A long time ago (last century to be more precise) I end up coming to this part of the world without any knowledge or language skills to responsibly understand what I was about to endure.
What some would consider to be an irresponsible and risky adventure turn out to be the trip that “triggered” and shaped a very important part of the man I become.
When I reached Long Island before starting my “wild” high school year in Hamilton, me and all the exchange students on the program went trough some days of what was called at the time, orientation (makes sense, since most of us were deeply disoriented).
One of the greatest learnings I was able to understand and keep religiously throughout the years was delivered by an alumni student from Egypt. He stressed the importance not to fall into the subtle trap of starting comparing your country, culture and habits with the new nation we were about to discover and try to figure out what was best or worst.
The secret he said, was for each one of us to be able to appreciate the indubitable differences and savor them as windows into parallel dimensions and perspectives over the same values, attitudes and beliefs.
Funny the way he looked at us and whispered in the end of his little speech; if you don’t take anything else back with you when you return home, at least take this learning, it is a key that will unlock many interesting doors in your life. Thank you Omar wherever you might be in this Universe!
I am grateful to my family back in Portugal for supporting and giving me this opportunity, to my host family in Montana for welcoming me as part of their own clan and an all bunch of diverse and incredible good people; friends, and teachers.
Before turning 18 I was sure about one thing, when adult I wanted to become a citizen of the world and nothing less.
There were amazing days, challenging days and some long nights 🙂 but when I look back, a pretty smile and a warmth in my heart always take over whatever I am doing.
That powerful key allowed me to appreciate since that day a handful of continents, countries and above all different people from myself, making me believe that maybe…maybe, ignorance might be the biggest plague of modern times and directly responsible for the majority of the world and regional conflicts we keep seeing.
There is nothing more powerful to cure this malady then walking, even if just as a tourist, into someone else’s cultural shoes to start understanding that there are other ways to protect and respect our differences before sending the troops or threatening with something worst.
I would take it even further.
It should be somehow mandatory (instead of conscription for example) for every women and man in the world to spend a minimum amount of time living abroad in a different culture before they could proceed with professional life. It would be interesting to see the results after two or three generations going around doing this.
Think about it, if you agree with me, maybe you can welcome a foreigner student in your house, encourage a family member or friend to take that step or just volunteer on same activity that supports world understanding and diversity. Think about it, the (true) revolution always start inside yourself.
Since I changed my “spiritual passport” and become a citizen of the world, my work turned into the best travel agency I could aspire to experience.
From the steeps of Kazakhstan, the Spanish Meseta, the sandy beaches of Angola, the unforgettable Belgium beer, the Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, the white light of Lisboa, the fields of gold in Ukraine or the big blue sky of Montana (the list could go on for a little longer) I learned to see it and feel it as home, different parts of a house but always the same house that we should keep in good shape and care about.
With this road trip of mine I wanted to prove myself that it is never too late to amaze yourself as if you were a little kid. It is possible, desirable and honestly, one of the best things you can offer to yourself and to your family.
After 8.000 miles or 12,874 kilometers (to my friends on the other side of the pond) my world enlarged by 14 new states, 17 national Parks and above all, the incredible people I visit, meet for the first time or just quietly listen while they were talking.
Maybe the size of the “expedition” was a bit too ambitious, but what the heck…I deserve it !
Seated inside this “big bird” crossing the Atlantic, my thoughts go in different directions…just like the wind around us, I wish some of my whispers get to you….let’s try out…and you will tell me.
Somewhere along the way I run into an incredible book about trees… Sun, storm, drought: let these sculptors do their work. Your work is to grow.
So…let´s continue to grow !