Following an eight-year absence from the onset of the great recession, I returned recently to travel throughout Vietnam and Cambodia. These Third World countries, to use the vernacular of the outdated “Three Worlds” model, seem to have come a long way. For a Communist dictatorship, Vietnam sure has a lot of Prada: Welcome to the Bourgeois revolution! Cambodia’s present-day open market system and regime stability has led to increased investment all around; for example, Siem Reap used to be a sleepy little hovel with some awesome nearby temples, and now its streets are lined with 5-star hotels. In terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), both Vietnam and Cambodia are currently among the world’s fastest-growing, pushing 7%, led by India at 8%, while the large Chinese tortoise plods at around 6%. While this is driven mainly by global integration, I would say to you now, come visit these places while they still retain a palpable measure of uniquely identifiable ancestry.
While I have traveled far and often, I must say too, that I learn constantly while I am on the road. For example, my lovely wife taught me recently how to journey around the world with four devices and only one charger, notwithstanding that I brought the adapters. This was an on-the-job-training exercise governed mainly by just-in-time principles and memory recall faculties.
I genuinely believe that travel is vital and essential, and perhaps for some folks should be mandatory. I’m not thinking of it as a social program though—more like an unfunded Republican campaign ideal. Travel opens the mind, overcomes societal barriers, and creates collective respect and mutual understanding, something we could we use more of generally. We all probably have friends, acquaintances or family members who harbor random, ill-founded or misplaced grudges toward various segments of society, sometimes for eternity.
For example, I remember, with some peculiar fondness my first prospective brother-in-law’s disposition towards the proud nation of Wales. Opposing fans at a Wales-Scotland rugby game in Cardiff apparently harangued my would-be kinsman way back in the 1970s: He had traveled all the way down there from Scotland in the wee hours only to be berated and jostled by an angry horde of drunken Welshmen. Of course it’s sometimes difficult to ascertain welsh sobriety just by observation, but it’s a reasonable bet that alcohol was involved (#Rugby+Wales+Scotland). I can only but imagine the indelible trauma inflicted on my incipient in-law, “Adfyd a ddwg wybodaeth, a gwybodaeth ddoethineb and take that ya fat Scottish bastard.” To be fair, he was a little overweight at the time. While there are many commonalities between the realms of Scotland and Wales such as Celtic origin, domination by the British Crown, and being bombed by the Germans, my former prospective brother-in-law will always hate Wales. And for that I am truly saddened.