Where Ever You May Travel, Everyone Understands A Smile


I am a world traveler. I’ve journeyed to North Africa, Southeast Asia and all over Europe, and throughout my globe-trotting, I’ve learned one thing: there is such thing as a universal language. It comes as a connection, linking traveler to traveler, transcending all linguistics and learned verbiage. This extraordinary nexus refers to a human expression expanding across geographical borders, where although greetings vary, smiles remain the same.

My cousin, Shauna and I sit at a local hookah bar in Thailand, smoking and singing along to American music blasting from the speakers. Soon, a European man on a Moped casually pulls up and advances toward us. “Hello,” he states. “May I sit with you?” After an exchange of looks, we permit the strange man’s company.

Shortly after, we learn that his name is Ditmas. He’s from Ukraine, bought a one-way ticket to Thailand and since then, has been here for two months. From the way he sways to the music, it’s noticeable that he enjoys hip-hop and R&B. Through broken English and hand gestures, we learn that his main hobby is Muay Tai. Intrigued by the differences between us, we inquire about life in Ukraine.

“Are there black people in Ukraine?” we ask.

“No, no black people,” he replies.

“So how do you feel about sitting with two black women?” we prod.

“Black, white, doesn’t matter. We are all world citizens. The world—it’s ours,” he says.

At that moment, I happen to look at the sky. “This is the same sky I see back home in Brooklyn,” I think, “and the same sky Ditmas sees in Ukraine… we live under one mutual roof, yet know nothing about the other…”

It’s a simple concept to grasp, yet still extraordinary in it’s truth: there will always be life happening at the other end of our ubiquitous ceiling.

As long as you understand the common expressions of kindness, love, laughter and a willingness to converse, you can partake in it as well.

A traveler knows no one, yet loves everyone. A traveler sees a human as a companion, fellow friend and conversation waiting to happen.

Shortly after our hookah experience, Ditmas shows us through a shortcut to the beach. Tiny waves push through with adrenaline, the type of rush that’s just enough to wet your feet with the ocean’s brim. Who knew the waves could rush up on three strangers with absolutely no connected ties, yet not choose a side but to nourish us all.

Ditmas holds out his hand, Shauna takes it and through a universal language, they understand each other enough to collectively run into the ocean. Once in the water, a language barrier is secondary to the momentary joy felt between both parties.

My travels to Thailand have emphasized the existence of universal communication.

There is no interpreter for laughter, no translation for affection.

When Ditmas elicits his hand to lead my cousin into the water, she needs no translator to interpret that she should give her hand in response. When we hear music, we dance and when he laughs, we laugh. There are absolutely no subtitles needed to enjoy life.