Judgment is an inherent risk of travel. Although I was young when I vacationed with my family in various parts of Europe and most likely did not notice judgments being passed, I am fairly certain that I was stereotyped at one point or another. Now, with my opinions and worldviews mostly concreted into my personality, travel becomes even more difficult. I notice when fellow Americans give me strange looks on the street because of my appearance, as well as in the classroom because of my vocalized opinions during debates or discussions. If I receive odd looks and reactions from even my peers and friends, how much worse will my reception be in an entirely new culture?
I feel like an outsider even in Oklahoma. As an atheist living in the Bible belt, my religious views have very rarely come up in conversation. My fear – one that has often been realized in the past – is that the revealing of this fact about myself will ultimately and irrevocably taint their perception of me. Thankfully, this is not so much of a problem in many Western European countries, which is where I plan to study abroad. My best option when associating with religious people is most likely simply to not make my views a central topic of conversation. Religion is a very interesting topic to discuss, but it does not have to become a battle of opinions: while traveling, I will learn as much as I can about different ways of life and religions, not force my own viewpoints upon anyone else. Religious discussion can be calm and insightful without becoming offending and argumentative, and I must simply learn to navigate the thin line between insightful and insulting conversations.