As I wrote, one of the greatest gifts I’ve received is the opportunity to travel. When we travel, we are exposed to the discomforts of not knowing the rules, not understanding the words, being from a different place. We are vulnerable. Guests to someone else. Naked in clothes to new flavors, new smells and sights.
I’ve traveled to +30 countries around the world. I’ve felt stranger and welcomed in all of them. I’ve been stared at for 30 min in a Beijing metro. I’ve walked the cold streets of Leningrad late night and the beautiful and peaceful gardens at Peterhof. I stood in Checkpoint Charlie and walked over the trail of the former Berlin Wall. I felt the most intense sadness in the Holocaust Memorial. Watched the change of guard in Moscow, and mastered its metro system. Dined at Cafe Pushkin, and pretended to be an intelectual. I watched the blue Danube in Vienna and Budapest. I drove through Foy, and wandered through the deafening silent forests and the dead. I walked deep into Kiev’s catacombs, lit candles, and prayed a silent prayer to the surrounding saints. I got lost in Madrid while feeling like home, admired the wonderful roman architecture and engineering in Segovia. I climbed the hills in Cinque Terre. I swam my ancestral mediterranean waters in Sicily. I smoked with Palestines and Jews, in a small coffee shop in Jerusalem, while casually discussing politics. I walked 15 km over the Great Wall. I walked the underground Yokohama and never mastered anything there. I swam the Caribbean, the Atlantic, and the Pacific. I climbed to the top of a few (smoking) volcanoes. Waded crocodile infested waters in Guanacaste, Costa Rica (on a 4WD, and I didn’t see a single one, but hey…there was a sign!). And I properly rode the sands in Giza on a camel. I sailed Puget Sound, faced the wind and salty water, and I imagined being an explorer.
Throughout all that, I felt various levels of discomfort, comfortably. And, while I’ve been lucky to experience that much, I know I barely know the world. Which is exciting! So much more to do, learn, and experience.
Traveling makes you realize that despite all the differences, most people share, and care about a (surprisingly?) vast number of common subjects. I’ve been helped by completely different, anonymous people of all ages, and for a few minutes I’ve felt friendship, and what we are capable of doing when we do our best. After all, we are all together in this Pale Blue Dot.