When you're halfway around the world, you realize just how big the world is. It sounds stupid, but take a moment to comprehend just how small you are. There are 7 continents, 195 countries, 6,900 spoken languages, and 4,200 religions. The Earth contains deep oceans, stark deserts, abundant rain forests, crowded cities, tribal villages, ancient temples, and 7.5 billion people that call it 'home.'
I, along with over 300 million people, have the privileged to call The United States of America our home country. We make up only about 4% of the total population of Earth, yet we are one of the largest superpowers in the world and are privileged with rights that others around the world die for. We don't think about how we have easy, seemly unlimited access to clean drinking water, even though 1.1 billion live without clean water to drink. We take our $40,000/yr jobs for granted because we think we are worth more, even though the median annual household income worldwide is a mere $9,733. We take our freedom of speech, our freedom of press, our freedom of religion, and our right to vote for granted, even though many around the world die fighting for these American rights.
It's easy to take our every day, born-into privileges for granted when the only place we've ever been is America. I've always been, or at least tried to be, an optimistic, grateful person. I know that I should appreciate the things I have because there are other people around the world who are not as fortunate, but you can't truly understand this until you see it for yourself.
The first Third World country I visited was Cambodia in January 2019. We visited the jaw dropping Angkor Wat temples, attended the local Cambodian circus, and had a glimpse into the lives of the Cambodian people. We didn't venture much into the rural countryside at all, but even in Siem Reap (outside the touristy downtown) we saw people who lived with no power, unsecured housing and tattered clothes. The biggest realization came right when we entered the country. Our hotel offered us a free shuttle from the airport to our hotel. On our 20 minute ride from the airport to our hotel, our English speaking driver told us a bit about Cambodia, things to do in Siem Reap, pointed out the water buffalo, and asked us where we were from. I'm going to pause here. Whenever you travel anywhere, you are always asked "where are you from?" I am from the suburbs of Chicago (about an hour away from the city), so whenever I am asked this question I just say Chicago because every one knows generally where Chicago is. I felt like every one in the world must know the major cities of the world and generally where they are located, even if they couldn't exactly pin point them on a map. We know Paris is in France, London is in the UK, Tokyo is in Japan, and Chicago, LA and New York City are in the United States. So when I responded to his "where are you from" question, I simply responded "Chicago". I was surprised when he followed up with "Oh, where is that?" to which I said "It's in the United States." From there it got even more surprising when he asked "Is that a country in the United States?" I was taken back by this follow up question. This man did seem to have any formal concept of my country. He didn't know one of the top major cities in the US, nor did he know we do not have other countries within our country. I paused, and reminded myself that I am on the exact opposite side of the Earth, in a Third World country. This experience was one of the most memorable on my trip to Asia, and truly helped me understand and appreciate the people of the world.
I would like to conclude this post by stating that I understand there are plenty of American people who are suffering, whether it be financially, mentally, physically, economically, etc. This post is meant to serve as a reminder to practice thankfulness, gratitude and respect, which should be practiced by every person in the world. I am a believer. I believe that if you want something enough, put the work in, make sacrifices, and be a believer, yourself, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to!