All About Trey

Life, Travel, Adventure

Replanting the American Dream (Part I)

I like to travel. It's something I picked up from my parents. We did the traditional family trip every summer. You know, the 8 states in three days type of thing. And when my Dad was stationed overseas, we would travel across Europe. I remember taking the train to Berlin (then surrounded by East Germany) and complaining that I couldn't have the top bunk. Or getting lost in France and my Dad asking for directions in his atrocious pseudo french. I was really quite lucky.

As I grew up, I traveled on my own. I did a lot with the Navy, but I did alot on my own. I was also a voracious reader when I was young, so there were so many places I wanted to go to, to see for myself, to experience. And yet as I grew old enough to be able to afford to travel to some of these places, they became less accessible, especially to Americans. I wanted to travel the Silk Road and go to Samarkand. But that was part of Russia and is now part of Uzbekistan. Being a solitary American traveler there is not a good idea. Or the sand/mud cities in Yemen. Or the ancient African capital of Timbuktu. When I went to Morroco in 1995, I felt definitely uneasy, and that was the most modern of African countries and one which the United States had very close ties. I used to joke that to be a real traveler, you needed to be born in the late 1800s and be British. That was when the British Empire ruled the world and a British citizen could travel almost anywhere without fear of getting kidnapped or killed.

Part of the excitement and thrill of traveling for me has not just been experiencing the local culture, but also bringing a little bit of America with me when I travel. With the advent of satellites TV, most people get the Dallas/Jerry Springer/Cops version of Americans. So I like to think of myself as an ambassador for the US. But that's getting harder.

In 2003, I went to Denmark for a biking trip with my Dad. While in Copenhagen, I went to a bar for a drink and ended up talking with a guy. He kept going on about the US and Iraq and despite my attempts to convince him that I didn't agree with all of the policies of the US Government, he wouldn't let it go. I finally finished my drink and just decided to leave. I politely said good night to the guy, and he responded, "But I don't want you to go, I'm not done talking to you." I was this guys sole chance to communicate his displeasure about the US, and despite the fact that I agreed with him, it wasn't enough.

In today's Washington Post, there is a great op-ed by David Ignatious. It talks about how our American values and ideals have been tarnished and are now seen as fake, or insincere, by most of the world. If you never leave your red state, then you may not see or agree with this, but if you ever want to travel, or even conduct business in a foreign counrty, then this is something you'll need to deal with. Right or wrong, it's the perception that is out there. And we need to do something to fight that perception. And that means making some real concrete changes. And we need to make them now. We need to say no to torture, and no quibbling or dissembling or equivicating on what the definition of torture is. We need to share the bounty of the US with those who are dying and hungry around the world. We need to make the US the leader of the world where people want to follow us, copy us, envy us. We need to lead by example. We need leadership to deal with not only national issues, but global ones as well. We can't solve all of the world's problems, but we should try to help where we can and as an absolute minimum, we shouldn't be making it any worse.