Monday, February 13, 2017

The World Citizen's Dilemma....

Fair warning: This post is more of an opinion piece than is my usual style in this space, but it's becoming more apparent to me of late that 'not talking about' current events because not everyone agrees with you has its own consequences.  Therefore, I took a solemn oath to myself that I would do that a little less.  If you'd rather skip this, feel free.  The next post will be up shortly & have plenty of rambling thoughts about airplanes in it.

I'm just shy of a week until my first international trip of the year.  As I wrote about HERE, I'm very excited about this one.  It's probably the most complex trip I've ever booked, and takes me completely around the world via Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Sri Lanka, and Doha.  It's arguably the piece de resistance of my mileage running career....thus far.

A preview of what will be my final descent on Monday- Approach into LAX

While I'm really looking forward to this adventure and have been planning the details and logistics of it for months, I have to admit I can't shake a sense of concern as I get packed.  It's not so much that I don't think that all will be fine, but there's a lingering disappointment with the current state of our reputation abroad. 

I've made my fare share of jokes about buying some Air Canada bag tags to avoid awkward conversations about politics abroad, or what choice phrases I'd now need to learn in a combination of Mandarin, Tamil, and standard Arabic, but joking aside, there are actual potential issues to be discussed.

Formally, this site is not an opinion piece unless we're talking about my long-winded opinions on airport lounge décor, or tray table etiquette.  It is however, at it's most basic level, a how-to guide on getting the most out of travel in any number of ways.  Like any good guide, it also needs to be honest and cover relevant topics, and I'm posting this commentary with that sentiment in mind.  

First stop of the upcoming run- HKG!
It's intrinsic in travel that as you roam around the world you'll encounter new places, people, and ways of thinking.  This is really the entire point of the journey, miles and points aside. In the past I've found myself having all manner of discussions with strangers turned short-term friends about their lives, their homes, their families....and much more. 

This all makes the current state of affairs in the US somewhat worrisome as I contemplate circumnavigating the Earth this weekend.  I'm heading to extremely foreign lands (if, in fact, we consider the term 'foreign' to be subject to gradation) and it can't be ignored that from the airport agents, to people you may encounter on a train or at a restaurant, when you're someplace you've never been before you are subject to, and on occasion at the mercy of, the understanding and acceptance of locals. 

No reason for this one, it's just a pretty distraction amidst all this serious talk.
This is really all prelude to saying that anyone who travels, whether they realize it or not, are dependent upon, and directly either helped, or encumbered by their society's image in the world.  Statements and actions by those with authority have consequences for you, whether you agree with them or not.  When you step off the jetbridge you are a representative of your country, your state, and your hometown and you should expect to be treated with the level of respect that your country extends to others.  It was already hard enough to be a 'perfect stranger' when hopping continents, and now it has potentially become even more so.

This is not to say that I'm really much more concerned for my physical safety or the logistics of my trip, per se.  Mileage running already requires a fair amount of thoughtful planning with an eye toward security, and the ability to navigate places safely that you've never been before.  What I am bemoaning at a basic level is a considerable step back from the sense of 'world citizenship' ......let alone the possibility of increased screening and suspicion at airports.

When viewed from above, this world is smaller than you realize, and other people and cultures are more intertwined and accessible than many will admit, if we choose to keep the freedom of travel and adventure as a basic human right as it has been through history, and still should be.   

TBIT Pavilion- LA's gateway to the World
Anyhow, now that I've said what's been rattling around in my mind I can look forward to this trip, which I really am thrilled about!  I'm traveling with some friends I've taken amazing adventures with in prior years, and am looking forward to making some new friends on the road.  As I've said many times, the people with whom I share this strange hobby have on many occasions turned out to be uniquely fun, adventurous, and independent travelers. 

In travel as in life, the people, as well as the destinations, make the journey worth taking.  This is something that I hope we all keep in mind each time we put our passport in our bag, and set off in search of new experiences.

Travel safely, travel well,


PS: I'm hoping to stay connected enough this weekend to do 'live updates' as we go 'around the world in 80 hours.'  I hope you'll follow along!

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