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.