We get used to what surrounds us. City dwellers accept the din of traffic and the bustle of urban life. Suburbanites thrive with strip malls and shopping centers close at hand. Country folks enjoy being outnumbered by livestock. Yet as Americans, regardless of our setting, we embrace our "Amercanisms".
Unlike many places in the world, we almost always are the home team. Our turf, our rules. Once you leave America, you are no longer playing on the home side. You become the visitor. The problem is that even when we travel, we still think we are the home team. We still think that we set the rules.
Much of the world is not like this. There is a diversity of language, culture, and nationality that breaks down these walls at least a bit. A Slovene can set out in a car and depending on the direction can end up in 20 different countries in only ten hours. Many, if not most, have visited Austria, Italy, Hungary, or Croatia. They have played away. They have seen different food. They have heard conversations that they could not understand. A panacea this is not though. Wars and diplomacy and even television programs demonstrate that prejudices and racism abounds even in these multicultural regions. Man's heart is desperately wicked the world over.
Like all people, we have a smugness that we must actively seek out and destroy. As Christians Americans, we see the need for humility everywhere but in our nationalism. Patriotism is not a sin. But it can be. I have learned that travel–smart, humble travel–can be a tool of grace in smoothing our jaded view of the rest of the world and our inflated view of ourself.
To travel successfully, you have to realize that you're not in charge. Well, you're culture isn't in charge. It is ok for food to be different. It is ok for the language to be different. And so on…
This does not mean that you have to like everything or even most things at your foreign destination of choice. Just don't not like it, because it is not what you are used to.
Don't return home and kiss the ground at the airport and pretend that it is because of freedom or Old Glory or anything like that. You missed McDonald's–your McDonald's, not the one serving McAloo Tikkis, a potato vegetable burger from Indian McDonald's. You missed hearing English that sounds like your English. You and I missed the easy life and American prosperity after seeing how messy life is in most of the world. You and I missed the easy and familiar–even if we did not like it.
Next post we will examine how this plays out in our relationship with God.
Why Americans Should Travel Series
- My Trip to Slovenia - Part 1
- McAloo Tikkis are ok - Part 2
- Kissing the ground - Part 3
- Ride the bus - Part 4
- Chill out - Part 5