The world is changing, that much we know. Of course the debate will be for the better or worse, but I tend to stay away from political discussion as much as possible. But, something has just felt different. I’ve become a bit more consumed with the news than at any other time in my life and I’ve come to a realization. As I’ve grown older, my aspirations have changed as the years have increased. At one point in younger times and obviously with an immature brain, I wanted to be an US Senator. Thankfully, that never occurred although health care for life would have been a nice perk. That’s a pretty good mind changer since I’m always looking for ways to retire early, but not enough to ever lead me down that path again. Instead I seem to have discovered a new goal in life and that is to be worldly in my everyday life.

We’d be Wise to be Tolerant

Marcel Proust once said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” I read this quote not too long ago and my disorientation with life became a little clearer. Our family has only been traveling at breakneck speed for about 6 years or so. Like most of us who travel consistently and often, to look back at the many trips becomes almost a blur. A trip that seems it was several years ago, could, in fact, be a year ago. The reality being that several more trips had been taken in that short time frame. Honestly, I sometimes feel a bit embarrassed when others ask where we have been lately and instead we list off a multitude of locations and always have to add the, “Oh and there was also…” and “I forgot we also went there as well.”

a blue and white earth with arms and legs

As embarrassing as it is, we wouldn’t change a thing. But within that one word I found the solution to everything that is different about me and I would assume the same for my family of four. Change. As Proust so eloquently stated, “having new eyes” literally throws my now-ancient rationale into disarray. I have changed and it appears to me now that most of the world didn’t change with me. Lately, I’ve come to discover that there are completely different me’s out there that are actually one in the same. Travel teaches tolerance in a way that I never could have imagined. What I used to frown upon I now accept and the reverse is equally true. The switch was subtle if you ask me but I believe it manages to emanate from me as it does many travelers. Until you’ve seen beyond the borders of your own country and experienced the cultures of others, can you ever fully understand your own.

Open More than Your Eyes

There is a difference between opening your eyes and opening your mind though. All people travel at some point in their life, even if it is a short distance. For some, travel is a way to compare their own fulfilling lifestyle and basically shun those who don’t respect it or try to emulate it. Then there are those who see through the superficial and openly try to accept what they are experiencing. To question how any culture manages day-to-day life is probably a bad idea. But it is our tendency, especially Americans, to say that our way is the right way. Yet, at some point in our travels, the question arose in my own mind, “Maybe we are not right about everything?” Could it be that we have a false sensation about what we perceive as the “right way”.

a torn brown paper with a hole in it

The realization that we are not experts is startling because it goes against everything we ever learned as young Americans. I wasn’t the most respectful individual growing up. And, much like the oft-portrayed image of the ugly American, I was conceited, rude and quite unwilling to accept anything other than my norm. A few trips later, coupled with a dynamic wife who can talk to a wall, I soon find “That Irie Guy”. Who knew? Irie is not strictly retained for the Jamaican culture. It doesn’t mean that you need to change your whole music catalog to reggae and dance hall. It’s a state of mind and openness. More than stating it, I’ve decided to live it.

That persona that is now me and for the most part my family, came with our open eyes and open minds. We are a family with deep convictions but now those convictions seem to be altered and that in a positive way. It’s important that people see the world and it’s equally important that by having your eyes open, you open your heart. Travel is not just a changing landscape, it’s much more about the people you meet. It doesn’t take much to get immersed in a culture and the bravery you feel you need is not very difficult, even for an introvert like me. As we have discovered lately, a smile goes a long way. Everywhere we have been, we’ve been embraced and I believe much of it is due to us being willing to put ourselves out there a little more than others.

Never Assume The Ugly American Role

Over the past several years, we Americans have it in our heads that the rest of the world doesn’t really care to welcome us as they once did. But in our own travel experiences, we’ve actually experienced the alternative. People seem very interested in Americans and enjoy spending time with us. Through deductive “in between the lines” commentary with other travelers, you get a sense that it is our own reluctance to engage in conversation that helps fuel the selfish label that, unfortunately, gets slapped on all of us. People genuinely want to talk about their lives and their cultures and it’s important to listen, engage, but most of all not judge. Most travelers are surprised how alike we all are in one shape or form. A bit of conversation is all that is needed to make that connection.

a man and woman standing in a gazebo

My youngest swapping book stories with a local in St. Kitts.

a woman holding a glass of beer

Drinks among “friends” in Prague.

Some of the best times we’ve had traveling as a family has been in the midst of others when neither of us have a clue what the others are saying. And we really don’t care. I hope as many others do that people in the very positions I used to imagine myself discover the same awakening that we have traveling. Somewhere outside that little bubble we live in is a world that is waiting to change you. All you have to do is look at it with a new set of eyes. It shrinks considerably with each passing day. The hate we see on a day-to-day basis can only change with each individual person. Maybe change will find you before you find it. That’s how it happened for me and my family and we’re much happier because of it. Broaden your horizons, both literally and figuratively and experience the world with a set of new eyes. You may find they are clearer than they’ve ever been.

The posts for ThatIrieGuy should be taken with a grain of salt but enjoyed like a fine wine. Help make travel fun again and while you’re collecting all those miles and points, never lose sight of the real message. Travel changes you. Live Within Your Means, Travel Beyond Them.