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Travel Story 3: Thailand – Culture Hides Connection

Only a few moments in my life have gone on to change my worldview. One of them took place in Thailand. I remember the exact moment: I was sitting at the campfire in a small village. We were all sharing a beer and telling stories from our lives.

Life here was very different than anything else I had experienced. The entire village consisted of less than 100 people. The nearest city, Chaing Mai, was about two hours south and relatively difficult to reach. They generated small amounts of their own electricity. Food was grown and traded; cooking was done communally. They spent their days farming and their evenings relaxing.

On the day my worldview was forever changed, one of the children shot a huge snake with his slingshot. The snake, even dead, looked scary to me. It was about two meters long and roughly seven centimeters (2.75 inches) thick.

That night we had snake curry for dinner. Afterward we made a campfire and told stories while sharing a drink.

For just a moment during the campfire, time seemed to flicker. Before I left the US, I was a student at a liberal arts college in Florida. Some of my favorite memories took place while hanging out in the dorms with my friends. We would tell stories and trade ideas. I felt connected to the people around me in those moments.

My life in Florida seemed to be a world apart from the time I spent in the village.

In Florida I was surrounded by cars and concrete; I was constantly logged on to the internet. Coffee cost two dollars a cup and dinner was turkey with mashed potatoes.

In the Thai village, a lush tropical forest surrounded me and I had virtually no electricity (let alone high speed internet). Two dollars was enough to buy food for several days and dinner was snake curry with rice.

Yet beneath the veneer of a “foreign” culture, there was a familiar sense of humanity. I realized that it made no difference whether I was in Thailand or Florida. What mattered was the connection to the people around me. We were able to transcend the cultural barriers and relate to one another simply as humans sharing the same spinning planet.

In that moment sitting around a fire telling stories, just as I used to tell stories lounging around my dorm, I realized that beneath the shade of “foreign” culture, lies a still point of humanity that binds all of us together.

I realized that at our core, we are all fundamentally the same.

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