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Seeing Things For Yourself: Another Reason To Travel

The city center in Budwise where I met the old Czech man

The city center in Budwise where I met the old Czech man

A few days ago in the Czech city of Budweis (home of the original Budweiser beer) I was taking photos of the town square when an old man on a bicycle came up to me and started to talk. I said I didn’t speak Czech and he started talking in very good English and asked me where I was from.

I told him I was American and his face lit up.

He said he had been to American many years ago as part of a musical group he was a member of. They toured the midwest playing Czech music in cities like Minneapolis, Sioux Falls, Omaha, Milwaukee and Chicago. He was excited to tell me about how much he enjoyed America and how well he was treated by Americans.

He also went out of his way to tell me how much Americans were different from what the Communists told him. He offered to help me if I needed anything while I was in Budweis as a token of thanks for the kindness he received in America.

There is a lesson about traveling that I took away from the old Czech man on the bike:

You have to see things yourself. What he had been told about Americans by his government he had seen with his own eyes to be wrong. I’ve experience the same thing in the Middle East meeting Arabs. You can’t rely on what people in positions of authority tell you about the rest of the world. You have to see it for yourself and odds are what you see will not be the same was what you were told.

This is just one of the many reasons why you need to travel.

I have no idea what happened during that man’s trip to America, but whatever happened lead to him treating me nice in a random encounter in a Czech town square years later. I’m glad he was able to visit my country and I’m glad I was able to visit his.

  • 32 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. Leah Madison says:

    I have the same experience whenever I have travelled to the Czech Republic. The people were warm and friendly and the architecture was just beautiful. As illustrated in your fantastic images.
    Many thanks.

  2. Richard says:

    your story reminded me of the Mark Twain quote, “travel is fatal to prejudice,,,” and underscores why we need to roam the world to see it for ourselves, and make up our own minds!

  3. Frances says:

    That was a cute story and it brightened up my day. You definitely need to see things for yourself before you make an opinion (other wise, you act on ignorance).

  4. Rezervesana says:

    I am constantly amazed at how beautiful the world is through your pictures!!

  5. Anja Mutic says:

    Travel is the best education. A year abroad should be made obligatory.

  6. Hell Yeah and Amen!

  7. Kailyn says:

    I def would like to se CR for myself. I working on a paid vacation. lol

  8. goa says:

    tht’s the best part of travelling , you meet different people and get to learn a lot about them…

  9. Frontier says:

    A nice story! Isn’t it nice when visiting a country people are friendly to you…? Good stuff

  10. Spanish I know (a bit), and Italian I could learn, but I doubt I have the patience to pick up much of the Czech language. Is it feasible to travel there with English alone?

  11. HaileyD says:

    I haven’t traveled to too many places but I find what you say very true! They best way to learn is through experience..traveling..seeing everything for yourself..and meeting people! As i’m still young, I know I still have plenty of time to travel, but it makes me sad to think that some people have never traveled outside of their hometowns. I <3 ur blog!

  12. dafunny1 says:

    I have a friend that’s in the Czech Republic right now visiting family and she has encountered similar situations. Great Post!!

    “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled.”
    Mohammed

  13. Kuei-Ti Lu says:

    Gary:

    I agree with the idea of seeing the world on one’s own. This means that the person trusts his or herself; after all, what other people said may be wrong. I was once told that the United States is a place full of discrimination everywhere, but after I came here, I realized that that is not always true.

    Sailor:

    Although we can not see everything with our own eyes, we can communicate to learn more different views instead of using only one information source. That is one reason why cultural talks can be interesting.

  14. Rosie says:

    This blog is amazing… I love that you have taken the time to keep traveling around the world

  15. mirabelle says:

    In general I have also been treated very well in the USA. US airlines is another cup of tea but they are unpleasant to everybody, not just foreigners.
    I loved Louisiana, NY, LA, New England…

  16. Sailor says:

    I think your observation is very true. Sometimes it is not only the government it is also the new age media which gives the public a different version of everything. Sad part is it is almost impossible to see everything by our own eyes. But We get a different view.

  17. For sure – and his kindness is a great lesson in paying it forward.

  18. malou says:

    This is one of the many reasons why we travel, to widen our views. Prague is in my list to visit, hopefully soon.
    Great post Gary.

  19. Adie Andrews says:

    Actually it is not only the people from Czech republic are happy about that but the people from entire South-East Europe and those from central like Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia etc,. I never actually understand why people from those countries are so happy about the Americans. Great blog you made :)

  20. MT Troy says:

    It all comes down to who you want to believe: News outlets, Another person who wants to talk about everything in the world, or Your person experiences? Things are not as they seem.

  21. Euroangel says:

    there are always good and bad travel experiences..but yours was a nice one..and we always met different kinds of people along the way….interesting post and blog you got here..love it!

  22. Redruby says:

    wow such a great travel experience..czech rep. is a very nice there..i love to travel too..just like you..let me know when ur coming to Bavaria, Germany..got another travel sites too..

  23. Great update, glad to see more blogs like this appearing here. Enjoy Europe wherever you are today.

  24. That is exactly why I came to Colombia. Great post Gary!

  25. I completely agree! It’s really easy for some people to forget that.

  26. Absolutely true. Great words Gary. I love seeing things for myself and forming my own opinion.

  27. Mike says:

    Gary, it’s messages like yours that moves me more and more to the realization that yes, I need to find out about the world myself. Thank you.

    And I must tell you, I’m sure the most Arabs and Muslims are wonderful people. But it’s their religion that I find abhorrent.

  28. Krista S says:

    What a great message! This definitely resonates with my personal travel experiences.

    My husband and I befriended a local in Vienna who showed us around, and in return, we bought him drinks at a local pub. He proudly told us about life in Vienna and was excited to hang out with Americans, which he had never done before. We both walked away with a great respect for each other’s cultures and a great experience. We are all ambassadors when we travel.

  29. In a similar vein, we Americans are often told that we’re not welcome abroad; mostly, mind you, by other Americans who may have never been abroad. But the fear that we’ll be treated badly overseas because of our passport or our accent runs deep. That hasn’t been my experience. Most of the people I’ve met are like the Czech man of your story: delighted to tell you about their time in America or about their cousin who lives in New York.

    You’re absolutely right. Don’t take anyone else’s word about what the rest of the world is like. Go out and see it for yourself.

  30. RamseyH says:

    I adore the Czech Republic. There’s a lot of “good feeling” there towards America, at least from what I experienced, because they are so incredibly glad the communists are gone. To me, it felt like our cultures had a lot in common in terms of our love for independence and freedom of expression.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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