Thoughts on Traveling the World
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go. — Dr. Seuss
After posting a poem about an Icelandic waterfall I have visited on several occasions, a friend asked me a question yesterday that I thought I would share. The basis of the question I assumed came from the fact that he was not aware that I had ever lived in Iceland for three years.
“Wait, you’ve been to Iceland!?!?! I suppose a better question would be where HAVEN’T you lived?”
Strangely, it is an almost identical question that my dad has jokingly asked me about US States that I have lived in.
“Son, where HAVEN’T you lived in the US?”
Every time he asks this question, it triggers a memory of the book by Dr. Seuss entitled “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” So, when my friend asked me, it gave me an idea to write another post.
When I was a child, I had a very active imagination and this was helped by my love of history and geography. Even as a youngster, I enjoyed picking up a new book and reading about some far-off land or about a time in earth’s distant past.
As I read, my mind would conjure up what those places must have looked like or what it would have been like to live during a time when some special event took place. In my imagination, I have visited the steppes of Kazakhstan and felt the brutal winds sweeping across the Gobi Desert of Mongolia.
I have imagined the dangers of standing on the Great Wall of China while it was being built to keep out the Mongol hordes, and I have wept as I observed the pictures of the atrocities of events like World War One and Two.
My mind knows the brutal waves of traveling around Cape Horn at the southern end of Patagonia, Argentina, but it has also felt the searing heat while riding in a camel train across the Sahara headed for the fabled ancient city of Khartoum, Sudan.
See, I told you I had an active imagination. Move aside, Indiana Jones!
Yet, a book can only take you so far. The smell of weathered ink on paper will never replace the pristine feel of the icy mist from an Icelandic waterfall or the feel of the red dust from Saharan Desert storms clogging the pores of your skin and permanently staining your clothes.
Only by following the advice of Dr. Seuss and by not sitting around waiting will allow you to move away from a sense of complacency. And then, the joys and heartaches of “Oh, the places you’ll go.”
Born in England, by the time I was five, I had already lived in 3 different countries. This was due to my father being in the US Air Force. It was a privilege for which I did not have a full appreciation until much later in life.
I remember speaking with a friend years ago who mentioned that she had never even been out of the US state in which she was born. The comment baffled me because it assumed a naivete on my part that everybody had the privilege to travel as I had done.
My travels were so commonplace to me that I failed to appreciate the blessings I had been given. While we might be considered middle-income Americans, we have been able to use some of our funds at times to travel. This is something that many around the world will never know. I have friends in West Africa who will live their entire lives without stepping foot outside of the county they are from.
Why is that?
As an adult, those travels have given me a greater appreciation for the welfare of humanity. I have observed the opulent lifestyle of European royalty, and I have seen the struggles of low-income families living paycheck to paycheck. My travels have allowed me to visit castles and palaces, but I have also seen the poorest of the poor living in mud huts in West Africa trying to earn $1 (one US dollar) a day.
On one extreme, my travels have allowed me to personally stand but a few feet from several high-ranking members of the British royalty as they swept by in their expensive carriages.
On the other extreme, my travels have permitted me to hold newborn babes in Africa who may never own more than one set of clothes. Those babies will grow up with no shoes or who may only have a cutoff piece of plastic or a piece of a rubber tire tied to their feet with vines from the jungle surrounding their villages.
Recently, I wrote an article about “The Ugly American Syndrome.” My purpose was to point out what we should do when we travel to far-off lands. If you get a chance, I would recommend reading it.
Many will never know the privilege of visiting other countries because of finances. For those who do get to travel, we should remember that we are given a trust when we leave our homes. Our responsibility is to be an ambassador of our homeland to the new nations we visit.
There are others who will not go to another country because they are afraid of the unknown. They do not want to taste different foods, hear different languages, or feel as though they are being treated in a demeaning fashion. Such attitudes will cost you the ability to enrich your life.
To travel properly, you must think outside the box. You cannot wait for the cultures of the world to come to you, but you must go to them. Taste the spices and foods of other nations and take pictures of the beauty that surrounds you. The beauty is not just the landscape, but is evident in the lives of the people who live within their nation’s borders.
I hope to travel more one day and see other continents and places I have never seen. I want to see the lives of those who are less fortunate when it comes to wealth, but who are rich because of the happiness that comes with their contentment in where and what life brings them.
Go as far as you can.
Think outside the box and…