Things I've Learned from Travel
I’m preparing to go on an international trip soon, so I’ve been thinking about all the things I’ve experienced on my travels. As Rick Steves says, “Travel is rich with learning opportunities, and the ultimate souvenir is a broader perspective.” Which is a suave way of saying travel is a great antidote for ignorance.
Here are a few of the things I’ve learned by traveling overseas:
Americans are often viewed as ignorant and sometimes rude. “Ignorant” didn’t come as much of a surprise to me because, well, let’s face it, many of us are—most Americans don’t speak more than one language and many would have a hard time naming even three countries that made up the former Soviet Union. “Rude” because Americans often think everyone should speak English and we don’t offer to share our tables in crowded restaurants and bars. Perhaps we can be partially excused for this because we live in a huge country, but still, it’s something to bear in mind.
Big monkeys can open many doors with twisting knobs or thumb-press buttons. It’s best not to stand directly beneath a group in a tree; they may shower you with feces as they guffaw from on high. Monkeys of all sizes like to steal and they threaten to bite when you protest. You can imagine how I discovered these tidbits of wisdom.
Zebras sound more like birds than like horses.
Riding in a Land Rover riddled with bullet holes is a good reminder of how dangerous poachers can be.
Palm grubs may look like giant maggots, but they are truly delicious. As are crocodile tails. By contrast, giraffes and Guinea pigs (which are from South America, not from Guinea) are inedible, in my opinion. Yes, I’ll clearly taste anything, at least once.
It’s terrifying to confront a hippo face to snout in the dark when you have just been locked out of your bungalow. Been there, don't want to go back...
Plastic bags are ruining the entire planet. I’ve seen them snagged on corals while scuba diving in the Caribbean and littering the plains in Africa.
The travel industry will never tell you about unfriendly political undercurrents in touristy places. That’s why you need to learn the local language so you can hear and read about how the people really feel about tourists.
Iceland should be renamed Fossland, because there’s not so much ice (due to all the volcanic activity) but there are astounding waterfalls everywhere, and Fossland means “land of waterfalls.” And don’t expect birds there, other than sea birds—Iceland has dramatic, stunning landscapes but very few trees.
The vast majority of people who live along the U.S.-Mexican border hate the wall. It’s a threat to wildlife and a source of environmental disasters like floods. And don’t get me started on the cost or the ugliness. You really need to see it for yourself.
Oh, I could go on for thousands and thousands of words.
But I won’t, because I need to pack my suitcase now. Who knows what new experiences await me this time?
I hope you get the chance to experience the wonders of travel overseas, have incredible adventures, and gain new insights, too.