Each of us, at some point and to differing degrees, struggled with middle school algebra.
Every single one of us wants to keep a sturdy roof above our loved ones and serve them healthy, well-balanced meals constantly.
This is a story about going halfway around the world, 5100 miles as the crow flies, to a very foreign land, only to be reminded of how similar we all are, how we can be separated by thousands of miles and contrasting cultures but how there will always be more that unites us.
This is the story of our day in Turkey in the spring of 2016 and what that trip to Turkey taught us about the world.
It was on and then off.
We were saddened at the lost chance to disembark the Carnival Vista in Turkey, to step out onto the Asian continent for the first time, but, at the same time, another day at sea on a port-packed voyage wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
Emotions are confusing.
Then, a mere 72 hours before we were to push back from the port of Barcelona, Turkey was suddenly back on the itinerary.
I was elated.
I think the girls were bummed, to be honest, as a day of water slides and Camp Carnival vanished as quickly as it arrived.
Kusadasi is a town I’d never before heard of but the bustling port on the western coast of Turkey, about an hour south of Izmir (our original Turkish port of call), gave my oldest daughter and I something special, something not advertised in the excursion packet, something for which we couldn’t have planned.
What we saw in Turkey and what we talked about in Turkey is exactly what made me want to travel as a young man and now, today, makes me want to circle the globe with my kids: worldview.
We boarded a bus in the colorful, lively port and proceeded to be driven inland toward the ancient city of Miletus, avoiding the crowded tourist excursion pathway to the far more famous site of Ephesus.
As we bounced up and down on the crooked streets, my oldest daughter, then 11-years-old, and I looked out upon condos, compact cars, delivery trucks, highways, Vespas, rooftop-mounted satellite dishes, shirts and pants and sheets and other laundry strung up and blowing in the gentle breeze coming off the Aegean Sea, supermarkets with fruit and juice and crackers and detergent on sale, billboards pitching the latest imported electronics, houses of worship, farms lined with olive trees, elementary schools, mountains, football pitches, graffiti, pedestrians crossing the street with their bags full of groceries, a magazine tucked under one arm, phones in hand, while others waited for their buses to arrive, and two old friends greeting each other out in front of a restaurant. They looked so happy to see each other, as if it had been far too long. It’s always been too long since we’ve seen our good friends. This is true in Asia and on every other continent.
We turned and looked at each other, my oldest girl and I, realizing together that what we were seeing was all the same, all of it.
Sure, there are different letters in different arrangements on the signs and placards, and some of the brands and products are foreign to us, and man that smart phone looked sweet!, but at the core of it all, when you consider the absolute humanity of it all, all of it is identical to the life we know back home.
My tween is a bright child who goes to school with kids of many different colors and religions, but even she admits to overhearing, only occasionally, that familiar kind of single story narrative about far away and relatively unknown-to-the-western-world places.
Probably places like Kusadasi, Turkey.
She told me there on the tour bus that she’s been close to ridiculous conversations in school, where pre-teen kids made assumptions about the living conditions, essential the ‘squalor’, of others around the world.
“Do they even have houses? or cars?”
“Where do they go to the bathroom?”
“Do they go to school?”
I’m told these aren’t youthful inquiries about truly 3rd or 4th world nations but of places like Turkey, a country importing and exporting goods, with a stable government, with towns like Kusadasi which are dotted with all the same trappings and comforts and traffic and noise and recreation and landscape of our hometowns.
The Bear shrugged slightly, as we talked about the sameness of Turkey as compared to, say, France or Spain or the U.S. It wasn’t a dismissive shrug or an apathetic one, but a knowing motion to say without saying, ‘of course dad, we’re all the same.’
Through a commitment to spend our money on travel and experiences ahead of more and more stuff at home, my wife and I have given our oldest daughter and to a lesser extent still at this point, because she’s 3 years younger, her sister a worldview that extends beyond our neighborhood, the local mall, our closest metropolis, and our shores.
There were a few key things I hoped to gift my children upon becoming a dad — shelter, safety, and love of course, but also this, this kind of global worldview that allows them to personally know that our differences, when all the bluster and ideology is stripped away, are so damn minor.
It’s all the same. We’re all the same.
We looked mostly straight ahead from then on, to avoid any car sickness in our bellies as the bus weaved through groves of olive trees, but also because we’d now left the populated areas on the outskirts of Kusadasi and made our way through farmland which we figured we’d be well within our rights to ignore just like we do at home.
*A previous version of this story first appeared on Jeff’s site, OWTK.