Exploring the World Through Travel
This story was submitted by Walter Arnold to the Stories of Travel collection as part of the May SEEQ sessions.
As a third culture kid, I have learned to adjust myself to the local environment and “fit in” regardless of my surroundings. It is always an invigorating, energizing experience to surround myself with different sights, sounds, and smells. Each of these senses are stimulated when in a different culture. And it reminds me of the commonalities that bring all humans together. The desire for a warm meal, a refreshing drink, and a heartwarming smile, the ability to communicate with hand and facial expressions where language is not needed.
One of my fondest travel memories was a week spent volunteering at an orphanage in Vietnam as a teenager. For an entire week, my friends and I played with a group of orphans from ages 5 – 18. We played with them, did chores with them, laughed with them. None of us spook Vietnamese, and none of them spoke English. Yet we formed a very strong connection by communicating in other ways, reminding me that regardless of where we live, we are all at the core the same.
One of the most powerful travel memories of recent times is a family vacation where my wife and I took our two girls (ages 4 & 6 at the time) to Panama for a week, the highlight of which was chartering a sailboat through the San Blas Islands. As we explored the islands of San Blas, we encountered indigenous Kuna Indians. Our girls would instantly make new friends with the locals, though no one could communicate in the same language. It was amazing to watch my kids process the fact that people lived a very different life from them, often without electricity or running water. It amazed me to watch their little minds process this fact, recognize how fortunate we were. These differences were not impediments to friendships, within minutes they would be running off out of sight to play with their new friends.