An Open, Curious Mind
Why we travel...
Earlier this week I wrote about Americans’ prudishness. In that post, I quoted Rick Steves. In response, a reader commented, “I should have known that you would be familiar with Rick Steves, you have that open, curious mindset that I associate with his ‘style’ of travel.”
A Curious Mind
While I will take his comment as a compliment, I must admit I really am not someone that follows Rick Steves. I did look him up on YouTube and came across a Ted talk he did on why people travel … and will admit I agree 100%!
Denise and I have never been the ones that book organized tours. We have been on a few…but they really aren’t our thing. I am not suggesting they don’t have value! In fact, if you are hesitant to travel abroad, I would recommend such tours as a way to get your feet wet. Your hotel or cabin accommodations will be made for you. A tour guide will pick you up at the airport, direct you to the most significant sites to see, and educate you along the way.
We have friends in Florida, who were always commenting on how brave we were after we returned from a trip. Why don’t you get lost? How do you communicate? Aren’t you afraid? How can you just go? We encouraged them to sign up for a tour. They did … and now seem to travel more than we do! Way to go Bob and Gay! We are looking forward to seeing you in Portugal when it is safe to travel again!!!
But in response to their initial questions, let me preach a bit:
“Why don’t you get lost?” — We do … all the time! But that is what makes travel memorable. If we woke every morning with someone leading us to what we should see we would miss the adventure. We enjoy figuring “it” out. We take pride in our resourcefulness. And, we accept that we may miss many of the spots on “the tour”. For example, we didn’t ride any elephants in Ayutthaya…but I did descend a ladder for 4 flights and stand in a crypt whose walls were covered with gold. Yes, it smelled like rat poop…but it was worth it.
“How do you communicate?” —First, you can communicate with just about anyone with a smile and a pleading look. I recall walking down the streets of Fukuoka with an express mail package in my hand. I needed to find their equivalent of a “Fed Ex” box to deposit it in. After watching me walk up and down the same block 2 or 3 times a man offered, in Japanese, to help. It was the day after the 2016 US election. The only word he spoke to me as he guided me to the box was, “Trump?” He was trying to understand how a reality TV star won the Presidency of the most powerful nation on earth. I assure you the expression on my face and my gestures communicated clearly that I was wondering the same thing.
Second, we are fortunate to have been raised speaking English. In many countries, English is a required subject in public school. Young girls approached us in China and Thailand asking if they could practice their English. And yes, English is widely spoken in this section of Portugal.
“Aren’t you afraid?”— There are places we won’t travel to. We met a young Canadian couple once who were on their way to North Korea. That country is not on our bucket list. We also take reasonable precautions. While neither of us owns Rolex’s … I wouldn’t wear one on the streets of Buenos Aires. But more to the point, in relative terms the US is NOT the safest place on the face of the earth. Consider for a moment, the World Peace Index which ranks the US 127 (the caution zone) while Portugal ranks 3rd.
“How can you just go?” — How can you not? While the US is a large, diverse country it represents less than 5% of the world’s population. Is it possible that somewhere among that other 95%, someone has figured out how to do things just a bit better? Perhaps there is a better way to govern. To run for office. To care for those that are not able to care for themselves. To educate children. To balance work and family. To live…
As some of you know, I actually was accepted to seminary after completing my undergraduate degree as a religion major. One thing I did learn…sermons should never exceed 18 minutes. So permit me to close with one last thought. If you have never left the US, or whatever your home country is, start planning now. Yes, it may not be safe to travel now…but this too shall pass. In the meantime: apply for a passport; watch YouTube videos; support the travel industry and sign up for a tour in 2022. And remember the words of St. Augustine:
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”