It's Not a Small World After All

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Growing up, I did not do anything really out of the ordinary; the only safari I had been on was the one in San Diego and aside from reading and implementing my Dad’s copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People I was fairly average. But even as an average kid, the camping, road trips and sightseeing never quite quenched my thirst for something more: culture. I can only blame my parents for my insatiable curiosity; after all, they were the ones who put me into a school that started teaching French in kindergarten. I had the American-mainland version of island fever, knowing that an entire world was just around the corner.

The only way to cure my craving was to actually do something about it, so when my Youth Pastor handed me a packet with the information for a mission trip to Sydney, Australia, I mentally packed my bags. The price tag for the trip was reasonable, but still thousands more than any unemployed sixteen year old could afford. Immidiately after signing up, I talked my way into a job, sent out letters, and started begging my family and friends for empty bottles and cans to be recycled into the nickels and dimes I needed for the plane ticket.

Flash forward about five months, and there I was, living my dream. I was sitting across from three people on a couch, all from different countries, in a hostel in Australia talking about politics. Who knew that four young people could have such an interesting conversation about the Liberal and Labor parties of Australia? But it was not just the conversation that surprised me - it was my new friends’ personal problems, ideas of what was considered “fun”, opinions on American TV shows, and their senses of humor that were all so similar to mine. I was experiencing so many cultures at one time just because of the location I was in, and it was a dream come true. But it was the differences that I was most fascinated with as I was completely immersing myself in all things “Aussie.” It was exciting to actually take advantage of the public transportation, and excitingly awkward when we learned the hard way that asking for something “to go” and then sitting down to eat it was a major offense. Simply speaking, I got the culture shock of my life.

I imagined a map of the world while I was there- the U.S. on one side and Australia on another, then I placed my house and myself at the opposite ends, and allowed that image to linger for a while. The petty problems I place so much importance on were the same problems the people I was talking to at the hostel had, and whether the outcomes of those problems were good or bad, their lives would continue and the world would go on. As it turns out, this world is pretty small once it is put into perspective, yet big enough that not one person can claim to be the center of it.

I believe a well traveled person is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world, and one who can understand and appreciate many cultures has the most to offer a society that often struggles to be cohesive. As an average kid that has gotten a mere taste of my dream, I refuse to accept my surroundings as “enough.” I find myself seeking the environments in which I can most grow as a world thinker and where I can contribute my thoughts as someone looking to impact and explore this world for I know that it is there that I will thrive.

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