Travel makes the headlines hit home

(I was going to post on some recent headlines that hit me kind of hard. When I started to write about them, I realized I was just rewriting something I had written already. This is that something. I wrote it 5 years ago, but it’s still how I feel.)

Visiting a friend who is a fine wine and cheese kind of guy, he asks me, “What’s your favorite cheese to eat with red wine?”

I turn the question over in my head searching for the perfect cheese or at least one that sounds like it: American, Swiss, French (is there French cheese or only dressing?), Colby, cheddar, smoked cheddar with bacon, Velveeta. “I don’t know? I’m just a simple small town kinda of fella. I actually include Velveeta on my mental list of fine cheeses.”

“Oh now, don’t give me that. You’re well-traveled; surely you have a favorite cheese with red wine.”

He was right. I have spent a lot of time away from Home, but that doesn’t make me some kind of find food and wine connoisseur. Maybe I am well traveled, but I traveled poorly missing certain lessons along the way, too wrapped up in thoughts of Home to attain certain wisdoms.

When I travel I don’t attain some greater wisdom or some inner knowledge of who I am and what I want to be. I did not leave Switzerland with an aristocratic appreciation of cheese. To me it’s all Swiss cheese. It just so happens that some Swiss cheeses taste better than others. Between us, some are repulsive.

I am happy with being able to place names, faces, and experiences with certain places. Kosovo and Bosnia were always dark “No Man’s” lands dominated by the violence of warfare until I played playstation with a 22 year old Kosovar, and before I discussed the siege of Sarajevo with a Bosniak over dinner. Hawaii would just be a tropical paradise if I hadn’t neared hypothermia at the summit of Mauna Loa. I would not follow the civil war in Nepal if I wasn’t able to remember the kind smiling faces of individual Buddhist monks, the young street beggar girl who attacked me with a stick, and the smell and buttery warmth of salt tea.

If I have gained anything from my travels it’s not a well-traveled savviness, envied by others, but an increased caring. I care about other nations and their people more having visited them. I listen to the news not for entertainment, but with concern. I care for them because I appreciate their differences, and most of all I recognize our similarities. It’s their Home I visit and realize how not so different it is from my own.


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