“A wise traveler never despises his own country.”
One day, when I was about 15, I got it into my head that I wanted to join the Army. Like so many of life's obsessions and fascinations, I'm not exactly sure where it came from.
But I do know that my love of America had a lot to do with it.
Pictures are from the National Geographic website, available for view at:
Four years at a military academy, and 5 1/2 years of active duty military service (including a 15-month tour in eastern Afghanistan) did not decrease my patriotism. If anything, my affiliation with the military only makes me more Proud to Be An American...
That is not to say that my American pride has not ebbed and waned over the years... Even on this trip, I've hesitated to tell people where I come from, for fear of being shunned or treated differently (not everyone in the world loves America like I do).
My classmate Stephanie, another avid traveler, told me that when she embarked on her first RTW expedition she decided she wanted to keep on traveling until she understood what it really meant to be an American. Until she could feel that love of country once again.
Nineteen countries, and 47 cities later, I no longer have any qualms about telling people I meet where I herald from. They might not like America, they might not like me because I am an American, but I am OK with that...
Because I have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the government...
Because the sight of the Iwo Jima Memorial still brings me to tears.
Because we are supported by brave soldiers. Some of them do not support the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan, or any war for that matter, but they are out there doing their job, anyway. Because they respect the American democratic system, and they are carrying out the actions and ideals ordained by the majority.
Travel made me realize that America does not have all of the world's answers. We haven't got the perfect system of government. There is always room for improvement in America. But despite it all, I am proud of where I come from.
Because I have the most priceless thing in the world and I will never take it for granted: I am free.
“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”