We all see the world by the prism we look at it through; behind the differently shaded sunglasses we all metaphorically wear. Every place has many narratives simultaneously happening at the same time. What scope a person’s eyes look through determines what story they see, what they take away from a country, and how they look at the world.
This explains why people can have starkly different opinions about the same place.
Here are five macro categories of how people see the world (and yes there are many more).
This is more of a US phenomenon since America has an estimated 800 bases in 70 countries around the world. There are roughly 35,000 troops stationed in Germany alone, with an estimated 200,000 soldiers abroad in total. The servicemen I’ve talked to mostly look at the world as a good and bad, black and white, us vs. them comparison.
Of course, they do; it’s counterproductive to balance a perspective or exercise individual decision-making in the military. In combat, ambiguity, and individualism equal death.
The world through military eyes is about securing things, defending things, attacking things, controlling things, training things. It’s mostly a fear-based view of the world that is preparing for a potential conflict or is in conflict. This approach is biologically normal; it’s about thinking in regards to the survival of the tribe.
Usually, when I’ve talked to a soldier about a country that we’ve both traveled to, it’s like we’ve been to two different universes.
Business eyes see the world by looking at opportunities, accessing risks, and forging strategic relationships. Meetings often take place in global hotel chains. They are typically shorter trips designed for maximum efficiency—they’re often curated by the host to impress the guest.
Even though the aim is to show the best side of a country, business eyes have special access, like into factory settings in random parts of a country that nobody else can gain access to. They are exposed to on the ground information about the economics of a place. Business eyes focus on resources, profit margins, output, management teams, potential growth, business relationships, and ease of business.
Politics are about gaining something in a way that benefits you and your constituents. Political eyes look at the landscape of the world as a chess game. Move this piece here and get this result; it’s about losing a pawn to capture a knight. It’s about sitting through a lot of double speak and posturing. It’s about leverage and deception. Occasionally it’s about doing great things for humanity, but political eyes are the most removed from humanity. Ironically, these are the eyes that very much determine the course of humanity.
Vacationers want to release from normal life and relax. To spend time with loved ones… to drink margaritas on the beach and let time do its thing naturally without worry. Depending on the country, locals treat vacationers a certain way: some are more kind and generous, others are looking to extract as much money as possible from them. Vacation eyes will judge the face of a country through these interactions. That’s why countries like Egypt can get a bad reputation since the Egyptian approach towards vacationers in tourist areas can be aggressive.
A traveler often has a larger chunk of time to work with. They usually want to obtain something personally meaningful through the process of travel. The focus is to learn about different countries and culture and to learn about themselves. A traveler might choose to ride local buses and metros because they want to get closer to the people of a culture. They’re willing to give up on comfort to gain insight. Traveler’s eyes put a focus on connecting with locals.
The traveler often makes the decision to walk a city aimlessly or sit on a park bench to see how a culture treats their children differently than their own. A traveler must be curious or these types of activities wouldn’t be interesting. There isn’t a clear objective for traveler’s eyes, other than to learn and expand their consciousness.
How someone speaks about the world usually comes by the prism they see it through. These five types of eyes bring about five different results. That’s why two people can go to the same place and have completely different experiences in the country and perceive it in vastly different ways.
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