Nearly two decades ago, just before she was to leave on one life-changing trip to Russia, a phone call and a twist of fate stopped Travelocity Market Manager Jonna Orwig in her tracks. She got a second chance to visit this past summer as a Cross-Cultural Solutions volunteer on a Change Ambassador Grant, and now she’s sharing the experience’s profound joys and challenges, as well as some travel nitty-gritty, to extend a helping hand to anyone considering a volunteer vacation.
Rick Steves, an avid traveler and author of European guidebooks, recently spoke about the value of travel in today’s world at a Bay Area event, a talk that was filled with thoughtful political insights and personal anecdotes. With a presidential election on the horizon and politics on the brain, one story he told struck me as especially relevant to the political climate of today.
During a trip to Afghanistan, a man approached Rick while he was sitting in a cafeteria in Kabul, a moment he recalls as his most memorable cultural experience. The local man said, “You’re an American, aren’t you? Well, I’m a professor here in Afghanistan. I want you to know that a third of the people on this planet eat with spoons and forks like you do. A third of the people eat with chopsticks. And a third of the people eat with their fingers like I do. And we’re all just as civilized.”
Although Rick admits his wife needed to do some “retraining” upon his return home, he ate with his fingers for the remainder of that trip, an experience he described as “a joy…very natural.”
I was able to catch up with Rick to get more of his thoughts on why he thinks traveling abroad is essential. He graciously responded to all my questions, as I asked him about everything from who will get his vote in the 2008 election to what travel follies he hopes his mom never finds out about.