Sunday, November 20, 2011

Prompt #8 - Learning - Take Two

Day #8 of 30 Days of Indie Travel - take two
Travel and learning go hand in hand. Travel teaches us not only about the world and the people in it, but also more about ourselves and our own ideas and values. What has travel taught you this year?

I started this post a few months ago, but I never finished or posted it, I think it goes well with this prompt, so even though I already wrote a post on that prompt, I'm gonna post this one, too.

A bit over a year ago, I left the US on an airplane that would take me to Cairo, the beginning of what was an amazing year, certainly the best of all I've had so far, but that's not saying much since I've only actually had 22 of them. But this is not an entry about the adventures I had over the last year, God knows I had many opportunities to write those entries, but I never really got around to it. This entry is about some of the lessons I learned over the five continents, twenty-something airplanes, six addresses, and uncountable cups of tea that have come and gone in the last year.
Never think you don't need anyone. Never need someone too much. People really will rob you, be careful with your stuff. Despite this, trust strangers. Be a trustworthy stranger. Know where you are, but not necessarily where you're going. Ask directions if you do not know where you are. You get what you pay for. In some cases this is ok, but you could never imagine all the things that could possibly be wrong with your cheap-ass apartment until you've lived there for a month and then find a room-sized puddle in your kitchen one morning. Tell the police. If you're ever wondering if you should, you should. Help a friend in need. Drop everything to do so if necessary. Trust until proven nieve for doing so. Believe that people can change, but don't be surprised when they're only human. Know how many drinks it takes for you to go from that guy to that guy. Be nice to your landlord. Always carry a phrasebook. Don't be afraid to make your opinion known, especially in an unfamiliar group. Confide in someone. Cry if you need to. Even if it's in public. Just do it. If you see a stranger crying and are in a reasonable position to think you can help them, offer to do so. Don't cry too much.
One thing that many travelers may not realize is the extent to which women are objectified in a sexually repressed culture. Though I do not mean to say that all middle-eastern men are perverted little predators, sexual harassment and assault (touching, of any kind) are far more common in the Middle East than one could ever imagine before going. Many men seem to be under the impression that western women are much more sexually... liberal... which obviously means they should grab our asses on the streets, because we're totally ok with it, or are even asking for it by not veiling. Never allow a man even an inch when it comes to inappropriate behavior. A dramatic (though justified) and immediate response brings humiliation, and is in my experience the best deterrent.

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