What I've Learned, 2007

I've decided to do this year's installment of "What I've Learned" (an idea ripped from the pages of Esquire) by quoting past posts on Terra Incognita. You can read previous editions of What I've Learned here and here.

Man I miss Show and Tell. 01.02.07

It's hard to read subtitles when you're giggling. 02.19.07

To these children [in the movie Jesus Camp] faith and fear are interchangeable. Their faith in God is one that is born out of fear. And that saddens me, because the God I know and the God I trust does not rely on fear. While fear is great motivation, it tends to breed further fear. 04.16.07

If you bring the tuna down [into the Grand Canyon], eat it all, otherwise you'll smell it all the way up and the scent infuses into your backpack so much that even 5 days later you find the dog deliriously licking the inside of your pack. 06.26.07

From now on, I know to carry everything that documents my travel plans when passing through Customs. I'm just thankful that I learned this when entering a country I'm familiar with, and not, say, Vietnam. 07.07.07

It's utterly fantastic to enter a city knowing not a single soul, only to be pubbing a day later with what feels like a contingent from the U.N. 07.20.07

Americans are not the only "ugly" tourists. We get a bad rap, and some tourists give good reason for that reputation, but I've seen just as many "ugly" tourists from all sorts of countries. 08.06.07

I travel quite differently while in a group. It's nice to not have to worry about the details like where I'm staying for the night or how to navigate my way to the train station, but I've found I've become less aware of my surroundings. 08.16.07

It's strange, this feeling of great wealth -- empowering and yet burdensome. I know that my patronage of someone's shop or cafe really makes a difference, which makes me feel good -- I like knowing that what I spend helps feed a family. But it becomes a weighty decision to choose a restaurant for dinner or a stall to buy a souvenir from. 09.13.07

While standing next to an American bunker on top of a hill over looking the Perfume River on the outskirts of Hue, I realized why the Americans lost the Vietnam War: There is no way Americans are suited for the heat and humidity of Vietnam without the luxury of being able to duck into some air con. 09.13.07

I believe it's my inherited responsibility to foster good relations with our former enemies. 09.13.07

I love Vietnam for its unapologetic differences. 09.13.07

I have nearly mastered another art: that of using the squat toilet. Mostly I have learned to carry TP and hand sanitizer in my bag at all times. 09.18.07

Call me weird, but I started missing the chore of lugging my backpack through subways and side streets. It made the arrival at the hotel seem a little less like a major success when I didn't have to exert much effort. 11.16.07

One of the big lessons for me was to see how important culture was to religious experiences. How can I chastise or challenge someone on their belief structure if that's the cultural structure they know and trust? 11.26.07

I've found that I pack way more for a week of domestic travel – or even a week of house-sitting in my own town – than I packed for 3 months of trekking around the globe. 12.19.07

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