One’s nationality doesn’t define a traveler
Following the truth coming out regarding the Ryan Lochte Rio Olympic Games scandal, many people started saying things all over the Internet like “I’m sorry,” and “he makes me ashamed to be an American.” Well, you know what? I’m neither apologizing for some arrogant buffoon who has never shed his frat boy antics nor apologizing for my entire nationality. I’ve never met Ryan Lochte and probably never will. There are over 300 million American citizens in today’s world. The actions of one individual have nothing to do with me, nothing I need to apologize for just because we share the same nationality.
When it comes to travel, Americans are so quick to be vilified as being the “ugly American.” That type of person who doesn’t want to try new foods, who complains that people don’t speak English, and who thinks that everything should be done the “Merican” way. But you know something? After visiting more than 20 countries and being exposed to countless people from a myriad of nationalities, there’s not one nationality that can be dubbed the “ugly” blank. Ignorance comes in all ways, shapes, and forms.
People become narrow minded when they lump the actions of one individual (or half a dozen) with one nationality. I still remember during my semester abroad in Spain, my host dad always (eagerly) asking for my opinions on then President George W. Bush, thinking that because I was an American, I not only knew what was going on his mind, but that I ardently shared his fervor and support for his Iraq War. International media is still amazed that a figure like Donald Trump could have won the Republican presidential nomination and yet they don’t understand that there are that many Americans who are positively sickened by the idea of him getting elected.
Americans are routinely lambasted for not traveling more, specifically for not venturing outside of the United States, but let’s keep one thing in perspective. The United States is a huge country, unlike Europe where popular destinations are often just short flights away. What about those Europeans who don’t take advantage of the fact that they live so near a dizzying array of countries? But it’s always the Americans who are globally ignorant and don’t go beyond their borderlands. On a side note, I still remember reading on an expat board about an American woman who was married to a Spanish man but was now living in Luxembourg. She wrote how her Spanish mother-in-law genuinely wondered if the water was safe to drink in Luxembourg and still planned on bringing some Spanish jamon (ham) with her too. Ridiculous comments come from all nationalities.
While I don’t think I’ve owned anything that has the American flag on it since I was a kid (this is more a conscious fashion choice than a political statement), that doesn’t mean I’m not proud to be an American. When I travel and meet people from other nationalities, I like that they see someone who’s culturally sensitive, intelligent on global matters, and genuinely loves venturing beyond her country’s borders.
Not all Mexicans are drug cartel members, not all Muslims are terrorists. And not all Americans are brash, loud, and ignorant or would stoop so low as to fabricate a story that becomes a major international scandal.
Nationality doesn’t define the person.