Until the age of 20, the only other country I had been to was Mexico. A beautiful country, but, because I am of Mexican descent, it wasn’t anything too unfamiliar. As much as I enjoyed the trips to the land of my heritage, I always yearned to see more.
I’m not sure where this desire to travel and experience other cultures came from (probably from reading), but when I finally got the opportunity to travel to other continents, it was everything I had expected and more.
Through these travels to distant lands, I gained insights into other cultures and humanity as a whole. On my very first trip, which was to Morocco, I noticed that we are not so different. Anyone who was raised Latino or Mexican can tell you that it is the HIGHEST offense to decline the food that is offered to you, especially when visiting another’s home. You may also relate to the experience of family members constantly trying to feed you and trying to give you seconds and thirds, even after you’ve already told them ten times that you’re good.
The same rang true in Morocco. To this day, I can still hear my host mom tell me, “Kouli. Kouli. Zidi kouli. Mari…. Zidi kouli.” Translation: Eat! Eat! Keep eating. Mari… keep eating. If I’m ever in a hot dog eating contest, I’m bringing her in as my cheerleader.
Even though, I believe food is reason enough to travel to new destinations, you are also bound to meet great people along the way. Thankfully, I can say today that through my travels, I have made lifelong friends.
These are people with different life expectations than me, different religious backgrounds than mine, and sometimes different political views. But still beautiful, kind, and dear to my heart.
With that, I have gained a deeper understanding of the world. Part of my travels included research trips for school, where I studied the international relations of China and Japan, as well as, the political climate of Chile while it is still toiling to create a successful democracy post-Pinochet.
In every region of the world, there is turmoil and dysfunction. In every region of the world, there are people fighting for justice and peace. There are people looking to create a better life for themselves and those around them.
The indigenous in the United States are ignored and undervalued the same way the indigenous in Chile and Morocco are ignored and undervalued. Countries in Asia have issues with each other the same way countries in Latin America have issues with each other.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, food and conversation bring people together and bond them in Mexico, Morocco, Japan, and Belgium. All across this world, we are the same in what divides us and unites us.
The first country I traveled to outside of North America was Morocco. Since that first trip, I have been to seven countries in six years. This may not seem impressive to some, but it’s farther than I ever thought I could go. I have learned a great deal from my travels, and I look forward to learning more and meeting new people.
What are some things that you have learned through your travels?