We live in a very fortunate time as human beings. We live in a time when advances in health allow us to survive into our elder years, our social class can be changed with a strong work ethic and technology allows us to do so many things that seemed impossible only a decade ago. With this last one comes a few things that we have yet to master. We have the ability to travel to the other side of the globe in hours. Yes it’s a lot of hours, but it’s not weeks or months like it once was. Many people have never had the great fortune to see anything outside of their own region. Still, many people around the world in this day and age, will never visit places that take more than a few hours to reach. Many Americans will live their whole lives without ever stepping foot on ancient Asian soil or basking in the golden Australian sun. We will think of our trips to Cancun and the Caribbean as “Seeing new places”. Many will make excuses, some will be afraid and others just don’t care.
I have only just begun my travels. For the first 27 years of my life I was one of the people I mentioned. I was afraid to fly, I said I didn’t have the time or the money and I told myself I didn’t care much to see anything far away. In the last 2.5 years I’ve managed to make more friends abroad than I have made at home in that same time. I’ve learned about different cultures and experienced them first hand with a newfound appreciation. As an American, I’m fortunate to have the ability to move around freely. As I write this sitting in a coffee shop in Ho Chi Minh City, I had a discussion with my waiter Tao. He explained to me that he has always wanted to come visit the USA, but being Vietnamese has stonewalled him. See, I never realized how lucky I was to carry a U.S. passport. I can come and go pretty much as I please all around the world. For the majority of my life, I took for granted my status as a US citizen.
I spoke with my UBER driver last night about this very thing. He said that he has been denied two times for a US visa. He has always wanted to travel to the states, but can’t. Here in Vietnam, in order to be considered for US travel, one must own property or have significant funds in the bank. This is to ensure that people come back and don’t stay in the US. Even with these parameters, it is still very difficult. Many of the Vietnamese people love America and Americans. You can see children playing in the street with the American flag on their face masks. By the way, they wear face masks here to protect them from breathing in the high pollution. As a caucasian, you stand out in the crowd. Often taller and obviously physically different. People stare and smile when you walk by. They want to be in your pictures and videos. Those that speak english, want to share that ability with you. Those that don’t, want to make you feel comfortable. I’ve seen this in Central America as well. People want to meet you and they want to be nice. In the US, we put our noses up and turn the other way. How did a nation, built on immigrants, become this way?
“We travel not to escape life, but so that life does not escape us.” This rings truer every time I land in a new country. I have just begun my worldly travels and it has already opened up my eyes and helped me relax. If you’ve been missing out, I challenge you to ask yourself if you are truly happy. If you feel like you’re missing something and aren’t sure what that is, I can promise you that seeing a new place will bring you happiness. It will plant the seed and make you ask, what is the meaning of life? With each new travel, you may begin to find the answer.