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Letters Home

Time 0:02:19

Transcript:

The night before I left to travel the world for nine months, my oldest sister, Colleen gave me a small bundle of 36 numbered envelopes to keep me company. Inside were notes of encouragement and questions to inspire letters home. They were a welcome reminder of someone who cared.

What would Dad like where you are? What language are people speaking? Can you see the ocean? Is there anything you truly dislike yet?

“I dislike the disadvantages of being a tourist.” In Northern Ireland two kids stole my money when I asked them to show me how to use a payphone. A cabdriver in Budapest charged me double the fare just because I was a foreigner. In some of the places I visited the simplest tasks like finding a bank or a place to use the internet took hours.

It’s hard to blend in when you’re a tourist and it’s hard to get to know a place and its people as an outsider. “Imagine walking around a city of 125000 people and 60% of the people flat out stare at you as you walk by them. The other 40% seem to know that you are foreign but are trying to be polite and even those people still give you the quick up and down.”

In the Ukraine, the alphabet was incomprehensible to me and I had great difficulty finding a place to stay, something to eat or a way to get around. In a train station I was laughed at while I waited to get information. Everyone crowded around the cashier and I was standing back. People pushed their way to the front but without speaking the language I was really hesitant. I tried to ask several staff about departing trains and was dismissed. No one could understand me and I was pretty angry. I left the train station without any information.

Looking back at the letters I wrote to Colleen, I cringe at some of the things I said. They were an outlet for anger and frustration. Sometimes I tried to entertain her. Until today I thought the envelopes she gave me were kind of for her: a way to live vicariously through my travels and a virtual guarantee that I would stay in touch with her. Looking back at them today, I can see how my travelling experiences are connected to who I am, the work I do and how I see the world. These experiences have helped me to look at people more openly. There isn’t really one right way of doing things. Now I realize that the envelopes were truly for me.

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