My experiences traveling long-term resulted in many different reflections about the world and the people in it.
Some of these reflections have emerged since being back in the United States for several months. My thoughts are different now when I hear stories about other countries in the news or consider taking a flight from point A to B in my own country.
I find that my perspective has changed on some topics or has taken root more strongly in others. The following are 5 of the most significant reflections I've had.
The World is Small
The world is small both in terms of its size and its interconnectedness.
I used to think the size of the Earth was enormous. Earth is 24,901 miles (40,075 km) around and it would take well over 2 days by commercial flight to fly its circumference.
Domestic trips used to seem like a big ordeal to me. Now, after traveling around the world and back, all domestic travel seems fast and easy. For the next 2 weeks, I'll be doing some domestic travel. I'm heading to New Orleans and then to the Keys and Everglades of southern Florida. Flying there and back to New York will be a piece of cake.
Keeping in touch with people was so easy while traveling. All it took was the slightest bit of tech planning in advance of my travels.
I communicated constantly with friends and family through apps like Skype, Viber, and What's App. Almost every 20- to 30-something (and beyond) traveler was on What's App, Facebook, or both.
No matter the distance or the time zone changes, I was able to keep in contact with all of the people in my life, new and old.
People are generally kind and welcoming
Some cultures are kinder or more forthcoming in their kindness than others. But, in general, people are friendly.
People want to be liked and, most importantly, they want you to like and remember positive things about their country. So with those motivations in mind, people across the world tend to be very accommodating and helpful.
The only time I ever encountered a particularly unfriendly person was at a hostel in New Zealand. And it was another guest (not a local) who upset me.
Borders Fade Away When You Travel
Similarities across cultures become incredibly enhanced while traveling.
Pretty much everyone cares about the same things. They want to know their family is safe and they want to feel safe themselves. And a major part of that safety is knowing basic needs are met—water, food, shelter, healthcare.
The rest of what everyone spends copious time fighting about are products of culture and context. They have nothing to do with who humans are at the core.
Borders also fade when you get a group of travelers all hanging out together. Of course, people always want to know where you are from at the start of the conversation. Next, people will crack jokes around the stereotypes associated with your country and their own. But when all that is said and done, the borders fade away as everyone bonds over and shares in the same interest: Travel itself.
Even all the stereotyping and joking clung to a general subtext that read "we're all family."
Every Country Is Fighting Homegrown Social Injustices
I had delusions of grandeur about New Zealand before traveling there. While my rational mind told me there had to be things wrong with the country, I just could not see them from afar.
Upon arrival, I learned all about the government's corrupt trade agreements with other Western powers, their underreporting of overfishing, their slow slaughter of wildlife through 1080 poison drops, and some people's prejudice toward Asian immigrants and Māori natives.
It seems no country has truly "figured it out." Sadly, there is no utopia on this Earth. At the same time, there are many people fighting back against these injustices, pushing for change, and therein lies the makings of a better world.
It's truly inspiring to see the fight happening in different ways all across the world!
Every Country Has An Ugly Past To Learn From
Germany had the Holocaust. Iceland had the Vikings. New Zealand had the East Coast Wars. Our collective past is really not far off from a season of Game of Thrones!
When you realize every country has a dark spot on its past, you realize no country is an exemplar of morality. Not even your own.
When you limit your perception of another country to the atrocities of its history, you do yourself an injustice. It's an injustice to you as a potential traveler to that nation and it's an injustice to your ability to connect with new generations of people who live there.
Instead of sitting in judgment of everyone else, take their lessons and the lessons of your own country's past to decide how you will affect positive change in the world moving forward.
There's nothing like over a year of traveling nonstop to really put the world in perspective. Travel does change the way you view things—it influenced in a million different ways! The above are only a handful.
I'd love to hear how travel has changed your mind about things. Comment below or write to me!