am settled in Maine in early July. Topics will vary and in time I hope it will be viewer driven with questions from those who have found their way to my channel or books. I imagine it will cover all aspects of life as I look to diversify the content. Who knows what will come of this new venture. I already bought the microphone and headset and the webcam will be ordered shortly.
The important thing is that I am following the same advice I have always followed. When one door closes, another one opens. Join me and come along for the ride if you’d like.
Eighteen plus years as a published author, Jonathan has been independent the last eleven. With readers across forty-seven countries and six continents, he has readers around the world. Writing across genres, he loves good dialogue and flawed characters.