This article is part of a new series called "The Travelers Mind" dealing with the psychology of travel with the goal of creating an ongoing discussion.  If you have any suggestions for future posts please feel free to leave a comment below.

"My Date with an AK-47" (c) Dustin Main


I have a strong aversion to guns.  I recall a time a few years ago when I was over at a friend's home geek-ing out on film and home theater tech, when he brought out a handgun he takes to the shooting range.  I didn't want to be around it at all, not even in the same room.  When I did pick it up, I was surprised by the weight.  Perhaps I was thinking it should be more like the weight of the plastic, water-shooting varieties that I was used to as a child.  Any way you shake it though, I didn't want anything to do with it or to be anywhere around it. 

I've often attributed this anti-gun feeling to my upbringing in Canada, and our reputation as I was growing up as a country who was a only a peace keeping nation.  My experience with war was from what I experienced through books, film, news and anecdotes only.

My time in Vietnam and Cambodia marked the first time that I was faced first hand with war and what it leaves behind in it's path.  In some areas, it's not unusual to pass by loaded rocket launchers and automatic weapons just lying around while the soldiers sit back, chat and smoke like it's no big deal.

While in Cambodia, I picked up an old, worn AK-47.  I was apprehensive but in the moment, I decided where else would I have the opportunity to pick it up?  Instinctively, I brought it up to rest against my shoulder, and looked through the scope.  My finger moved toward the trigger. 

In a matter of 2 seconds a gun I had never held in my life, was now in a position ready to fire.  It was frightening how simple it seemed.  If this were a loaded, working gun, it would only take a little pressure applied from one finger and a person's life at the end of my sight could be taken away.   I thought to myself, "Is it really this easy?"  Is this how people from any and all walks of life from any country in the world can end up picking up a weapon like this and shooting someone else?  Does this help to explain child soldiers?

Has witnessing how war has affected countries you have traveled through changed your perceptions of war, or made it more "real?"  Leave your experiences below.