I have been fortunate that I have been able to travel. All over South America, Europe and as far east as Bali so far in my life. Still, there is so much more I want to see. To experience.
Every time I go somewhere I am always amazed how once you break down social, economic and religious barriers, humanity is all the same. We all want love, all want our place in the world. Forget jobs, money and toys, your family is what is important and your place within it just as much.
When Brian and I were in Bali we kept getting asked if we were married, how many kids did we have, did our parents live with us? At first we were taken aback but then I realized how family oriented their culture is. Even their houses are built for harmony, as compounds where there is an open air room in the middle and around it separate buildings that are bedrooms, or a living room, or a kitchen. 3 generations or more of a Bali family may live together. Family is how they define themselves and each other. So they were asking us these questions to determine our family, to define us as they knew how.
Another eye opening experience for me was seeing the level of poverty outside of the US. Of course we have poverty here, and considering we are a developed nation, way more and worse than we should. But still, most people here have access to clean water, to some food, some sort of housing. When I was in South America, I was floored to see how entire villages lived. Some people walked miles just to get water, and entire families slept on dirt floors. Food? If they were lucky, enough for that day. In Chile I remember all of us getting back on our comfy tour bus, and our tour guide from the last two days comes running over to us. He had a pair of running shoes in his hand. Muddy, torn and frayed, he asked if someone had forgotten them. When it became apparent no one was to claim them, he said he would bring to his village for someone who needed them. WOW. And he was so excited about it to. This has left a forever impact on me. At the time I was 21, going to college, never had the hardships this guy probably had. That someone would think dirty old shoes were treasure opened my eyes to how superficial I was most of the time.
Of course not all my trips have been life altering. And I wish I could say I joined the Peace Corps and changed the world but I did not. Some of my trips are purely for that mythical “tropical escape” and I act like a normal tourist who enjoys the resorts and tries not to think about the poverty around me.
As a woman, I have become grateful for the freedom being an American gives me. I realize how different my life might have been if I was not born where I was but in a country that doesn’t allow a female the right to live life the way she wants. I have had to cover up in some of my travels and otherwise adopt local customs in order to honor their ways and fly under the radar. It feels weird. And I am always happy to come back to where I can just live how I want and not question myself on how I should act.
I will leave you with one more story. When I was in Bolivia we gave out school supplies we had bought with us to some children. They were so excited. And grateful. It just blew me away that kids were getting excited over pencils and paper. But to them, getting an education is a gift. A chance to better their life and their families. They are praying just for the opportunity to learn. To have hope.