About Me

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I'm a 30 something who loves to travel.  I have a full time job and enjoy writing (or blogging) about my travels.  I've traveled through several countries in Europe as well as Russia and Egypt.  I also enjoy domestic travel in the United States, including Disney.  My long term travel goal is to do a round the world trip.  

Friday, April 10, 2009

Returning to The West

Whenever traveling, no matter how far away, there are always cultural differences. It's always nice to come home to your bed, shower, your couch, English but the more dramatic the differences the nicer it can be to return home, or even just to The West.

My first experience with this was when I did my first trip to Europe. I traveled, in this order, to Amsterdam, the Rhine Valley, Munich, Austria, Venice, Rome, Florence, Lucerne, and Paris. At first I didn't mind learning different languages, and paying for bathrooms (some of which were a little sketchy) weren't so bad. But after speaking German for a couple days, then going to Italian, going back to German threw me off. By the time I had to learn a couple words of French I was totally thrown off, I had to resort to point and smile. Ahhh, the English language, it's a beautiful thing.

My next experience was going to Russia, there were a couple issues here. First, the salad... At home a salad has lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrots and salad dressing give or take a few things. In Russia it was more like cucumber, tomato and dill - huh? What is that? Everyone tried to convince me "it's not wrong, it's just different." It was bad and I couldn't get over it. Next was the water... Rumor has it the water is "safe" in Moscow, but everywhere else it clearly wasn't. In St. Petersburg it had an odor to it. Is it worth it to take a shower when the water is dirtier then you? Ok, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but we do think that one of the guys got an infection in his throat from brushing his teeth with the water there. In one "city" I didn't even bother with the shower, there was nothing promising about the place. And a piece of wood with a hole in the middle does not a toilet make, but then how do you get to it when their is a toxic scent around it? Poland is one of my favorite countries, it was "The West," my first stop after Belarus and Russia. There was fresh fruit, a really nice hotel, lettuce in my salad, safe water, proper bathrooms, and even though they spoke another language, most people spoke some English - it was almost as good as home - it was The West.

Fortunately, Egypt wasn't quite as bad, or maybe I was learning to appreciate the differences. The water, although questionable, at least seemed to be clean. Brushing your teeth with bottled water was a precaution not a health issue. They had proper salads along with different types of salads (with pastas and veggies), normal bathrooms were accessible. Egyptians generally spoke a good amount of English, especially when they were trying to sell you stuff at markets, not always a good thing. But Egypt was also dirty and sometimes looks strange since you often found buildings half built. It was nice to go home and see grass, not have everything covered in a layer of dirt and sand, and just know that you could go to the store and not be hounded to buy stuff by REALLY pushy people.

But what does it all come down to? Why travel to a place where you're uncomfortable and wishing for things from home? Without seeing these places you don't get to truly appreciate the things you have. How do you learn other ways of living without seeing them and digesting them. For all the things that may be uncomfortable you might find something that is better then you have it at home. How do you find out why people might want to go back to Communism without seeing how foreign Capitalism is to them?