Trip Start Aug 05, 2006
55Trip End Aug 19, 2007
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On this trip I have experienced grand adventure, extreme frustration, enjoyable conversations, terrible loneliness, delicious tasting food, awful tasting food, interesting surroundings, absolute boredom, and a taste of the bizarre. Why did I ever begin this trip in the first place? I suppose I could say it was to gaze upon exotic locals or learn about fascinating cultures. Those, however, were only positive side affects of something deeper. I realize now my more than anything that my true objective was personal growth and understanding. One of my favourite quotes by Mark Twain, a fellow Missourian, states:
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts
That statement fits the idealistic side of me quite well and it is easy to see the truth in such a claim. My other favourite quote by Twain says:
"The gentle reader will never know what a consummate ass he can become until he goes abroad. I speak now, of course, in the supposition that the gentle reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a consummate ass. If the case be otherwise, I beg his pardon and extend to him the cordial hand of fellowship and call him brother."
This statement handily reveals the other side of the coin with regards to travelling. Travel outside of my own cultural and social/family framework offered an amazing feeling of freedom and the chance to view myself in a more personal way apart from these influences. However, I didn't always like what I saw. Many times I was short tempered, petty, hateful, and rude towards others. In other words I was a total asshole. Those of you that know me probably have a hard time picturing me like that but I assure you it was sometimes true, especially after an 18 hour ride on some rickety, old bus! On the other hand, I think some of these emotional highs/lows are part of what makes travel so addicting in a sick sort of way. I just don't experience such wide-ranging emotional states in the daily "blah" back home.
Another feeling I often felt while travelling was the feeling of guilt. To travel to some of the poorest places in the World and meet people with absolutely nothing and then think about my own life back home often gave me a sense of shame. I know I came to these places to learn about things like this and technically my visiting such places injects tourism dollars into the local economy. But to see people in such poverty that couldn't even fathom my life of privilege in the States made many of my problems seem trivial and insignificant.
Finally, to end on a more positive note, I made it home alive and didn't suffer any "permanent" physical or mental damage. Although I seem to be even more confused than ever about things but also more aware of my own ignorance I suppose. Oh well, I guess it is true when a wiseman says: "Build a bigger fire and you only illuminate more darkness". I created a little slide show showing some of my trip highlights, so I hope you enjoy it and it helps inspire you to try a bit of travel yourself someday. See you next time on the Far Side of the World!