'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

“Xenophobia” – the A to Z Challenge


We’re afraid of the unknown, the unfamiliar.

That’s normal, actually. Avoiding or being suspicious of what is new or different is a basic survival tool that’s programmed into our reptilian brain, right along with breathing and reproduction.

Well ok, breathing is even deeper than that, being an autonomic (involuntary) action, but a certain uneasiness with regard to things we don’t understand or haven’t previously experienced is as natural as breathing, anyway.

But it can be taken too far. At the extreme, we have something called xenophobia, which is defined as “…fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign”.   At its worst it becomes Racism, and it’s worth noting – in light of the current American political scene – that an incremental increase in the level of xenophobia in a culture or individual often goes un-noticed.  We become accustomed to a higher level of fear over time, and then a higher level, and then higher still…

But what does all this have to dokeeh cruising, my nominal topic?  Well, cruising involves travel from place to place, often from a place you know to a place that is – to you – foreign.  A place like Hoboken, New Jersey or Lewes, Delaware, say.  A place where you don’t know anyone and they talk funny and the food is different…



So it’s easy to feel uneasy about the place you’ve landed, the people you meet and the sounds and sights and smells that are unfamiliar. The key, of course, is an open mind: a willingness to believe – and sometimes consciously remind yourself – that by and large folks really are just folks, no better and no worse than you yourself.

It’s not always easy. That walk down a poorly lighted dirt road after dark is going to challenge your reptile brain, and the sound of footsteps behind will more than likely send it into survival mode.  And it’s true that not everyone you meet is friendly, and there’s even a very remote chance that you might meet someone who actively wishes you ill. It happens.

But it doesn’t happen often, and the chances are extremely good that it’s not going to happen to you.  So why choose to live in fear? At the risk of going all new-agy and stuff, wouldn’t you rather live in love? Wouldn’t you rather believe that everyone you meet is potentially your new best friend?


Seems to me that beats hell out of building walls – mental or physical – to keep all of “them” out.


Author: s/v sionna

Living the dream in 32'. We left Maine on August 18th, 2016, and have gradually worked our way south until we felt warm enough. After spending the summer in Maine, working to replenish the cruising kitty, and rehabilitating an old house. we’re headed back on the boat, bringing Sionna back home to northern waters. Follow our blog here!

6 thoughts on ““Xenophobia” – the A to Z Challenge

  1. The second person getting ready to leave on a boat today.
    Hope its a great trip for you. I agree but I tend to look for the best in others. I have lived all over the world with people of other cultures and languages and I am richer for the relationships.
    Im blogging from Fill the cracks ( packing for Uganda) and Moondustwriter’s Blog. Happy last week of A to Zing!


    • One of the other cruiser blogs I follow wrote.about the opposite – zenophilia, which is the love of foreign and different! I think I fall in the middle. I’m excited and fascinated by the upcoming experiences, but am introvert enough to feel nervous at the same time!


  2. Well said! Xenophobia is the extreme end of the spectrum. I think apprehension when first arriving in a totally new place or meeting foreigners is completely normal. But, as a cruiser and traveler, going to new places is one of the biggest charms, so an open mind is required. And, once in new territory, it is up to you how “friendly” you get with the people you meet. 🙂 We had social moments, but often, we preferred to do our own thing, especially when not familiar with the language.

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary


  3. So true! This post reminds me of an old Black Uhuru reggae:

    Everybody wants the same thing, don’t they?
    Everybody wants a happy end
    They wanna see the game on Saturday
    They wanna be somebody’s friend

    Everybody wanna work for a living
    Everybody wants their children warm
    Everybody wants to be forgiven
    They want a shelter from the storm…”

    (more here: http://www.metrolyrics.com/solidarity-lyrics-black-uhuru.html)


  4. Did you see Liesbet’s X post yesterday? She did xenophilia, the opposite of xenophobia. Nice to see the contrast between the two ways of looking at the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this, Keith… and it’s a great reminder to keep love and not fear front and center in our lives. I don’t like walls.. give me wide open spaces any day.. and that includes how I view people 🙂


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