I’ve never been what I would consider to be “egocentric” but I suppose everyone is to a certain extent. As silly as it sounds I had always imagined other people’s lives being almost exactly like mine or drastically different. No shades of gray in between. That’s probably an outcome of growing up in a fairly small suburban community. There’s not a whole lot of diversity. I viewed the world as a ladder with the United States at the top and everyone else trying to reach what we have.
It wasn’t until I was balancing on the edge between adolescence and adulthood that I began to reform the way I viewed the world and all of the people in it. I didn’t completely make the transition by myself; it took a bit of traveling for me to get there.
The first time I got to travel (and I mean really travel, not some 5 hour road trip to my grandparents’ house) I went to Mexico with my dad. He took me to Cancun for a week as a high school graduation gift. To be honest, being on a resort in Cancun wasn’t that much of a culture difference. I didn’t expect much other than lying on the beach and getting massages in the cabanas. It was very westernized but I suspect that was the intention behind the resort. It wasn’t until my dad and I ventured in to the actual old town of Cancun that I realized how different other places could be from what I have been used to.
I know you’re not supposed to drink the water in Mexico but it must have gotten into my system somehow because I’m convinced that is where I got the travel bug. I’m not talking about some sort of parasite that confines you to a bathroom, but rather wanderlust and a thirst for cultural knowledge. It was the beginning of a transcendental experience for me.
Traveling became an addiction and I made every effort to make sure I could travel as much as possible. The first place I ever ventured to on my own was Thailand and I think that experiencing Thailand travel is what pushed me away from egocentrism towards cultural enlightenment.
I used to become extremely frustrated at the tiniest inconvenience but after traveling in Thailand, I’ve become more patient. My patience has extended both to less than delightful situations as well as other people. I think the majority of the reason for this is because of the culture shock and language barrier I experienced in Thailand. Getting frustrated when something didn’t go my way didn’t get me anywhere. In fact, it just made every situation worse.
I had to learn to look past my initial frustrations and take a closer look at the people around me. Thailand is known as the ‘land of smiles’ and it’s true that the Thai are probably some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Once I learned to look past myself, it was easy for me to see that. It wasn’t their fault I couldn’t communicate clearly what I wanted or that I didn’t plan enough time to travel from point A to point B.
It took time, but eventually I was able to begin to fully appreciate other people around the world. I learned that there is no black and white when it comes to what others experience on a day to day basis but rather that everyone is wandering around in some shade of gray.
Meghan Pierce has a growing love for cultural studies and travel. Her dream is to be a fulltime travel writer.