Who says Millennials have no character?


My family and I just returned from a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. While I possess a fairly extensive record of international travel, this was my first trip to Southeast Asia. Each trip to a foreign country possesses its own remarkable aspects but the idea of visiting countries as “foreign” as Vietnam and Cambodia came with both excitement, as well as trepidation. Let me just start by saying, it was fantastic! The people, the culture, the history, the food, all of it.

As usual, my family tends to cover a lot of ground, literally, in a short period of time. In this case, eight flights in two weeks. Our itinerary didn’t leave much time for lounging around, we wanted to ensure we packed in as much as we could because each region is so vastly different.

Now for the backstory as to why we headed to Southeast Asia in the first place.

Our 24-year-old son has been living in Indonesia for the past fourteen months as a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching English in a 900-student Islamic school. His journey across the world was prompted after two years working as a Congressional staffer in DC. One day he called his mother and I to inform us that he wants nothing to do with Washington politics.  Our children are wise beyond their years at times.

Since he’s been gone, we’ve only communicated with him via video on What’s App – thank God for technology, but it was time to catch up face to face.

The journey to see him was a grand adventure unto itself!

Before you start having visions of luxurious resort locations in Bali, our son lives in the mountainous region of West Java. Exotic, yes, luxurious, no! Bathing consists of pouring a pot of cold water over your head. My son claims that he will never get used to this. Without providing too much detail, there are no flush toilets (there is actually a Peace Corps blog called Poop in a Hole). All the more interesting due to some of the strange cuisine that he eats, such as chicken heads and cow skin. Yum. Oh, and by the way, there is no use of papier hygienique. Who says millennials are soft!

While in Vietnam and Cambodia we ate what most would describe as exotic foods, certainly as compared to most American diets. My son disagreed and claimed that the food was far more mainstream than his daily diet. Come to think of it, he was the only one who did not suffer from some sort of intestinal distress on our trip.  I told you it was an adventure!

In all honesty, my wife and I were not quite sure where our son’s two-plus-year stint in the Peace Corps would lead. We have been assured that this is not an attempt to postpone entry into “real life.” In fact, we are now convinced that this experience fosters both personal growth, as well as being a resume builder, especially for someone who aspires to work in foreign relations.

It was great seeing him, and to say we are proud parents is an understatement.  I also have a new-found respect not only for him, but for his entire generation.  Many are fearless and embrace life for all that is out there.  They want to be a part of the process.  Perhaps that’s why he thought Washington was a good place to be, but soon discovered he was better served at ground zero, helping people not writing policy.

So, do Millennials have character – you bet.  Am I worried about this generation being “in charge”?  Absolutely not.  My son is not only surviving in a third world country, he is thriving.  There’s something to be said for real-life experience, the stuff you will never learn in college.