E-mail About Things I
Along the way, I jotted down little notes here and there. I have pieced them together and
have put them in this email. Just little things that I came face-to-face with while outside of
my own country...
- One interaction with a person can possibly shape their view on your whole country.
It's important to always keep this in mind.
- I learned more than I could ever imagine about how to use toilets in other parts of the
world. I have to admit that in the beginning I had no idea what to do. I mean I would
see a plastic bucket of water with a smaller bucket inside sitting in the corner of the
bathroom and I really didn't have a clue what any of this was about. I guess you could
call it a rookie I-just-arrived-in-a-Third-World-country situation. I would soon learn
that the small bucket is to be filled with water from the larger bucket and then you
manually 'flush' the toilet with this water. Ohhhhhhhh…..
- I am 1000 times more aware of how wasteful I used to be. For example, when washing
my hands, I used to use twice as many paper towels than I actually needed to. When
buying a drink or food takeout, I used to grab more napkins than I actually needed.
When sitting in one room of my home, I had no problem leaving lights on in a room I
wasn't in. These are things of the past, my friends! These things have been brought to
light (pardon the pun) after seeing how precious each and every one of these
resources are to the majority of people in the world.
- All of this being said, it is necessary to always have toilet paper or tissue while traveling
around. They serve many needs including using them as napkins when grabbing
something to eat. Trust me – all of these things are most commonly non-existent. It's
best to be prepared.
- The driving in many of the developing countries is downright scary. I remember being
in the back seat of a taxi in Ecuador with a friend Lisa that I had just met on my bus
ride. It is no exaggeration to say that we were squeezing the you-know-what out of
each other's hands as the driver weaved his way in and out of the 'lanes' (a term that is
to be used very loosely in some of these countries). Sometimes, the best thing you can
do for yourself is to just shut your eyes. On the other hand, you can keep your eyes
open and see it as a very inexpensive 'adventure' activity…
- It takes far less energy to be in a good mood than to be in a foul mood. Also, a smile
goes a long way (so does a wedding band when traveling through the Middle East).
- Research on places is over-rated. Much of the time it's best to see for the first time
with your own eyes instead of via pictures on 20 different websites.
- Everyone's taste is different. Don't not see a place based on the fact that a person you
know didn't like it.
- After talking to several people, I now realize how hard it is for people around the world
to get into America just to visit. And how many just dream of one day seeing it
(though, sadly, most of them won't be able to). This was brought to light when I was
reading 'The World is Flat' while in India. I was oblivious to the fact that the line of
people I completely bypassed to get into the U.S. Embassy were actually people
waiting with the tiniest chance of being granted the opportunity to get to the U.S.
- Dreams can come true in America; I don't think that is true is most other parts of the
world (just coming from a 'realist' perspective).
- I feel like I am able to relate to world events more after seeing different places. (e.g –
Bollywood star getting married – I saw that Bollywood star in the movie that I saw!) I
loooove international newspapers, too. It's great to read the world section and can
basically now picture the places that they are talking about. And when in India, with
the absence of my US Weekly, I was reading up and getting to know daily about the
- Hearing my national anthem gives me chills. People can say what they will about it but
I really appreciate being an American. We are lucky people. For starters, we have The
Star-Spangled Banner. Talk about a chill-inducer!
- Before I went on my trip, everybody told me to not say I was American. Let me just say
that being an American did not trigger a negative response from 99% of the people I
came across. People were always quick to tell me how beautiful my country was (even
more so, how beautiful San Francisco was). While they don't believe in the current
views of 'America', they have absolutely no problems with 'Americans' (unless you are
that American that speaks 10 times too loud, brags about things, complains/whines
about things, etc…).
- McDonald's – Say what you will…but if you are needing just a quick blast of a/c, using
an actual toilet with toilet paper or if you just want a soft-serve cone, this place always
- I have to admit that I experienced a bit of culture shock when going to developed
countries' grocery stores. Holy abundance of options! Seriously. In places like Nepal
and India you see the same (and only) 20 products being sold at every stand you pass.
It is extreme shock when you enter an actual grocery store to see that they have 20
products to choose from just when wanting granola bars…never mind the 1000's of
other things being sold there.
- Meeting new people is just as rewarding as seeing sites.
- Never walk around with an ipod showing.
- Never, ever travel with anything you can’t bear with losing or having stolen. Seriously.
It’s important to see everything with you as something you won’t come home with. I
am going to share the most horrific story that happened to my friend just a couple
weeks ago. It was her last couple weeks of traveling. She was taking a night bus to
Iguazu Falls in Brazil. Around 4:30am she sort of woke up from her sleep. What was
she awoken to? Guys on her bus wearing masks holding guns. They went up to each
and every person on the bus (including kiddies) and robbed them at gunpoint. Think it
can’t get much worse? Wrong. The thieves proceeded to lock all of the people on the
bus in the luggage compartment underneath the bus (trust me when I say this is a
beyond-small area – it would probably make a European elevator seem roomy). They
eventually broke out of the luggage compartment. (To my friend: I know I have
already told you a handful of times…but I am sooo thankful that you are now okay!)
Of course this a rare occurrence (or at least I would like to think so). And it’s
something that a person can’t prepare for. This isn’t to say all night-buses are bad. It’s
just to say that I have at least decided that my safety is important enough to me that,
after hearing this story, I will not be doing any night-buses on my upcoming trip.
- People around the world dream to have the opportunity to travel. We are fortunate
where we don't have to dream about it.
- The phrase 'I have no money' means something incredibly different in the United
States vs. the developing countries of the world.
- I never thought I would say this but I have learned to accept…and even somewhat
like…my toes without nail polish (this isn't to say that I don't still love pedicures).
- We have the opportunity to do what we want with our lives. It's amazing how many
people spend their time complaining. We are lucky that, if it's really that bad, we can
completely change what we are doing career-wise. Elsewhere around the world, most
people are signed up for a life of back-breaking labor. They don't have any other
- One of the things I was trying to achieve by doing a website for my trip was to expose
people at home to the amazing things out in the world. (I hope that this worked a bit.)
The more important thing was to have a well-detailed account of my entire year. And
let me say, if anybody is thinking of traveling extensively, this is probably one of the
smartest (though, at times, excruciating) things I did and I would say that this is
probably one of the best 'souvenirs' that I brought home with me from my trip. I read a
journal the other day (when I was trying to reference things so that I could label my
pictures) and I had completely forgotten about the experience I read about. When I
read it, the memory was as clear as day. This was extremely important as the moment I
got back to the U.S. my entire trip felt like a distant memory.
Many of these are thoughts I jotted down along the way; others are things I realized once I
got home. I just wanted to share some of these with you guys!
And…to somewhat quote one of my favorite rides at Disneyland…
It really is 'a small world after all….' (apologies again to Annette and Jenna who had to
suffer the ride with me and future apologies to Lea who will have to suffer through it this