To me, important aspects to travel include surprises. Without them, travel would be predictable and boring. I had no idea, for example, that my trip through Asia would predominantly be about war. First Guam, then Iwo Jima, then Hiroshima, then Korea, then China, then Vietnam – all of these places are soaked in blood and bear witness to a violent (and not so distant) past. As I grew up in post-war Germany, I understood one thing very clearly: my generation WILL NEVER start a war. Yes, we will defend our country, but we will not be the aggressors. The memories passed down to us by our parents (and teachers) about growing up during WWII scared the living daylights out of us children. As I visit these countries with even more recent war trauma, I wonder if the same is true for their youth.
Our guide in Vietnam spoke of his country’s recovery effort. He has relatives in the US, has spent time in the US learning English and could move there if he wanted to. But unlike many other men and women I have met during our travels through developing parts of the world, he decided to stay in his war ravaged country. Noticing many encouraging signs that point towards a better future for his people, he wished more to be a part of Vietnam’s recovery, than to live a more comfortable life in the US. I very much admired his attitude.