One of my most valuable possessions is my little blue book, also known as my passport. It is the fourth strongest passport in the world. Germany is in first place. Americans are able to visit 174 countries without a visa. However, there are also some disadvantages of being from a wealthier country like the U.S. I recently returned from spending 10 days in Europe and it wasn’t all peaches and cream. I had a wonderful time but there were times I wished the perception of Americans was different.
While in Europe, I returned to Georgia to visit my Peace Corps host family. The experience was bittersweet for a few reasons. The day before I arrived, I called my host mother to make final arrangements. In the middle of our conversation she informed me, she was heading to Israel the day I was scheduled to arrive. I was shocked. My host mother was like a second mom to me and we have kept in touch since I left 3 years prior. As you can imagine, I was not only disappointed but I was hurt. I bought tickets to visit Georgia in March and had I known she was not going to be in town, I would have visited at a different time. I was hurt because I felt like my visit didn’t mean as much to her as I had hoped.
My return trip was also marred by my dealings with a family member of the family I stayed with. I originally met this person when I lived in Georgia. Upon our first meeting, I did not get a good vibe. My intuition told me he didn’t view me for who I was but as an opportunity to gain something from me. As result, my return to Georgia was no different.
My flight left from the capital, Tbilisi which is approximately 4-5 hours from the small town I lived in. I knew I didn’t want to take a marshutka (local bus) to the capital because it’s not a comfortable ride. So my plan was to take a taxi which could cost anywhere from $50-$65. As I was telling my host brother my plans, he stated he had an alternative. The plan was that I would pay the family relative money which he would use to get his car fixed and he would take me. Initially I was hesitant because the relative has a bad track record. After I thought about it for a while, I decided I would give him the benefit of the doubt. So Friday morning after I said my goodbyes we headed to Tbilisi. I slept for maybe an hour or so. Shortly thereafter we pulled off to the side of the road where he did some tinkering to the engine. Then we got back on the road before pulling over again because the car needed water. On the way to the capital we stopped at least 6x which made the already 5 hour trip even longer. As you can imagine, I was beyond pissed. I would love to say oh I was just happy to make it safely. The truth or the matter is I was upset because I felt like I had been taken advantage of. Clearly the car had not been fixed properly otherwise we would not have had to stop at all. As result, I began to feel the money I had given the relative had been pocketed. After we arrived in the capital, I couldn’t get out the car fast enough. I eagerly retrieved my things to head into the airport and the relative asked me for money. It wasn’t a large sum but that’s not the point. I immediately said no. I was not only pissed but I was hurt. I immediately called my sister to vent which ultimately left me in tears. I was hurt for so many reasons. I looked forward to my return to the place I called home for two years. In some ways, it was as I had expected but in others way it wasn’t. I always want to give people the benefit of the doubt which can sometimes come to bite me in the back. Although my feelings were hurt by the whole situation, it has taught me to trust my instincts.
I believe it’s important people acknowledge there is a downside to international travel. Clearly, I’m not trying to discourage anyone from traveling the world. However, I just want people to know when you leave the U.S, and people realize you are an American citizen, you may be viewed as an opportunity.
In the event you find yourself in a similar situation where you see yourself being taken advantage of, try not to let it ruin your trip. I admit it definitely put a damper on my trip but I was reminded of how blessed I am. I’ve been blessed to meet people from across the globe who see beyond where I come from.