Presenting a talk at Charlotte Country Day School in North Carolina. Photo credit: David Lynn.

Presenting a talk at Charlotte Country Day School in North Carolina. Photo credit: David Lynn.

Maybe because I grew up vicariously exploring the world through books, until the Morehead-Cain launched me into the wilds and overseas myself at the age of 19, I'm deeply committed to sharing my wanderings and misadventures with others, whether through words, photography, or video––or, in the case of keynote talks, some (hopefully) entertaining fusion of all three. And when I'm speaking to high school or middle school kids in particular, I try to tell them what I most longed to hear at their age: that the world is wide, it is wild, and you don't need to own a bank to get out and explore it––only a bike. You never know how your words will hit people, but once in a while you get a hint that makes the whole effort worthwhile. Such as this email from Shelley Chen, a student at Charlotte Country Day School, where I gave three talks in two busy days last week. (Posted here with Shelley's permission.)

"I am a international student who is from China. After your speech on Tuesday, I am thrilled to learn about traveling to see things that people don't normally see. Thank you for bring back your experience and talk to us about it. I grew up in a city and barely saw the nature. And I've never been to Tibet, the roof of the world. The mysterious myth about it attracts me for a long time and hopefully one day I will get to see it with my own eyes. One thing that gave me a deep impression from your presentation is that the those pilgrims kneel down and pray to the sky. Their determination and persistence are so remarkable and strong. And I agree there should be no "walls" or "barriers" among countries and people. There is a connection among us, no matter how small the connection is. Intercultural Communication will bring us together. Even though we sometimes don't speak the same language, a smile and a nice gesture can really change a lot."

Here's to smiles and other gestures that break down walls big and small. Thanks to Charlotte Country Day School for bringing me in to speak, and to The World Affairs Council of Charlotte/Magellan Society for co-hosting my visit.

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AuthorKate Harris