One of the most valuable lessons I have learned throughout my life has been to respect anyone I cross paths with, no matter what their background consisted of. I've been lucky enough to have been raised to treat everyone with the same type of kindness, and frankly, that's how the world should act. Especially in today's world, this kind of unbiased mentality is more needed than ever.
For someone who has lived in the metropolitan suburban area all of her life, I would usually be able to say that I am pretty cultured: I've come across all walks of life, some of my closest friends are Hispanic and diversity never stood out to me because that's just the way of the world around me. This weekend, however, I went on a weekend trip to New Holland, Pennsylvania (also known as the dubbed "Amish country") for one of my best friend's birthdays; needless to say, it was the most culture shocked I've ever been (land and people-wise).
My friends and I drove up during the night to meet the rest of the group at the house we rented, so there wasn't much to see in the pitch-black darkness since they have no street lights in this farmland. Once we got to the house and stood on the balcony, however, you could see all of the dark farmland and the only lights that were in view were back porch ones from the neighbors and the only city-like lights were all the way out on the horizon.
Although this trip would only last for another 45 hours, I found myself getting pent up with anxiety over the lack of surrounding visibility and the fact that there were no televisions in the house we were staying in (as much as it was very well furnished and huge). I recognized for the thousandth time– but for the first real time– that I was so used to seeing the New York City skyline out on the Eastern horizon every day that I've become so used to light pollution and life in this way. Don't get me wrong, I love where I'm from and all of the lights– it's just the simple fact that there are whole other ways to live that don't include these physical elements that seemed so ultimately surprising to me.
Once we took our venture in the broad daylight the following day, I could see just how much farmland took up the area we were surrounded by. It took us fifteen minutes to go to the local marketplace and shopping center instead of the two-minute drive to my local CVS or choosing between the four surrounding malls around my hometown to shop in. We got to taste test some pretty amazing local jams, butter, dips, pickles, and salsa right before going on an extremely educational horse and buggy ride where I learned about how the Amish live. I even drove around more horse and buggies on the road than I could've counted, too.
This whole recounting makes me sound so pretentious, but it's true when I say that it was a pretty big reality check for me in the sense that I have essentially lived in a pretty small bubble all my life. Although I have traveled out of state before, they have all been to similar areas and cities, and the other kinds of places I've been to are ones I only drove through.
Even when I kept saying I couldn't live in an area like this for the lack of light, the closeness of houses and Italian food, I still couldn't deny the fact that it felt so good to get away from the hustle and bustle for a weekend. It was an experience that made me realize how a small but significant portion of the American population live without technology, electricity, music and not even knowing who the Kardashians are; it is all so fascinating and opens your eyes to how our world isn't as small as we usually think.
So next time your friends are looking to go on a fun trip, or you just want to try something new, immerse yourself in a new environment for a day trip or an overnight stay. Learning about other areas, their people and their culture are extremely important in life and can make you grow in so many ways.
This also doesn't exclusively abide by cultures, either; read about the beliefs and practices of different religions, or read stories about people of all sexual orientations and genders falling love. It is immensely important to educate each other about the different life paths and identities we all have because that's when we learn the true unity of the human race and even more about our own identities. And what else is more important in life than continuously learning about the world we live in, and the people we share that world with?