10 Things I’ve Learned Circling the Globe

by Gail Mooney
August 24 2010

I came across an interesting blog yesterday “20 Things I’ve Learned From Traveling Around the World for Three Years”, by Gary Arndt. It was pretty much on target with my observations from my very short journey of a little more than 3 months.

Erin and Gail in village along Amazon River, Peru

But it got me thinking about what I have learned on these travels. To travel is to experience and learn and also an opportunity to show other people from other cultures what an American (U.S. citizen) really is, beyond the news, the music and Hollywood movies.

1. People are good – Like Gary, I’d have to agree that for the most part most human beings are good. Sure there are schemers, con artists and thieves in just about every culture, but for the most part – people are good.
2. Government policies don’t always reflect who the people are – U.S. citizens are not all warmongers and not every Afghani is a terrorist.
3. The media exaggerates – Because we all get our news these days in abbreviated and sensationalized TV content – it’s distorted. I almost changed my plans to go to Thailand because of the coverage of the political unrest, which in actuality was contained to only certain sections of Bangkok.
4. There aren’t just “ugly Americans” there are “ugly tourists” – people around the world seem to equate badly behaving tourists as “ugly Americans”. I have found bad behavior is not solely exclusive to “Americans” or U.S. citizens – I have witnessed really bad manners from all types of tour groups – French, German, British, Japanese, Argentinean – you name it. I think it is more of a reflection of a “group” dynamic than a cultural one.
5. U.S. citizens are misunderstood – I find this is more common in countries that are more “westernized” than countries where you would think more of a discord would be present. For example – I found the people in Egypt friendly, curious and informed, unlike other “westernized” countries where the attitude was more of one of disdain. In other words, the more “westernized” a country was there seemed to be more of a preconceived yet narrow minded and naïve attitude about what an “American” was.
6. Cultural naiveté – Guess what folks – when you join those tour groups and they take you to the “untouched villages” along the Amazon River or to the hill tribe villages in the mountains of northern Thailand – they’re probably bringing you to government sanctioned tribal villages where the people have made it a business of “dressing up” for you. Some locals that I met referred to these places as “human zoos”. It’s kind of like expecting to see everyone in the U.S. wearing cowboy attire – I mean outside of Texas and Montana that doesn’t really exist anymore.
7. The Internet has changed the travel experience – you can pretty much get connected anywhere – anytime. My blackberry worked in some of the most remote places in the world. I could almost always get a cell signal – the irony was that I didn’t always have electricity to charge my battery. If you want to really get away – leave your laptop, iphones and blackberrys behind.
8. Go with the flow – don’t focus on what you miss from home whether that is a Starbucks coffee or a hamburger – discover the richness of the country you are in – the food – the music. As we become more and more connected with each other across the globe – we are beginning to lose our cultural differences.
9. I am a diplomat for my country – sure there are things that I don’t like about my country, the United States. But when I travel, I feel that this is my opportunity to interact with the people where I am visiting and to give them perhaps a more true picture of what an American is – beyond what the news and Hollywood portrays us as. That is if people give me a chance – if they haven’t closed their mind.
10. I am grateful that I can travel – and I think that everyone should travel – outside his or her country and culture. Don’t just visit the tourist sites but try to get out of the cities and interact with the people. The best thing about this journey is that our purpose was not to see the sights but to connect with the people. That made it meaningful and memorable.

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0 Responses

  1. Very nice… It seems like you had tons of fun… amazon river? wow! Im peruvian and I haven’t even visited that area yet.

  2. Nice list. One thing though: The French are pretty good at maintaining a position in the top tier of complaining tourists. Before bloggers get in a twist over this “misconception”, my other half agrees and she’s French!

  3. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been reading a lot of travel blogs lately and it has ignited my wanderlust — inspiring me to go to NYC at the end of September. I have your next blog assignment for you you: 10 Things I’ve Learned About Myself While Circling the Globe.

