Most of us, I think, would love to travel to distant destinations all the time if we could, but the truth is we usually can’t. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find and enjoy influences of the world in your own backyard, though! In fact, today I’d like to talk about some of the ways that you can connect with other cultures and people, from all over the world, in your community.

Mayor Imazawa, Alyce, & the translator Ms. Kae (2008).

No matter the size of your town, there’s a pretty good chance there’s some kind of opportunity to connect with other cultures. For example, when I was living in the small town of Winterset, Iowa, my mother got me involved with the Japanese sister-city organization between Winterset and Minami Alps (a city inside Yamanashi Prefecture). Over the years, I was able to meet adults, children, and even government officials and businessmen from Minami Alps. While studying Japanese at the University of Iowa, I often volunteered with the sister-city organization, many times helping bridge communication gaps and translating for Japanese children visiting as part of a week-long exchange. I was even tasked with writing and delivering a speech in formal Japanese to Mayor Imazawa of Minami Alps during the celebratory 5-year anniversary of the treaty signing.

connect with the world

Preparing for a Sangeet performance (2016).

At the Sangeet with my Bollywood teacher.

Even now, in San Diego I try to find opportunities to connect with other cultures by attending local Asian fairs, joining language Meetups, shopping at the local Korean and Japanese markets (when I’m missing food from my time overseas), and even participating in Bollywood dance classes and festivals.

Thanks to my regular attendance at those dance classes I’ve made friends in the local community and even had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help perform at my friend’s Sangeet celebration last September! (A Sangeet is a wedding tradition observed in India that usually involves singing, dancing, and music. It’s much like a large celebration or party, and usually takes place the night before the wedding day.)

Below is a picture from when Chief Global Gal Brenda attended a local Bollywood Ball in Des Moines, Iowa—one of many international events that she was a part of last year. All of this just goes to show that you should consider keeping an eye out for all the amazing, interesting opportunities happening in your local community. You might be surprised at what kind of chances you’ll find to connect with people from other countries, cultures, and backgrounds—opportunities that can ultimately enrich your world at home, open your eyes to new “dream destinations,” and broaden your horizons. All without even purchasing a plane ticket!

So what are YOU waiting for?