“The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.” – Shirley MacLaine
This will start off sounding like yet another political post but it’s really a love letter to travelers and Americans. Hang in there with me, okay?
The election results are in and Americans are utterly divided. We’ve been here before. In Civil War and regarding Vietnam, for example. This great experiment called Democracy has led us down some winding, even gridlocked, roads. But these roads, in all their wild reckless abandon, lead somewhere. Somewhere beautiful. It just takes time, faith in democracy and, yes, anger or tears. The Forefathers never said it would be easy.
And travelers…we KNOW this journey.
Lao Tzu — “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Along with the election madness, I’ve seen articles and headlines about how dangerous the U.S. is now. Places to avoid, unrest in the streets, gun violence, racism, sexism, division, homophobia and hate; the extent of which is debatable even among Americans. But there is hope and beauty in any journey.
Here are some reminders of America’s beautiful spirit and why you should continue to travel to, and more importantly (Americans, I’m looking at you.) within, this diverse country:
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin
They say we are the product of our 5 closest friends. Many of us live in insular bubbles which we carefully tend to as cradles to our own beliefs. Anais Nin knew we needed to escape these tiny shelters to better understand the world, country and people around us. This photo I took in NYC’s Chinatown gives us a glimpse of just one of these lovely souls. There are millions.
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert
This is actually a shot of a very small snow-melt puddle atop, New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock. It has been mistaken for a pond, waterfall or mountain stream. It’s all about perspective. Sometimes we forget our place in the world; that our opinion is but one of many in a sea of humanity. Nothing helps keep our ego in check like travel.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
You’ve probably seen American photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic photo, taken in Times Square on VJ Day in 1945. It was a kiss between two celebrating strangers at the end of World War II. But have you seen it through the kaleidoscopic prism of Brazilian muralist, Kobra? Now we see that historic moment injected with the color and excitement of present day New York City, which is a microcosm of America itself. It has bound our present to the past and expanded the vision. I’ll no longer see that original photo without remembering this version, thanks to a long weekend in NYC.
“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
Every single one of us needs a leg up from time to time; just a boost to reach that next peak and see what’s on the other side. It may be difficult to believe but the United States is nearing it’s newest peak. We are scrambling, reaching for stones, sliding backwards and racing one another to the top. There is pushing, shoving and shouting. There’s blame and bullying. Some of us will reach that peak faster than others. It isn’t fair but it is fact. Expanding our views literally, and figuratively, can help us to not only reach the top but to extend a hand to others who are behind. That is the American spirit and it will endure. It just ebbs and flows in every generation. You will see these small kindnesses in every corner of the country. More kindness than cruelty.
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener
But you will miss the party! And, yes, even within the boundaries of America, you must expose yourself to “other”. The choices are endless. According to The Wall Street Journal, 69 types of toothpaste alone (Good Lord, that’s a lot of gingivitis fighting power!) were introduced last year so imagine the food choices, customs, religious options! Yes, our people can be flawed. But aren’t perfect people boring?
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
So here I sit, like so many other bloggers, telling my story. The story of one middle-aged woman, living in the United States. One who has traveled around Canada, Mexico, Central America, much of the U.S. And I say to you:
America is beautiful. For all its flaws, there are freedoms. For all its valleys, peaks. For all its villains, heroes. Visit us. Engage with us. Walk a mile in our 132 choices of running shoes. Yeah Americans…I’m, mostly talking to you.
Erin, The Caffeinated Day Tripper