Why Even My Most Stressful Moment Won’t Deter My Desire To See the World
When you’ve traveled to as many places as I have, you learn to appreciate the journey and not sweat the small stuff. I have had the good fortune to visit many countries, and wherever I go, I cherish the connections I made with the locals. Nothing is quite as rewarding as picking up a handmade craft from an artisan in an open-air market or experiencing the tantalizing taste and scent of an exotic cuisine for the first time. Traveling to new places opens doors to satisfy all the senses.
Even the occasional glitches, while distressing, can be a dynamic aspect of the overarching adventure. And challenging events can make compelling travel tales.
Perhaps surprisingly for some, my visit to Iran was trouble-free — and captivating. With a history dating back tens of thousands of years, the Iranian culture, which is rooted in Persian culture, is beyond rich. The average citizen there really has a rich knowledge of their history and their literature, and I find it very inspiring. Their level of hospitality is also superb.
Travel arrangements don’t always go according to plan, however. I ran into an unforeseen snag while attempting to leave Turkmenistan and an issue with my visa was discovered. Kazakhstan was the next stop on my itinerary and I was going through the protocol with immigration when I was told I had to pay $440 or I’d be banned from Turkmenistan for life. Even though an error was made at the visa office in the United States, these were still my only two options.
I decided to let them ban me rather than pay the $440. Even though they took my passport and left me with a nonworking cellphone in a barren room with no chairs, I was not frightened. My main concern was missing my flight to Kazakhstan, but after what seemed like an eternity, an official returned with my passport and I was informed that I was free to go — but banned from Turkmenistan for three years. Still, I refuse to let that one moment deter me from my mission to visit every country in the world.
The rewards always outweigh the risks. We only regret the trips we don’t take and the roads we don’t traverse. Traveling has taught me the significance of forging one’s own path. I think keeping an open mind is vital and it’s far better to fill one’s spirit with experiences than material possessions. We only get one life, so it’s essential to use it well.
Americans can often wear cultural blinders and it’s simply because we haven’t seen enough of the world. Get out there and explore and have authentic conversations. I think about all the times I have stepped foot in a new land and sampled the local food or soaked in sights like a sunset over the Sahara. I have preferred the role of student while traveling rather than teacher. We all have so much to learn. It’s a very humbling thing when you’re out in the world and you see how vast it truly is. Don’t just see the world in a social media feed. Really get out there and feed your soul.
Communication is also part of the reward of visiting a new destination. There’s no telling what conversation you’ll have that could change your life. People of all languages crave that human connection. You may not speak a single word in common, but you can see it in a person’s eyes. It’s a feeling you can’t put into words.
My advice is this: Travel more and worry less. Learn some new phrases in a language you’ve never spoken before. Don’t just read about a foreign metropolis; submerge yourself in that city. Walk down its streets. Meet its citizens. Tell them about yourself and learn to really listen. Make sure you keep a current passport and an open perspective. We continue to have more in common than some of us would like to admit.