There is nothing like traveling to another country to help you appreciate what you have back at home. It’s also easy here in the U.S. to take so much of what we have, and routinely do, for granted. So even though I told you I was done with writing about our recent trip, here is what I immediately learned to appreciate the minute we crossed the border. Of course it is only SMART to remember these each and every day.
So what did I learn to not take for granted?
- First and foremost I appreciate WATER! We take for granted that we can take a shower or brush our teeth and swallow the water that might be in our mouth. Of course that assumes you have reliable, indoor plumbing. That isn’t always the case in Mexico or other parts of the world. Drinking water out of the tap anytime, any place, is a luxury that should never be taken for granted. Wasting water for any reason seems frivolous, insensitive and not SMART.
- Having a home to come home to. While we are fortunate to have the resources to stay in reasonably nice places while traveling, many of us in the U.S. routinely take for granted that we have a place that we can call our own. We observed many extremely modest dwellings during our trip that reminded me of the many luxuries that we have (like drinking water in the home, air conditioning, wifi and TV, and paved roads, etc.) that many around the world don’t. Sometimes getting away from them is the best way to appreciate them.
- Being able to find work or income right where we live. Throughout our travels we met people who told us that they “used” to live in the U.S. While it wasn’t clearly expressed, the obvious reason was they had traveled to the U.S. to make money for themselves and their families because there was no work where they lived. In every case these people returned after a number of years because by traveling to the U.S. they usually don’t get to see their families during that time. Finally, after saving up what they can, they ALL return home because that is where they really want to be. Those of us in the U.S. take for granted that we can usually find work where we live or we can easily move elsewhere where there is more work (either permanently or temporarily). This is not the case in many other parts of the world.
- Breathing air that is reasonably clean. Because it was the “rainy” season in Mexico the air quality was reasonably good wherever we went. But it is obvious that this country does not have the controls or regulations to keep this in check. While we might protest the governmental controls over such things in the U.S., they do make a tremendous difference that we usually take for granted. If you want to see a city full of old, unregulated, black-gas-fumed spewing vehicles, then go to Mexico. Unfortunately, industry also contributes without regulation.
- Understanding the language that is spoken and written around us. We U.S. citizens take for granted that the vast majority of us speak the same language and have the education to read. That is not always true around the world. In Oaxaca alone they have 16 different indigenousness languages. Being able to understand conversations around us and read signs and menus is very advantageous.
- Bathrooms are easy to find. Okay, so maybe it is my age or my gender but it’s REALLY nice to be able to find a decent bathroom when needed. With a Starbucks on nearly every corner here in the U.S. with a good bathroom, there is never too much cause for concern.
- The many advantages and possibilities we have in our country. If you pay attention while traveling to some countries it becomes increasingly obvious that we have so many benefits that we usually take for granted. Of course there is the obvious like roads and other infrastructure, as well as water, sewer, electricity, cable TV, Internet and much more. But having a system of government that is fairly consistent and one that offers most citizens protection and freedoms should never be taken for granted. If anything, travel to another country should offer us all contrast about the many advantages we have AND those that we should never consider routine.
Things I REALLY miss about Mexico (already!):
- The friendly and kind people I met everywhere in Mexico.
- The fantastic and interesting food that we experienced during our trip.
- Someone to make coffee and fix me a healthy balanced breakfast every single day.
- Having people make my bed and clean up my room every day.
- Learning about new people and cultures with an incredibly rich history.
- Seeing interesting and awe-inspiring sites on a daily basis.
- Putting personal and family happiness before being busy or successful. I have heard others where I live in Southern California be critical of the Latino culture for not being more aggressive and driven. What I witnessed on more than one occasion in Mexico was the strong desire to put family, friends and relationships first and foremost. Having a happy and content life is primary to many Mexicans and it is a pleasure to witness that instead of people who are stressed, too busy and constantly putting themselves first. I miss that!
I’ve written before about the many incredible advantages that travel offers, and find it helpful to remember those benefits on a regular basis. But travel also reminds us that most of us have relatively good lives filled with opportunity and possibility. Remembering that as frequently as possible is always a SMART way to live.
In case you missed any of the SMART Travel Tips From our trip to Mexico–here are all four posts: