The World is Your Playground

Written by L. Wang

world_playgroundStory by Jim Michals, as told by L. Wang.

I want to travel the world! You hear people say it all the time. Who wouldn’t want to experience the excitement of an entirely different continent and see what the rest of the world has to offer? In an interview, I talked to Jim Michals about his adventures (and a few misadventures here and there) traveling and visiting various countries.

The traveling hype

Traveling peaks any man’s appetite for adventure. Immersing yourself in another culture helps you understand more about that culture as well as your own because there is something to compare it to. You have a greater appreciation for where you’re from and for different rituals and customs around the world. Physically going to a country is so much more exciting than reading about it or surfing online—the experience is inexplicable.

Each day, there is a new adventure: new people to meet, new sights to see and a new culture to learn. The experience sharpens you. As you learn about various cultural faux pas, you heighten your tolerance of and interest in different customs. Each trip stretches you as a traveler to be more adaptable and flexible.

Things to do before you head off

Unless you’re feeling mega adventurous, you might want to prepare a few of these things before you travel to a place you’ve never been before:

  1. Minimize the culture shock. Read travel guides, books and visit websites about the place you are visiting. It is very important to understand the culture and culture faux pas so you know what to anticipate before you get there.
  2. Travel light. A happy traveler is a light traveler. Only take what is absolutely essential. Carrying more stuff is just a burden, especially when you’re traveling fast and covering a lot of ground.
  3. Plan for interruptions. It’s good to plan your trip but don’t over-stimulate yourself. Leave time for rest and possible interruptions along the way. Be aware that systems in other cultures aren’t as dependable as you may think sometimes so you must allow as much flexibility as possible. Take the time and just enjoy the trip.
  4. Visa expeditors will save you a lot of time and hassle. Contacting them and paying them a bit of money is worth it. In the Middle East, for example, you will need to get sponsorship and visa expeditors can help you with these technicalities.
  5. Find a guide or mentor. It is very useful to have someone there to guide you and correct you. A trusted friend local friend will tell you if you’re offending people without knowing it.

While you are there…

  1. Learn from the locals. On your trip, try to learn as much about the language and culture from the people living there. They can educate you best about the food, taxis and booking accommodations.
  2. Be polite. Graciousness is understood in any culture. Please, thank-you and you’re welcome are universally appreciated.
  3. Be a careful observer. Watch what’s going on around you: the language communicated through actions, what is appropriate behavior and what isn’t. Ask questions at an appropriate time. Try to get people to explain why something is done a certain way, it will help you better understand the culture.
  4. Respect and value the people and culture there. Don’t always say how good it is where you are from. Show them you value their culture and where they are from. If there is food to eat, appreciate it by actually eating it.

Making a difference

Michals has had the opportunity to impact lives during his travels. In Jordan, he worked with a team to transform the college and university education system. There, they put together a plan and organizational structure for the 17 institutions there. The institutions were combined into a central education system in order to have more structure and be more effective. This plan was already legislated there, but needed the planning and organization that Michals and his team brought.

No matter where you go when you travel, you can make a difference. Even the helping hand you lend out to someone on the streets of another country can go a long way. Michals left the Jordan education system with the first written 80 positions and plans to blend pension schemes and homogenize policies and structures. We can bring our education and experiences from our own place and share these with other peoples. We can learn from them and they can learn from us.

Some things just never change

Traveling is not only an adventure, but a huge learning experience. You come to understand that there are some things that are universal—for instance, music as a means of expression.

While there are many changing cultures and people as you travel the world, Michals has learned that truth is constant. The Bible is a truth to be relied on. No matter where he goes, and what social conventions he encounters, the words of the Bible are still profound. He has also realized that no matter what hemisphere you are in, you’ll find people who feel empty inside. They all need the love of Jesus Christ, who came to give all of us life to its fullest. God wants to give each of us a life that is not void of meaning and a love that is not conditional. We just have to accept His gift to us.

You, too, can experience truth in the way that Michals has. God’s gift is available to you as well.

You can receive Jesus right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.

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