Travel expands your horizons

  • Published
  • By Dr. Robert Allen
  • 62d Airlift Wing, historian
"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." --St. Augustine

A lifetime of travel, mostly with the military, has shown me that St. Augustine's words are still true 16 centuries later. I hope that some of my words will also ring true for you.

U.S. military service members and their families have unique opportunities to travel throughout the United States and overseas. It is not always easy to leave relatives, friends, familiar landscapes and the wide variety of choices we often take for granted in the American places that we have grown up in. However, the benefits of travel are many. Among other things, you will be amazed at how much broader your outlook is than your stay-at-home classmates when you return home for a high school reunion.

Please remember when traveling in a foreign country that you could be an informal ambassador of the U.S. at any time without notice. As a member of the pre-eminent nation on the globe in cultural, business and military affairs, foreigners are often interested in your opinion of their country or your views of world events. Most of them are just friendly and curious, often just wanting to practice their English. In return, show respect for their culture by trying out a few foreign words yourself; their equivalent of "thank you, hello or goodbye" is a good start.

However, you may also meet a few who want to vent their displeasure with American actions in current or past events. Always avoid debates on politics and religion, and of course do not discuss military matters. Foreigners often have longer historical memories than Americans.

You don't have to cross an ocean or international frontier to encounter foreign cultures. Immigrants from all over the globe have come to the Puget Sound area, bringing their culture with them. Locally, there is a Korean business area, house of worship serving Samoan, Cambodian, Moslem and Buddhist congregations, and a variety of excellent foreign restaurants. One way to prepare for a foreign experience is to try the food or drinks from that cuisine.

When moving on a permanent change station, I highly recommend a little studying on the culture, climate, history and language of your new home, even if it is located in another region of the United States. Some locations are more popular than others (i.e. the Pacific NW), but every assignment has something good to offer. As a friend once said, "Every hellhole is home for somebody!"

Bon voyage!