Having breakfast at a little cafe in Hong Kong, I had an epiphany. All these years of international flying, I’ve been trying to describe the feelings of traveling the world – the exotic, strange, and wonderful. But this morning I realized what I’ve never articulated: the sense of normalcy! Be it in Asia, Europe, South or Central America, watching people go about their daily lives reinforces that there are no “Those People.” It’s all “us.” Sure, there are minor differences, but no more prominent than the regional differences you see across America. Schoolchildren heading to class, old folks buying their morning groceries, business people grabbing a cup of joe on their way to the office – they’re indistinguishable from continent to continent.
It’s easy to demonize the unfamiliar; to ascribe sinister motives to people who have long been considered “enemies.” Flying over Siberia, we saw strange clearings in the forest, out in the middle of nowhere, blanketed in snow. Having grown up when I did, it’s easy to suspect that these are some secret installations, set up for the day when the Russians attack us. In reality it’s a gigantic timber operation, supplying wood for peoples’ houses, projects and businesses. Just like anywhere else in the world. Talking to a Russian at Magadan Control, we asked him what the outside temperature was: “Is minus thirty-five.” You just know he’s saving for a trip to someplace warmer, just as you & I would be.
Mark Twain said it best:
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
So get out there and see it for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.