I am American (and Unapologetically So)

I have been blessed to look culturally ambiguous. I was born in Korea, speak Spanish, raised in the USA and have the normal brown hair, brown eyes and tan skin. I’ve never stood out when I’ve traveled. (Thank you Jesus for that.) When new friends ask where I’m from I always tell them New Mexico (which surprisingly people from other countries know where this is….that’s surprising because people from the US don’t). I never lie, like a Spanish teacher once told me to, and reply I’m from Canada, Korea or some other country. Why would I?

Ex-pats sometimes seem to apologize when people in their new country find out they’re from the USA. Why? Are they apologizing for the past or the present? Maybe people apologize because of the stereotype of US travelers. Are they apologizing for the loud tourists or entitled visitors the locals might have encountered in the past.

Living in a developed nation we like things fast and we like things our way and comfortable. Traveling doesn’t always allow for these. You might not get to sleep on a comfortable bed every night when you travel. Or have the freedom to talk to everyone, or even plan your own day. The coffee shops might just give you a tiny cup of straight espresso, and not a venti-sized drink. These are all ok, but it’s ok that you’re a little bit American in these situations too. I certainly did not enjoy using the bathroom next to chickens for two weeks (I have huge dislike of birds). I would have much rather been using the bathroom INSIDE and with sterile conditions, but that’s because that’s where I’m most comfortable. There is no way in hell (or earth) that I enjoyed being covered from the neck down in 100+ degree temperatures, wearing shorts and swimming in the ocean would have been much more comfortable. But I did those because I love to experience new cultures and I embrace new adventures. Who doesn’t enjoy the freedom (and safety) of being able to go run in the morning or a comfy bed and air conditioning? Or being able to drive your own car wherever you want?! It’s nothing to be ashamed about or feel guilty over. Don’t apologize for preferring something you’re use to over a change—BUT don’t complain about a change you chose to experience either!

Every country has differences, so I see no need to apologize for where I’m from. It’s not perfect, but neither am I.

I am from the USA. Judge me for it, I don’t care. I love breaking stereotypes.

That’s the reason I am unapologetically American. Not Americans are all loud, entitled and obnoxious- it’s an individual and I hope people see me on an individual level.

(I by ANY means am not the perfect traveler. I walk slower than locals, I gawk at unfamiliar scenes, and I certainly never know every cultural taboo (which leads to great stories)

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7 (ish) Reasons to Travel

****warning: once you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, there is no turning back****

I’m in the middle (or past the middle and several rounds in) of applying for something (details to come….only if I’m accepted ;)) and I’m being forced to organize my thoughts on why I think people should travel.

Traveling is important because…

The challenges it brings
Challenges might include squatty potties (I am a self-professed squatty snotty, BUT I can do it!), eating whatever is in front of you (even if you just want to throw it up), bouldering in GAP flats and a maxi-skirt, or even living in an excessively wealthy part of the country where Audis, BMWs and Ferraris are commonplace.

Your heart breaks
The US has poverty, but it also has a lot of programs to lift people out of poverty. Traveling has allowed me to witness how a lot of the world lives, what drives people to sell themselves and how not all children have the opportunities to go to school and dream.

Helps you encounter compassion
Because my heart has been broken, I know live to love. I love people before they give me reasons to love them. Poor, rich, old, young, foreign or not- everyone has a story and if I sat and listen to each one of them I know that I would be more aware of their sufferings and how to help them (whether it be prayer, a job, or just an open ear).

Stereotypes are broken through your travels
I don’t see people from the Middle East as evil or terrorists. I don’t see people from Latin America as immigrants. Koreans aren’t annoying tourists or my ancestors. Californians are really like the SNL skit Californians (just kidding). People are people. I am not the American stereotype. I don’t like that people put me in a stereotype and traveling has made sure that I don’t put others in the position too.

Your worldview/ politics can change/ become solidified through traveling
Meeting with families who sent their sons, husbands and dads to the US for work changed my view on illegal immigrants. Being in countries that recently ended their civil war or are in a war helped me decide how I felt about these wars, or the changes that can be brought because of war. The importance of education and the government’s role in that has changed because I’ve been in countries where education was rare AND where education was extreme (not getting home until 11pm because of school, no thank you. Not being able to go to school because you had to help around at home, no thank you too).

Traveling educates you better than books/ the internet ever could
I mentioned war above. I learned so much more about Guatemala’s civil war, Saddam Hussein, the Ba’ath party and the Korean Conflict by going to these countries. I recognize what freedom feels like because I’ve been in countries where I didn’t have very much. Languages have been cemented because they were necessary to use. Documentaries are great, but sitting across from a person in a coffee shop and talking about religion, evacuating because of war, or what’s next for the country all burn much brighter in my memory than a great Frontline episode.

It’s an adventure every time
Almost crossing the border into Iran? check.
Not showering for 7 days and working in lettuce fields? check.
Going to the bathroom next to chickens? check.
Living with 8 girls or 6 guys? check.
Getting lost in every country I’ve been in, but by grace getting to where I needed to be? check.

It all does come to a few BIG IDEAS why I believe in traveling which is pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and living life outside of technology. Even though I’m the first to admit how addicted I am to my Blackberry (my phone even has a name, that’s how attached I am), I do believe that people should all put down their phones, tablets, ect when they’re in the company of others or for just a few hours each day and LIVE.

Do you have any great travel stories because you wanted out of your comfort zone? What do you think the BIG IDEA behind traveling is? Is traveling even that important? Any ideas of countries I MUST go to?

“Tracking the Trackers”

Check out Gary Kovaks’ TED talk about tracking the trackers. I love this kind of stuff! The internet is being used for so many things; good and bad. I think it’s fascinating. I think our generation needs a better understanding of how the internet is being used, instead of just complaining about changes on FB’s privacy settings.

“The memory of the internet is forever. We are being watched. It’s now time for us to watch the watchers.”

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/gary_kovacs_tracking_the_trackers.html

Home?

I’m home.

Where the heck is home?

What is home?

Just by typing “I’m home,” has set my mind into a mini-frenzy. Lately I’ve been consumed by where home is. In the past year I’ve spent only 4.5 months in NM, 2.5 in Iraq, and 5 in CA. Does where you spend the most amount of time constitute where home is?

New Mexico is, and I think will forever be, home-base. This is where my roots are (maybe?). I can’t even say my parents live here anymore. My dad moved to CA and I’m pretty sure my mom will follow suite soon. Is home where your parents live?

People say home is where the heart is, but I’ve left parts of my heart in Guatemala, in Iraq, in California and New Mexico. I would say screw ‘home is where the heart is,’ but while little pieces of my heart are all around, my whole heart belongs to God and that truly is home.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros say,

“Home
Let me come Home
Home is wherever I’m with you.”

So while I’m freaking out that I don’t quite feel at home right now, I think it’s God telling me that I’m not of this world. Carrie Underwood was right, this is my ‘temporary home.’ I shouldn’t ever feel comfortable where I am. I should be ready to pack up and leave anytime, to wherever He calls me to.

So while I still might be freaking out that I don’t know where my next place of living will be, I should be calm that He’s reminding me that home is whenever I’m with Him.

Thanks for reading this ramble. It’s been a quite calming and necessary freak out.