My friend Shannon works for the Seattle Girl’s School and asked me to do a presentation for the school of about 125 middle schoolers. When they asked me I was psyched, internally thinking “YES, I have so much world knowledge to drop on these kiddos.” When it came time to make a presentation though, I felt a little more stuck.
Having a background in Graphic Design, making a presentation was not the problem. I’ve made hundreds. It didn’t feel right to have a slideshow though. So instead, I’m writing a blog post for it. I’m presenting about my travels, this is the medium I present my travels to any internet bystander, so why not for this school.
So without further ado,
What I have Learned From My Travels
What I Wish I Knew in Middle School
Some, But Not All, of the Wisdom that I Think is Important, That I Have Thought of While Traveling.
If You are Told Something, Look for the Opposite
The world is full of people trying to sell you an idea, a product, or a scam. Everyone has a motive, and you should know what it is before you go along with it.
One time we arrived in Mexico at the airport and needed Pesos for a bus. An airport employee tried to convince us that an ATM that gave USD was the only ATM in the airport, which he would conveniently exchange for us at a horrible rate, but that we had to do it then, because if we left the terminal we would not be allowed back in.
At the risk of being stranded in the parking lot without money we left the terminal and went to a different one, and surprisingly there were 3 ATMs that all gave Pesos at a bank regulated exchange rate.
Another time in the Galapagos, we were told that all the island hopper ferries were sold out on the island and we would need to wait two days before we could change islands. We went down the street to another business and they had seats for the next day.
American media want you to think that Russians are different from us. I have Russian friends that have redefined the word “Loyalty” for me.
The American media want you to think that Islam is a radical and violent religion and so are the people who are from the middle east. The muslim’s I met are the ones most likely to give me the shirt off their back and their last falafel.
Just tread carefully. Be aware of what people want from you.
In seemingly contrary advice:
Trust in Good
I am an extremely anxious person. If I have time to stew and worry about something, I will. My lifestyle is a seemingly dissonant one to my personality. It works though because time and time again I have been proven that the world is a good place.
Colombia is a country that many people still believe to be a dangerous place. I spent a month there and I found it to be wonderful. We were coming home from frisbee one night and a lady stopped me in the street and started talking to us. At the end she gave me a big hug and said “thank you for being here, you are wanted here, and we love you.”
Eastern Europe is another place that is seemingly dangerous, (though largely I believe that to be residual anti-communist propaganda), and it also is a wonderfully friendly and gorgeous area. The managers of a house we stayed at spent 15 minutes showing us her garden of giant camellia flowers, even though she didn’t speak any english.
The world is not out to get you. The world doesn’t hate us cause we elected Trump. Most of them think it’s funny. And while I don’t think you should walk down a dark alley by yourself in a poor neighborhood, I think the same problems and cautions you would take in America are what you should take while traveling.
Live Simply and Deeply
If I had to pick one thing that I thought was the main problem with society is would be consumerism and all the things that go with it.
People have too much stuff, watch too much TV, and are subjected to too much advertising.
When you are traveling you suddenly have more time than you know what to do with. You have no reason to put off reading that book. You have no reason not to draw that picture you’ve been imagining. No reason not to write that letter to Grandma. Do you do it though? Probably not. And without that false sense of “doing something” that TV provides you, you have to come to terms with that empty feeling of lack of self motivation. It’s really hard. We all like to thing that we will do great thing but it is so much harder to do that then to just be lazy. That easily is the hardest part of traveling, and also the number one reason you should.
You can simulate that experience by not watching TV. Try it this summer break.
I don’t buy souvenirs when I travel. Part of it is that I don’t have the space in my bag, but the other part is that I just don’t want things. Things are hard to move and not interesting to talk about. People want to hear about adventures not knick knacks.
Which leads me to:
The Best Stories are When Things Go Wrong.
I have about 130 blog posts and the most popular ones are usually when things go wrong. My most popular instagram photo is of my eye after walking into a tree.
Just kidding it’s this one:
People loved the time I lost my shoe in a mud puddle in Luxembourg after getting lost and having to ford a river to escape hungry looking horses.
Or when our car broke down (plot twist, it didn’t) and we had to hitch hike up to view the rainbow mountains in Northern Argentina.
Or when some horses got spooked by hot air balloons and ran away with us in Turkey.
Your fondest stories to tell will be of the times that things didn’t go as planned. So take risks and do things the long way because its so much more interesting than your other options.