Today’s guest post is from the very compelling writer and brilliant photographer that is Terra. Don’t let the goofy warrior viking hat fool you – she is one of the most bad ass ladies I know. I wouldn’t stand a chance in a fight against her but she also has a heart of gold for any and all animals and friends. I always love what she posts and this is no different. I completely agree with her that traveling makes you a better, more cultured person. Be sure to check her out at Terra-Bear.com
There’s something special that happens when you’re catapulted into the culture of others, when the rug you’ve nestled upon your whole life is suddenly swept up and out from under you and you find yourself far away from home and all the privileges of the Westernized world. There’s a certain type of magic that arises when you step outside of your comfort zone and into the reality of others, others who don’t share a language, culture, religion or reality with anyone you’ve ever known before.
For me, that moment happened on a mountainside in Kosovo when I was deployed there in 2007. Someone had a found a family, a mother and a father and countless hoard of small children, way up in the mountains living in this tiny little house without plumbing or electricity or shoes. Kosovo, a country whose history for more than the past millennium has been filled with bloodshed and war, is a cold place in the winter and here were these beautiful and small little children running around barefoot and coatless in the middle of winter.
It was there in that moment that I felt simultaneously farther from home than I’ve ever felt before, but also incredibly thankful for all that I’ve been blessed with. I grew up poor by American standards, even lived in a house without plumbing for a few years, but nothing I’d ever been without even remotely compared to what that family was living, had been living and probably still is living without.
While we were in Kosovo, a few people made it one of their personal missions to made life a little bit better for that family. We took shoes, coats and occasional grocery items up there and gave the family lessons on how to effectively and properly brush their teeth. Those experiences, the simple offering of a donated pair of shoes or a banana from the grocery store, changed my life in so many very real ways that, five years later, I still think about.
It’s one thing to go to Europe, to travel to Paris and London and Amsterdam and all those beautiful and fabulous places. It’s one thing to go there and marvel at how old everything is, how different and alike things are compared to the way we live here in the States, but it’s a whole different box of potatoes to travel to a place without five star hotels and where literacy rates are barely scraping 25% and where the things we take for granted – our hair dryers and easy access to clean drinking water, our warm beds and dishwashers, our cable TV, gym memberships and yoga classes – aren’t even in the domain of reality for most of the population.
All this to say, travel makes us better people. It makes us more aware, not just of the world around us, but of the luxuries our lives contain and of the variances of human life.
One of the kids of Kosovo.