Fifty years ago today, I was a gangly 14-year-old, in Europe for the first time. I’d been dragged to the Old Country by a conspiracy of grandparents and parents solely to visit Norwegian relatives. I hadn’t wanted to go, and I’d arrived with a bad attitude. It was teen culture-shock: No Fanta. No hamburgers. But after a few days, I was wild about Solo (Norway’s orange pop) and addicted to pølser wieners.
I watched the Apollo moon landing with my cousins, sitting on the living room floor of the house where my great-great-grandmother was born. And as I heard them translate Neil Armstrong’s words (“Ett lite skritt for et menneske, ett stort skritt for menneskeheten“), it dawned on me that the first big step was more than just an American celebration. It was a human triumph.
Travel had walloped my ethnocentrism — and at that exact moment, I began to see the whole world differently.