For those of you who have the money and can make the time, I can’t recommend traveling abroad highly enough. It’s an invaluable opportunity to meet interesting people, visit exotic places, and experience different cultures.
In addition to interesting people like Ahmet, world travel brings you in touch with fascinating cultures more broadly. My military deployment in Afghanistan gives ample testimony here. I could mention the local Afghans who sold their wares at the bazaar every Friday. U.S. and NATO soldiers dutifully did their part in purchasing gems, pashmina scarves, and lapis lazuli stoneware from smiling, Dari-speaking merchants, the proceeds of which would go back into the Taliban’s coffers to help fund each year’s spring offensive. Rinse, lather, repeat. I might also bring up the fifteen or so Afghan laborers who stayed overnight throughout the week in my compound. With pistol strapped to my thigh, I was responsible for checking up on them in the middle of the night. I tried to avoid Thursday, because, as “Little John,” a Hispanic ex-Marine then working as a contractor informed me, Thursday was Sodomy Night. Fortunately, I could watch from afar as Little John, or whoever was appointed the task for the night, went inside the tent for a head count, greeted by a whiff of third-world B.O. upon opening of the flaps, and always at risk for witnessing a game of naked leap frog in progress.