I’m sitting in my Bangkok apartment, and I could die any minute.
That’s probably an exaggeration, but not much of one. I’m convinced that the electric kettle provided by my apartment building is a ticking time bomb, but instead of plastic explosives, colorful wires, and a digital clock face, it has a shockingly thin plastic exterior, water-exposed wiring, and an off-switch that only works some of the time.
When you go to a new country (or even travel to a different part of your own) you realize pretty quickly that you’re not in Kansas anymore and the rules have changed. The most obvious of these changes come to light when it’s clear that there are in fact no laws where you are accustomed to seeing them.
For example, when there’s no Federal Trade Commission to make sure that bombs are not sold as electric kettles, you tend to take note.
These voids are not all bad, however, because they open up new possibilities that wouldn’t have occurred to you before. Maybe trade with a certain country is banned back home, but while on the road, you’re able to enjoy their fine cigars and change your perception of said country as a result.
Maybe prostitution is legal, making you question your personal ethics on the subject. Maybe women have equal rights to men and are able to work, not just tend to the family and home. Maybe there’s a tightly controlled Internet where communication is limited, and other means must be used to spread uncensored news.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find yourself with a potentially-dangerous, bomb-like device that heats water much faster than any other kettle you’ve ever used, forcing you to decide whether safety or speedy-tea is more important (mmm, speedy-tea).
Preconceived notions are not always wrong, but the willingness to revise your opinion when they are is vital to your personal development and self-exploration.
Update: January 27, 2017
I’ve since found that this type of kettle is not only common around the world outside the US, but also reliably safe.
The point that being exposed to a variety of ideologies and ways of living is a little clouded in this piece, I think, but it’s still a good concept to keep in mind. Even those nations and governments that are diametrically opposed to what we’re used to sometimes have good ideas, even if they’re often overshadowed by all the really bad ones that are enacted alongside them.