I have believed for many years that the world would be a better place if everyone traveled more. Seeing new places and new cultures unlocks new ways to see the world. It expands your mind, opens your view of your place in the grand scheme of things, and it simultaneously makes you appreciate what you have at home. From the subtle differences of one American town to another, to the outright culture shock I felt when dropped jet-lagged and confused into the middle of downtown Tokyo I find I always learn new things while traveling. On this trip I started with a solo ride across part of Japan. I found myself pedaling along trying to wrap my head around many of the differences that I saw everywhere. Little things would take up hours of my thoughts as I tried to rationalize why this culture had developed the way it had. For instance I found myself asking why is there not one piece of broken glass on the ground in all of Japan? Unlike the USA where I’m trained to constantly watch for tire-popping glass-shards, I never saw even a hint of glass on my entire ride. Surely people in Japan must occasionally drop things? Is there just some social obligation to clean up after yourself that American’s often don’t have? Or are the street cleaners there just better then ours? The things that are different then home (good and bad) are the things that really stand out. Even with many hours of solo pedaling I’m not sure if I really worked out or made sense of a lot of things I saw in Japan, but that’s not really the point. All that time spent reasoning and trying to understand the new things you see is like a mental exercise in opening your mind. Unlike learning about cultures from a book or the internet actually immersing yourself in them effortlessly engages your mind and puts it to work. I really believe traveling is the ultimate educator. It shows you different ways of life and increases your compassion for other people.
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