Aldous Huxley said, "To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries." I first realized the truth of Huxley's words when I was privileged to lead a University of Michigan alumni tour to China, in 1977. Mao had just died and it had been over 25 years since Americans had been allowed to visit the country. In fact, many Chinese had never seen a white person. By the end of our tour three weeks later our group (and, I hope, the Chinese with whom we'd come in contact), came to realize what we hadn't expected - the Chinese people were just like us. They were curious, wanted to be friends and were working for a better life.
Since then I have traveled to all seven continents and 85 foreign countries. Alone in Damascus, I listened late at night while a Palestinian refugee told me of his expulsion from Israel 40 years earlier. I had a young female guide in Iran, who for 10 days shepherded me through her country, all the while cursing the ayatollah. I visited the war museum in Pyongyang and listened as the docent ranted (halfheartedly, I thought) about American imperialism - then had my photo taken with a North Korean soldier who beckoned me. I walked across the border from Pakistan to India after having spent a week in Lahore with a Muslim businessman. I lunched at an orphanage in Rwanda. I learned in Havana that Cubans are not starving. I hiked in Tibet and felt the paranoia of the monks. The list goes on, but the lesson is the same - as Huxley said.
Finally, in December of 2013, I sailed to Antarctica, my 7th and final continent. And once again it wasn't what I thought. It was colder at home.
Rick and a Pakistani youth soccer team during a visit to Lahore, Pakistan