Every now and then, when I’m riding a bus somewhere I’ll start to see the world though new eyes.
Things that I don’t usually “see” any more pop out at me and I find myself thinking, “Wow, I wish …. could be here and see this.”
I felt that way as we were road tripping the length of Borneo, often.
By the time we got to the eastern end, in Sabah, I was taking pictures that would remind me of what “real life” in Malaysia looks like.
We travel pretty rough, but some people’s standards. If we’re in hotels they are “local” ones. We prefer to rent houses where “real people” live. We don’t bop from theme park to theme park. We eat mostly in places without English menus. We ride local buses instead of the tour ones. But everywhere we go, we are among the privileged few who have choices. If we’re miserable, we can move on. The worst it gets for us is a couple of sleepless nights, some rats and bugs and hand washing for six. At most, we miss a meal on a particularly bad day.
At any point we can hop on a plane and be gone.
Not everyone is so lucky.
I think the most important impact of our choice to travel long term, and slowly, and off of the tourist circuit, is the dose of reality we continually get. No matter how you slice it, an American passport is a golden ticket, and citizenship in a western country is like winning the world lottery. Every now and then I’m reminded of this and I’m humbled by the cast of the dice that placed me in my parents’ log cabin, tucked into an island.
I’m not going to wax poetic about poverty and how we all need to be more thankful. I don’t get to do that, having lived the life I’ve lived. I don’t know what real poverty is like. No one I know in the Western World does. Not really, not like so many in the rest of the world live with. And in the grand scheme of things, Malaysia has it pretty good. There’s something to think about. Instead, I’m just going to post a few of my drive-by pictures of towns and villages, people and places that have passed before my eyes in the past couple of weeks.
Some of you will nod your heads and remember, having seen with similar eyes.
If you can’t take your kids, at least show your kids, in hopes of a dose of perspective.