This I Believe

Judy - Tempe, Arizona
Entered on December 19, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

This I believe

I believe that even little farm girls from Iowa can grow up to have international influence. No, I am not a diplomat, a translator or a global marketer, but I strive to plant seeds of internationalism wherever I go, seeds that were first sown and nurtured in an Iowa cornfield.

My parents were perplexed when their only daughter began globe-trotting to far off lands in her forties. I think they were especially worried when I traveled into the tumultuous commotion of developing countries. But I also think they were proud and I thank them everyday because my wanderlust is their fault – and their gift.

For years during my childhood, a group of foreign travelers would appear in my tiny hometown of less than 2,000 residents. Every summer one or two guests stayed on our small farm. These visits connected me to the wider world. We shared stories as we shared meals, creating bonds with strangers who became friends. I listened to fascinating conversations late into the night and dreamed of exciting voyages I might one day take.

My parents remain unaware of the influence their expansive outlook had on me as a child. Although they explored the edges of Canada and Mexico, they were not world travelers. But I have become a world traveler. And my international experiences over the past seven years have completely reshaped the way I think about our global environment. The exhilarating experience of being thrown into the unpredictable miasma of a world market—be it the plaka, the souk, the bazaar or plaza—will change a person. And indeed I have been changed by my wanderings.

Much of my travel has focused on the cultural study of textiles, both ancient artifacts and contemporary cloth. I use textiles as interdisciplinary teaching tools in the classroom and my global perspective continually inspires me to develop future courses connecting history, geography and culture through a study of textiles. I hope this inspired enthusiasm opens my students’ eyes to the multiplicity of cultures available travelers, to them. Beyond the classroom, I am determined to pass this love of travel and cultural exploration on to my children and grandchildren. I believe we must fling open our hearts and our lives, conquer our fears, and explore intriguing cultures near and far. An open dialogue with those we don’t know or understand is the key to sharing our shrinking planet. We can survive and thrive but we must go OUT to meet the challenges.

My parents were not world travelers, but they embraced a global perspective and deep curiosity about lands and people far from their Iowa fields. Those precious seeds planted in the heartland sprouted and blossomed into a traveling ambassador – me.