I went to a Dim Sum restaurant recently with an old friend I had just reconnected with. It was a “hole in the wall” type place in Silver Spring, MD and I realized something very important there. After confessing that I had to go on wikipedia to find out what Dim Sum was before we went (she of course looked shocked at my cultural deficiency), I noticed that I don’t actually experience different cultures at all. For someone purportedly trying to do some long-term international travel and eventually live overseas, the fact remains that I am woefully unprepared to do anything of the sort. It’s a good thing my friend knew what she was doing and ordered for us since I recognized only one or two items on the cart, and would have starved if left to my own devices. Right now, I don’t know another language (a few words of Spanish aside), the furthest I’ve ever gone is Jamaica, and I only had Dim Sum last week! For all the time and effort I’ve spent online looking at different travel locations and flight costs, international costs of living compared to quality of living, and location independent jobs, I don’t even try to experience international cultures now. It would be crazy for me to go from “What’s Dim Sum?” to landing in Beijing with a stack of resumes and no return flight.
This put things in perspective, it’s not just my student loans holding me back right now, I need to actively go after new experiences as much as I can where I am now. The DC area is one of the most diverse, why not eat some foreign cuisine, attend an international performance, or at least walk through some more interesting neighborhoods? I need to work on developing my cultural palate over the next 5-7 years so that once I might be in a financial position to travel I’ll be more prepared to do so. Or at least hide my ignorance better.