Monday, July 11, 2011

Travel Challenge, Day 14 - What I Learned from Traveling Abroad

***Finishing off the the Travel Challenge***

Day 14, What did you learn from traveling abroad?

What have I NOT learned should really be the question.

I've learned to be able to adapt to almost any situation and any group of people I encounter, especially people who are not friendly. I know that's a skill you can learn right at home, but I have encountered some fellow unfriendly travelers. It's actually a little disconcerting. If I may be honest, being a Black woman with an American accent has definitely put me in a position to explode stereotypes with other travelers. On a few occasions I think people have interacted with me based on their own perceptions of what I am supposed to be and think, and I have not enjoyed those times (It's rare, but it happens. People tend to be universally cool. See below). Whatever the situation my tact is to always be pleasant. If I put out positive energy coupled with good old fashioned manners, then I know good will come back to me during my travels.

People care about each other regardless of political divisions. Case in point: I went to Cuba nine days after September 11, 2001 to participate in an academic conference. When meeting Cubans and mentioning that I grew up in New York City, there was such an outpouring of support, kind words and genuine concern. Many of the Cubans I met were sincerely devastated by what had happened. When I mentioned this to a friend when I returned, she was shocked that Cubans would be concerned about how the U.S. was coping with this horrible event. Why not??!! We're all people; and tragedy is tragedy even if our governments and political choices don't agree or align. I've experienced this in other countries too, not just Cuba. Perhaps it's an often pervasive belief in the U.S. that other countries don't like people who live here? I'm not going to be Polly Anna and say that there aren't people who want to hurt others simply for things like national origin (like this guy). If anything, travel has taught me that people's perceptions of the country where I reside is much more complex.

I can figure out just about anything in most situations. There's nothing like getting a little lost or not being able to fully communicate with someone, but you figure it out. I've gained confidence in my ability to find a place to sleep when I didn't have one or figure out a subway/metro system to get me where I need to go. Also I'm pretty good with maps, if I do say so myself. :)

What have your travels taught you?

1 comment:

BigAppleNosh said...

Great lessons! One that I try to adhere when traveling (as well as locally) is to assume the best in people. Different cultural norms can sometimes mean that a person’s way to be friendly or helpful isn’t your personal perception of what “friendly” or “helpful” looks like. If I just work off the assumption that “they are trying to help; they’re just expressing it in an unfamiliar way!” then that brightens up my outlook (even though it may not be true 100% of the time) ;)


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