Back in the USA

Lincoln Travel Blog

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Well, I'm now back in The Homeland after 3 years living in Italy. It's nice being back home, but I do miss Europe. Who wouldn't? It's hard to stomach living in Suburbia, Anytown, USA after living in 3 years in Medieval Italy at the base of the mountains, in an idyllic 300 year old house. Now that I'm back, I've reflected a lot on my experiences in Europe and the other regions I've visited. And I've even been inspired to start writing a book! I don't think I have a whole lot to offer to the seasoned traveler, since we could be considered equals. But I think I have something to offer to the later-in-life traveler...the one who might be intimidated to venture outside our borders. I'd like to extend a soothing helping hand to the stranger in a strange land.

After spending 13 years in a profession that take me all over the world, I can say without a doubt that I am a fearless traveler. I can get by just fine knowing the few key words--please, thank you, hello, goodbye--and well played charades. I may not always know what I'm ordering at a restaurant, but ignorance is bliss, and I've seemed to have won the gamble every time so far. I have not regretted my menu choices. And I hope I've left a good impression on at least a few of my global neighbors. I'd like to think that while I'm having fun experiencing a new country, maybe I'm also chalking up a few points for Americans in general. I hope?

I can't help but think that maybe a lot of our global problems are out of cultural ignorance. This may sound like 50% common sense, yet 50% idealism, but I'm standing by my theory. How many ugly, CNN-worthy confrontations in Afghanistan or Iraq are borne out of a young soldier's misunderstanding of a native's propensity for close talking as an act of aggression? At least a few, I'll bet. Now, I'm not going to get into a political discussion...I know better than to go there. But I figure I can do my part to at least be a not-so-ugly American when I'm out amongst our world citizens.

Allow me to offer an example. I remember one time taking a cab ride from the airport in Dubai to Abu Dhabi. I was uncharacteristically nervous my first time to the UAE, I was afraid I would make too much eye contact with a local man and offend someone, or a dozen other Islamic country no-no's. As much as I'd love to strike up a conversation with a local, I curbed my impulse to do so while I was there. I would follow the lead of the local with whom I was interacting. Once I got to my hotel, I paid my cabbie, and uttered a well-practiced "shokran" (thank you). Immediately, the cabbie flashed a smile--the first one I had seen from him--with a very deliberate and heartfelt "afwan!" He was obviously impressed or touched by my effort to communicate. Did we Americans gain a few points in this man's mind? Maybe so. I'm not ignorant of the fact that we need all the help we can get.

I have a feeling, dear TravBuddy readers, that we are all of like mind. We all obviously love to interact with our fellow global citizens, which has brought us all together. I know we're not all Americans on this website, obviously, but I hope we can do our part to stamp out xenophobia in its many forms. After all, we all put on our pants/saris/dishdash the same way.
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Lincoln
photo by: Besandri