Changed by travel

Brussels Travel Blog

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Piece by piece, travel changes you. Like learning to read, travel opens you up to new experiences, new worlds lived in by other people, places that you would never reach in isolation. I started to travelling to see the natural world, and I have indeed seen wildlife I never thought I would, but more than anything it is the human experiences that have influenced my outlook on life.

Education is more through the accumulation of experience than moments of epiphany, but there are little bursts of realisation, where the dam built up by slow drips finally bursts. I understood the trauma of war, but seeing children in Cambodia missing limbs due to old landmines and listening to a guide at Toul Sleng describe the torture of his family taught me that war is always worst for those who have the least power, and that the horrors of war can never be fully understood by anyone who has not lived through one as a civilian. I knew that there are few universals in culture, but nothing brought that home as much as sitting in a cafe in Bulgaria struggling to mentally inverse a nod of the head into "no" and a shake of the head into "yes". My first day in America, seeing every park bench occupied by homeless people, shocked me into recognising the horrific poverty that results in a rich country without a social safety net, and the next three years taught me the dangers of isolationism and anti-intellectualism.

In total now, I have spent nearly half my adult life outside Australia. In some aspects I am still culturally Australian (Vegemite on my toast and beetroot on my hamburger please), while in other aspects I've changed. The flip side of all the changes by travel is that you start to loose the feeling of being in your correct place, whether you are home or abroad. Another reason I enjoy being an immigrant, is that when all is said and done, it is nicer to feel an outsider in a new country, than to feel an outsider in a place where you used to feel at home.
MelissaBeth says:
It was really interesting to read your thoughts on America and the rest of your travels. Can not wait to get to Australia one day.
Posted on: Jun 10, 2010
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photo by: Vlindeke