    Crystal
    http://www.crystalspins.com

  4. traveling is by far the best thing you can do in your lifetime imo. glad you got out there and experienced some things. as for going with the flow, couldn’t agree more. book a ticket into a country, and maybe one out a few hundred miles away a month later or something and just try and bridge the gap 🙂 its enlightening 🙂

    keep traveling

  5. Traveling is the best education anyone can get.

  6. I loved reading this and found myself agreeing with every one of your 10 things. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel too and this post made me really really miss living out of a suitcase 🙂

  7. Very interesting read!

    People are just people, no matter where they are from. There is good and bad in a-a-all of us. Some people bring out the bad in us and some bring out the good in us. Likewise, different situations.

    I am happy that you are able to this, so that you can share your experience and hopefully enlighten some of us. Thanks. Keep traveling, learning and sharing! All the best!

  8. Well put! I can’t wait to travel myself!

  9. Excellent observations! I whole heartedly agree with number one. I’ve spent some time in France and everyone always asks me/ or just flat out tells me that the French are rude and stuck up… while that may be the case for some- I really would say that hospitality was one of the most prominent qualities I found in the French.

  10. Very interesting and very true. I look forward to your documentary. Hopefully by showing other’s “…dreams, passions and ambitions…” we can see how alike we truly are.

    Juliet
    http://www.parentingfromthecouch.wordpress.com

  11. great post and great lessons learned!!

  12. excellent points. I am glad #1 is your #1 – as it is also mine (despite the fact I have never travelled internationally). My basic philosophy in life is to assume others are basically like me, no matter what the culture, religion, skin color, diet, or nationality. If I assume others are like me, then I assume their primary concerns in life are to do what is best for themselves and their families, to make sure they are fed and happy. Once I assume that the majority of others are simply trying to live their lives as I am mine, then worries about others wane, and the real dangers become more apparent.

  13. Congratulations.. on being Freshly Pressed. I haven’t traveled very much; however, I readily agree with what you say. I guess there are the few pointers that every traveler should actually keep in mind before hitting the road or flying- whichever. We so tend to forget that all around us are people. They too may have their own biases..

    Worth a read..

  14. These are ten certainly worthwhile lessons to be learned by every traveller. Thank you for sharing…I particularly appreciate your first lesson. Generally, people are good and will help you if you need it. It’s just the bad that you remember…

  15. I like your post as I also love traveling. We can learn so much about traveling if we want to. I’d rather be called as a traveler than a tourist.
    Love it!

  16. I really loved this post. You’re so right on all your thoughts. Very well written as well. I really enjoyed reading it. I hope that I get the chance some day to travel as many countries that I can.

  17. I really like this. Especially one and ten – it’s great inspiration for an aspiring traveler.

  18. I love your list! I’m going to Greece in two weeks, so there are definitely some things on here that I need to keep in mind. I agree completely about getting out to experience the actual city or country you are in and not just going to the cheesy overpriced tourist traps. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Very well put. These are certainly the 10 things one can learn from one’s visits around the globe.
    Certainly a part of my checklist now, for the next time that i travel.
    Kudos!

  20. great great blog man! i can’t wait to travel now.

  21. Yes, they are all very true especially 10. Great posting!

  22. Great post, great list. Should be included with every American passport. I always keep in mind that when I travel, I bring the best what what it means to be an American with me. And I always start by assuming that people will show me their best, as well. #1 applies everywhere, whether we travel or not.

  23. Jan

    I’m glad you kept an open mind while travelling around the globe. Travelling is one of the best form of education. I try to lose myself once or a twice a year in a different country by staying for at least three weeks to connect with the people, places and culture.

  24. Thanks so much for these points, especially the ones about misconceptions about Americans. I lived abroad for 8 years and had to finally accept the fact that I am was a cultural ambassador whether I liked it or not. There are a lot of unfair stereotypes of Americans and it was a full time job counteracting them. 🙂

  25. Wonderful post. Governments could learn so much from their people. Specifically interns of helpfulness and hospitality to outsiders.

  26. Pingback: 10 Things I’ve Learned Circling the Globe | Blipsterfarian Logic

  27. Wow..nice topic , as an Egyptian I want to ask you,what places did you visit in Egypt, and what else did you like about it ( if there’s anything else aside from the ones listed above),but please, be completely honest say what you really think. and if you don’t mind telling me as well what you meant by saying “curious” ???? curious to know more about America or…??and thanks for saying that the Egyptians are friendly! take care

  28. Pingback: 10 Lessons Learned « Opening Our Eyes

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