Probably one of the hardest things to stomach when traveling as a westerner is seeing, up close, the damage your country did to another. Exhibit A: Laos
During the Vietnam war the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of bombs on Laos - equal to a planeload every 8 minutes, for NINE YEARS. This makes Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. To make matters worse, about 30% of these cluster bombs failed to explode, so now a huge chunk of North-Eastern Laos can't be developed until they are removed. Which at the current rate will take, you know, about 800 more years. And the collateral damage will make your head explode, 98% of the victims of these late-to-explode bombs are civilians and 40% are children.
Signs like the one above in night markets breaks my heart. How could I begin to apologize for something like this? Or even, why didn't we at least learn about this in school? I know, the skeptics will remind me to not trust the government, yadda yadda. I know. But its still frustrating that I have to travel 8,000 miles to hear the truth about the 'Vietnam' war, even more so since I'm learning the situation in Cambodia is very much the same as Laos.
These sorts of experiences are what challenges me to to keep questioning our history books and asking questions of other travelers and locals. Traveling serves as a sharp, in-your-face reminder that there are a million perspectives on each war and the more people I talk to, the more the world gets even more gray and complex.