I have had the blessing of traveling to various places around the world and within the U.S., seeing sites I never thought I would. I haven’t been able to travel as much in the last few years for various reasons, but deep down, there’s still a part of me that desires to experience different cultures and lifestyles.
Growing up, my parents took my sisters and me on a variety of vacations. We traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Chincoteague and Williamsburg, Virginia; Assateague, Maryland; New York City, New York; Washington, D.C.; Orlando, Florida; Myrtle Beach, North Carolina; Lexington, Kentucky; St. Louis, Missouri; Madison, Wisconsin; and many other places.
The summer before I went to college I participated in an honors band that traveled all over western Europe over the course of two weeks. We went to London, England; Paris, France Switzerland; Austria; Venice, Italy; German; and drove through Lichtenstein. It was a pleasure and honor to play with a different group of people. But, I enjoyed the beauty of the sights. I learned that even though I liked the hustle and bustle of the cities, I specifically enjoyed the scenery and and the quiet of the mountains of Switzerland and Austria and watch in awe of the gondolas of Venice. I spent a lot of time watching people and enjoyed seeing everything that each place brought to my attention.
The summer after my freshman year of college I had the opportunity to go to Mexico on a mission trip with a group from the church I grew up in. We went to Tijuana, Mexico. We spent time with a lot of families, adding on extra rooms to or reinforcing the walls in their very tiny homes. With one family in particular, I remember hand mixing concrete in a wheelbarrow and shoveling and leveling it for the floor for an additional room to be added the their home. Once we had completed, we were in the process of getting cleaned up when the mother of the family offered us some authentic, homemade chicken mole and rice. She had actually fed us one of the family chickens. I remember being extremely thankful, appreciative, and humbled because this woman who barely knew me gave of what she had, even though it came from very little. It was amazing to continue to experience the culture and the authentic food, as well as walk to the beach and take in the view of the ocean.
The summer after my junior year of college I spent a month in Kosovo on a mission trip. We learned to speak some of the language prior to leaving and gathered various things to help those we were going to visit. We taught English lessons and various other lessons (like geography, etc.). Ultimately though, we were there to spend time with the people and get to know them and serve them. At times, it was difficult to adjust to the culture a bit because the lifestyle was so different from ours here in the States; those of us in the group looked different than those in Kosovo: our eyes, hair color, etc. We, also, held different spiritual beliefs. But, in general, we had a desire to get to know each others’ cultures regardless of our differences.
Each of these trips to Europe, to Mexico, and around the United states have provided me with opportunities to try and understand other people’s perspectives, as well as learn about their lives and cultures. From time to time, I still have difficulty putting myself in other people’s shoes, but I have learned to value asking questions in a way that is positive when I don’t understand. When I ask positive questions, I’m more likely to get positive responses and feedback to my questions, as well as gain a much better understanding of what I didn’t understand.
I look forward to gaining more insights on the big world around us!