I have always wished I had the intellectual acuity to read In Search of Lost Time, the 4,000 page novel by Marcel Proust about, er, refer to the book title. And this easy-to-read article: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tldr-prousts-in-search-of-lost-time_us_559e8cb1e4b0967291558d31. One of these days, I will commit. In the meantime, I am happy enough with Proust’s wonderful observation about travel:
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
After almost three years of travel to more than 30 countries, my eyes are a little newer. Although being a privileged American gets in the way of seeing at times, travel has changed the context for how I think about my life and my country.
The most important of my non-scientific new-eyes observations are not surprising, and all are consistent with what I have always believed, but was just too preoccupied to think about much. If I had the power, I would ask every American to consider these ten things when they are thinking about what is best for their families and our world:
- Most people in the world are poor and lead difficult lives
- Most people are honest and kind
- Most countries are not plagued by gun violence and do not permit widespread ownership of guns
- People in most other countries value family and community ahead of making money and buying stuff
- Many countries have serious environmental problems related to unregulated corporate polluting. Serious, as in people are dying
- The US really is — uniquely — the land of opportunity for people who are not born into families with wealth and influence
- Wars sponsored by rich countries have inflicted every kind of suffering on millions of innocent people in poor countries who, increasingly, have no where to go
- People in countries that are geographically close to potential war zones and whose countries have been war zones have a different perspective on war from people in countries that have not been war zones and are not close to potential war zones
- American corporations have aggressively marketed junk food and soda in poor communities all over the world, creating serious health problems for children who have little access to medical care
- There are many places in the world where you can provide a family with electricity for the price of a nice dinner out, or provide a community with clean water for the price of a new dining room set
But don’t take my word for it….