Travel As Much As You Can

Alice and I recently returned from a two week trip with a complex suite of emotions. Things like, “whew it is good to be home,” and “wow it was good to get away,” to “let’s roll up our sleeves and get back to the projects we left on hold,” to “it is going to take a while to digest all these experiences.”

We feel fortunate to be living where we want to live, and leading the life we do. But it is still important to spread your wings now and then. As Jane Goodall said, “Travel as much as you can. It’s an automatic eye-opener. If you can’t afford it, do it virtually.”

I can think of three times our eyes were opened… when incidents presented themselves that we wished could have lasted longer. Interestingly, two of them involved New York City cab drivers.

The first was on the ride from LaGuardia Airport to our hotel near Central Park. We struck up a conversation with the driver, and eventually asked him what his nationality was. He suggested we look at his name, which was displayed inside the cab, and then tell him where he was from. It sounded a little weird, but I did take a look. The ID card said:

Sonam Sherpa

“Nepal?” I asked. Thumbs up was his reply. We spent the rest of that enjoyable cab ride talking about his country, and especially about a guided trek with him should we ever happen to find ourselves in that part of the world.

The second was a ride from near the Metropolitan Museum of Art back to our hotel. We’d arrived in New York around mid day, and after checking in to the hotel, decided to spend the rest of the day at the Met. We wound up walking there because we couldn’t figure out how to get there otherwise, and partly to get some exercise after sitting in airports and aircraft all day. We spent several enjoyable hours at the Met, until I looked at Alice and said, “I just hit a wall.” I was suddenly so tired I just couldn’t go on. Alice, being tired too, helped get us reattached to our jackets and out the door. We started stumbling back to the hotel, which was a bit of a walk. I was on autopilot barely looking at the crossing lights at the street corners.

Suddenly, Alice darted out into the road, made a gesture, and a beautiful site appeared before us, an empty cab with a smiling driver at the wheel. We stumbled into the welcoming warmth of his cab, and learned he was from Burkina Faso in Sub-Saharan Africa. Again, we learned about his country, especially the educational system, and how he was working to help his sister through college, and hopefully to get his children educated as well. Once again, we hated to leave the cab after such an interesting interlude.

Our eyes were opened once again towards the tail end of our cruise. Throughout the cruise, we ate almost all our meals in the buffet on deck 15 of the ship. We climbed the stairs from our room on deck 8 almost every time, rationalizing that we might just work off some of the soft serve ice cream cones we were becoming addicted to.

indonesiaThe buffet operated with largely young foreign workers. One would smile at us as we walked in, and spray our hands with what they called, “washy washy.” It was our responsibly to rub this Purell(tm)-like substance all over our hands to minimize the transmission of germs to our fellow passengers. Our tables were cleared by others that wandered about the place. It seemed that sometimes as the last bite of food was leaving our plate, it was being whisked away by a smiling staff person.

This particular day, the dining room was quite full, and we found a table just as some other people were leaving it. The young man that came over to clear it so we could eat there told us he was from Indonesia. I asked him which island, and it seemed to please him that one passenger knew Indonesia was an archipelago, and was taking an interest. “Sumatra,” he told us.

Somehow, the discussion turned to the recent tsunami, which he said he had experienced. “Did you lose your home?” I asked him. “Yes, and my sister,” he answered without wavering. My eyes instantly filled with tears at the raw courage of this man. He had experienced what few of us, thankfully, will ever experience. Chance had found him away from home on higher ground when the disaster struck his country, and I can only imagine the horror he experienced as he attempted to travel back home to the devastation and death that awaited him. I never got his name, but my heart went out to him that day. My dishes were being cleared by a real hero.

So, thank-you Jane Goodall for the excellent advice to travel with my eyes open. Good stories are to be found wherever you happen to be, and we learned that different approaches to life are just that… different; not necessarily better or worse. If we are to get along on this planet, we need to take the time to understand and celebrate each other, rather than assume different means inadequate.

One Response to “Travel As Much As You Can”

  1. Tom Heider says:

    Nice story Ted keep up the good work. Tell me more

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