Cane Sugar, Pickup Trucks & Ultrasounds: What Travel Teaches You

The first time I went to Guatemala, it was amazing. Descending towards the airport, I saw lush green out every window. We were soaring past volcanoes (what?!) and peering over nearby communities as we bumped onto ground.

We disembarked, and the signs were all in Spanish. I had my fresh, new passport out, ready for its very first stamp. I practiced my paltry language skills on the customs agents.

All of it was so exciting… ordering Cokes with real cane sugar at the tiendas, riding death-defying buses and practicing my Spanish everywhere I went.

We rode in the backs of pick up trucks to visit natural hot springs. My host family introduced me to pouring warm milk on corn flakes, which I thought was ingenious on a cold morning. We hiked the Mayan ruins and saw sweeping views of the jungle.

It was so fun. Until, you know, it wasn’t.

Food always seems to be the first thing. In Argentina, I became obsessed with memories of Tex Mex chips and salsa… of hummus and pita chips. I couldn’t wait to come home and go grocery shopping!

But language is a close second. After a while, my brain became exhausted of thinking all the time. And I wanted to stop simply smiling and nodding. I wanted to be able to make a joke once in a while! (Or at least laugh on time with the jokes other people were making…)

And life in general can just become tiring. Throwing TP in a trash quickly loses its novelty and “miming” to your host family that you threw up on the balcony because you don’t know the verb for “to vomit” is just plain uncomfortable. Finding a pediatrician or having an ultrasound with my husband translating made me feel so childlike and incapable.

Real life abroad can wear on you.

Maybe you’ve also had this experience. Cross-cultural living can be super thrilling and full of great stories… until it becomes tiring.

These travel experiences have the beautiful capacity to make us excellent hosts in our home country.
We should be carrying the banner of unending grace for immigrants in our communities.

They are likely not here for a season, but are learning a new life in a new country. And often, where we may have experienced generous hospitality and gracious welcome in the destination we visited, they are experiencing discrimination, hostility and impatience.

Let travel spur you to welcome immigrants. Do the work of understanding any limited English speakers you encounter and be sure to encourage their efforts in any way you can. Invite people into your home. Ask about foods missed, and if you are aware of authentic restaurants, let them know! Share ideas of places to see or visit in your community.

Being in a new place in a delicate mixture of adventure and uncertainty. We have a beautiful opportunity to be rock star hosts.

How have you have appreciated hospitality abroad? What ways have you found to be a good host at home?

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  1. Greg Angeli9:31 AM

    I laughed so hard when I read throwing TP into the trash. Until you've been in a country where the plumbing isn't that great you won't appreciate that line.

  2. It's not as fun as it sounds! :)


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