“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”
– Ibn Battuta
As a young Alabama resident, my traveling experiences were limited. This is not a sly affront to my parents – it is a statement of fact. My parents were not raised having experienced a lot of traveling – my mother has only visited three cities that are considered world class. Atlanta. Washington DC. Mexico City. My father has visited only Atlanta. Prior to graduating from high school, I had only visited three or four states – Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
As a child and adolescent, my family and I went on vacations to Florida. These family excursions were done with my paternal relatives – visiting Panama City on the Gulf Coast and driving down to Orlando to visit Disney World. There were times we drove to Atlanta from East Alabama to visit, again, paternal relatives. During the late 1990s we would venture as far north as Huntsville to visit my sister who moved there for college. I did not leave the Deep South until 2001 – visiting Southern California. Flying not defunct Continental Airlines, my engineering cohort and I visited a National Society of Black of Engineers’ Conference held in Orange County. These were the days I pursued an electrical engineering major at the University of Alabama – an endeavor I later realized clashed with my educational goals and personality.
Seventeen years later – married to a guy, having earned three degrees, and residing in the Pacific Northwest – I have done a tremendous amount of traveling yet not quite enough. Yes, I am very grateful for my experiences to date and fully understand the privilege and imagination I have in being able to plan and take additional trips. I have visited 46 of 50 states – with Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, and Oklahoma remaining. My passport has been stamped by three foreign nations – a paltry number including Mexico, Chile, and Argentina. Having recently gotten my DNA results from AncestryDNA, Larry, select relatives and I are planning to visit nations on the African continent and throughout Western Europe.
Traveling is exhilarating and educational. No book, on-line course, or college lecture could have taught me something of the things I have learned while traveling domestically or internationally. No culture or norm, from my experience, are better or worse than the others. They are simply different, which is not a $2 way of saying wrong. Sure, some norms and customs are universal – others vary by state line let alone international borders.
Easy example, an act considered common courtesy in Mississippi – holding the door for someone, especially a woman – is interpreted as a nuisance in New York. Public displays of affection are very commonplace in Mexico (at least from my experiences in Mexico City) while this varies wildly across the United States. One experience I had with Argentines is that of their being standoffish – something that may be attributable to my American citizenship, being a stranger irrespective of nationality, someone who appears to have questions they are uninterested in answering, not being a big deal – everyone simply minds their own business.
All I know is I am a more self-aware, mindful, and informed person having visited the many places I have. Leaving with thousands of pictures in tow – worth a thousand words, you know – I wish to share them.