This week, Ted’s Alma mater, Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon, shares his essay about the impacts of extended international travel on his understanding of the world and ability to love.
“One of the most important reasons to travel is to know what it feels like to be a foreigner.” – A. A. Gill
Not until I had been off North American soil for three months did I fully realize how much I missed home. South America was still “America;” I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect to feel so out of place, so distant, so foreign. On a daily basis, I found myself in situations where I was completely dependent on local people for the most basic necessities: food, water, transportation, communication. There was no “Spanglish” spoken here.
Thirty-one months after graduating from Multnomah, my wife and I embarked on a one-year backpacking journey around the world. We quit our jobs, mine at a local homeless shelter, hers at a landscape architecture firm, sold our stuff, and with much idealism began our journey in Lima, Peru. Today, I sit in a breezy apartment in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, reflecting on the last six months, bracing for the next half.
If there is one thing I wasn’t prepared for, it was being a foreigner in a foreign land. Sure, I’ve been places before—Europe, Mexico, Canada. But these days one can travel to all kinds of places without really having to leave the comfort and familiarity of ‘America.’ When we finally got off the beaten path, in Southern Bolivia for instance, or in Northern Lebanon, or on the undeveloped side of a Cape Verde island, we experienced a different kind of travel. We became at times guests, at times imposters, at times gawking and squawking ignorants, but always at the mercy of the land and people around us…
(Continue reading at the Multnomah University Blog)