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Things I've learned by living and traveling abroad

Ever Evolving Primate: Travel, photography, food, cooking, and just about anything else.: Things I've learned by living and traveling abroad

Monday, June 11, 2012

Things I've learned by living and traveling abroad

Over the past few day's I've read a few people's blog posts about things they learned while traveling, and it's made me want to reflect a little bit on things that I've learned over the past year and a half or so while living somewhere that's just about as foreign as can possibly be from my native land. I think that anyone who has embarked on long-term travel has probably learned each and every one of these things, so it should be nothing new for any of the travel-savvy types that might read this, but I'm going to throw it all out there anyway.

  1. We're all just good people trying to get by and make our own way in life. Well mostly. Obviously there are some people sharing our planet that are actually bad. For the most part though, you won't meet these people. Here's an example. Before I left the comforts of the U.S., I would get irritated doing my customer service job when the customer didn't speak English very well. Well, now I live in a country where English speakers aren't impossible to find, but aren't always available, and I don't speak the mothertongue here. My how the coin can flip. I can see the exact same look of irritation cross the face of the teller at the bank here that I must have displayed when a customer would ask if I could speak Spanish. I'm just a good person trying to make my own way in life. So are the people that would feel more comfortable speaking Spanish/Russian/Mandarin/etc that a customer service representative might run into at work and be a little bit less than pleasant towards. Lesson learned. 
  2. At home, straight white male is the easiest way to go through life. No question about it. I think this is a hard thing to understand as a straight white male when you live in the United States because you don't feel any sort of systemic or institutionalized restrictions on your way of life. You have no trouble getting what you need or at least asking for help, but you may become somewhat jealous of help offered to other groups of people, such as college scholarships, welfare support, or anything that you feel is given to someone who doesn't deserve it. Instead of feeling jealous that someone else is getting help, you should be thankful that you don't really need the help. Moving to a country where you're not of the majority can certainly change your views on things such as stop and frisk (I had a police officer stop me and ask me why I was in my neighborhood one Saturday morning while out buying orange juice), racial profiling (a lot of ESL teachers here are viewed as money grubbing womanizers who spread disease and corrupt young women), and policies designed specifically for foreigners (after my debit card was skimmed while on vacation last summer, my Korean bank froze my bank account and would not unlock it or reset the pin number until I could go to a branch of the bank in Korea in person. I was in Indonesia.) I'm quite happy to have had these experiences, and you can bet that I'll do my best to never treat another as less than equal when I return home.
  3. You realize that the world does not revolve around you, your country, or your way of life. Do I think that we should try to install our way of life around the world because it's better, well, not anymore. I think that unless you understand the way people in a society think you run the risk of thinking that they process things the same way you do. They probably don't, and for that reason they probably don't feel the same needs for the lifestyle, kind of government, or even see what's so great about your extensive freedoms and liberties. They want to live life their own way, and should be allowed to do so.
  4. The world is a big place, and it can be intimidating to go somewhere that's so far out of your normal orbit that your head literally spins as you get off the plane, but it's not really scary. You may be scared, yes, but the world itself is not a scary place. When you walk, one foot in front of the other, the ground will most likely still be there. Not every cab driver will try to swindle you, not every child will try to pick your pocket (but do be cautious), and you don't need to stay with a package tour group to make your way between sites and experiences all in the name of safety. Of course there are exceptions to these statements, but for the most part, you're okay.
  5. Setbacks happen. You will survive. You can always call home for help if you need to. If you feel overwhelmed, it's okay to take the day off, stay in a place you feel comfortable, and watch movies or something.
  6. Motion sickness is a bitch.

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At June 16, 2012 at 3:24 AM , Blogger Mom's gone travellin' said...

I definitely agree with this, and esp. no.3! It is quite an awakening to discover that your home/home country does not even feature (or very, very little) out there. I always thought that London was the pinnacle of existence. London? Where's that?


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