Thursday, October 18, 2007

Where are the Americans?

One thing that I have noticed in my travels is that there are few Americans on the road. I meet so many people from Europe and Australia and it is almost an oddity when I meet a fellow American.

The dollar goes so far in Vietnam and China -- one can vacation in these places at a fraction of the cost of many other destinations. Gang, take some time off to travel! ;-)

Americans (and Australians, Brits) have the advantage that English has become the international language, the lingua franca of Planet Earth. I tend to take half to one day tours to various places as I am traveling. Virtually all of the tours are in English. Often, I am the only native English speaker on the tour. People strive to learn English because they often cannot advance without it and, indeed, international travel is very difficult to impossible nowadays if you do not know basic English. Americans not only are wealthy, but they receive this gift of the lingua franca for free, as their native language, whereby all these other folks must struggle so hard to learn it. Even Asian travelers from different countries usually communicate with each other in English and that is how they communicate with hotel staff, etc.

A couple of evenings ago here in Saigon, I had dinner with a Fullbright Scholarship winner (and another Dutch friend, Daan, that I made on the road) -- via this scholarship the US government will be paying her way for an MBA in the US. She is from a poor Vietnamese family and had to struggle hard to get her education and to learn English. She wanted to practice her English with me, a native speaker, before her TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) test in a week. She is very poor but wanted to pay for dinner which we, of course, refused to let her do. It made me realize how fortunate we are in America.

I remember back when I was a student in Spanish school in Ecuador. I had two different teachers during my stay there and they were both well educated -- one had a PhD in Psychology and the other was married to a successful man. But neither had ever driven a car, flown in an airplane, left their tiny country, had a bank account, etc. In fact, due to visa requirements, it was impossible for them to travel almost anywhere. We talked about the fact that even if they got a visa to go to America they could not afford the plane trip there or the hotel prices nor would they have known how to drive a rental car, etc. I feel so fortunate that I am able to travel and see the world with the Blue Pass (American passport) which lets me enter most countries with ease and minimal hassle. It is something that I no longer take for granted!

1 comment:

rodmail said...
This comment has been removed by the author.