In 1989 I was born in Western Asia, but soon after – while I was still in elementary school – my parents decided to flee the country. The journey was long, but eventually I called the Netherlands my new home. The rest of my family fled the country, too. Because my family ended up in different countries – some even on a different continent than us – I have always traveled a lot and developed a love for it. As a traveler, there are a few things that you learn.
1. Home is not one place.
I often get the question, do you miss home? I always get confused. What do you mean by home? Is that my birth country? I have no memory of that anymore. Is that the country I am currently living in? I’ve moved so many times, I don’t call one place “home”. Home – to me – is where I feel comfortable. Home is where the loved ones are; whether that’s family or strangers that have quickly become friends. Many of my closest friends don’t even live in the same country as I. Home doesn’t have to be one place, it can be a feeling.
2. We are all the same.
While we argue because of our differences, we forget to see how similar we are. I’ve talked to many people of different nationalities and I’ve learned that – while we differ in the way we express ourselves – we are all the same when it comes to humanity. The only difference between us humans is that some choose to do good and some don’t. In everything else, we are the same. We all have goals, dreams, hopes, fears, and insecurities.
3. We can all speak one same language.
When I visited countries where few spoke English, I discovered we could all communicate through a different kind of language: body language. I made connections with people through a smile, a handshake, a hug. Sometimes you can say a lot more without any words.
4. Generosity connects us all.
In Spain I visited a place where many dinners were spent eating together as a town; each family brought one dish and all the food was put on one long table outside. Everyone in that town was welcome to come join eating, whether you brought something yourself or not. It felt like one big family. The same experience occurred in Suriname. People didn’t have many possessions, but they made sure you ate from the best food they had. Again, I connected with strangers who felt like family.
5. Earth is beautiful.
People are beautiful in the way they express themselves with their different cultures and habits. However, let us not forget the beauty of our planet Earth itself. I was amazed the first time I saw the different color houses in Paramaribo, the beauty of Niagara Falls somewhere between Ontario and New York, the nature in Germany, the beautiful colors of the sky during sunrise while waking up on the beach of Copacabana. No matter how much I see of it, I continue to be amazed how beautiful our planet is.