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  • Writer's pictureGuillermo Sohnlein

I am slowly becoming the "world citizen"​ I always envisioned being.

[This post originally appeared as a LinkedIn article on 14 October 2022.]

[This is the second of a two-part series on being an American doing business in a modern global economy.]

THERE ARE APPROXIMATELY 195 RECOGNIZED COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD. Later this month I will spend three days participating in a conference in Luxembourg, which will become the 33rd country I have visited. This means that I have been to roughly 1/6th of the world's countries.

To me, this does not seem like a lot.

After all, many of my friends and colleagues have been to dozens more.

Also, I have not yet visited three continents (Africa, Australia, and Antarctica) or the second most populous country on Earth (India).

There is still so much of this planet left for me to see!

On the other hand ...

Despite moving from Argentina to the US when I was only 6 years old (countries 1 and 2, respectively, and currently my two valid passports), I did not take my first international trip outside the US (to Mexico) until I was 26 years old. By many standards, I was a late bloomer.

Also, I come from a country where only 37% of our citizens hold valid unexpired passports and therefore even have the legal documents needed to travel to foreign lands. Granted, that translates into roughly 125M prospective American world travelers, but it still leaves over 200M of us stuck at home.

Despite my slow start, I have always wanted to become a "world citizen", traveling to many countries and ideally even living there.

Over the past five years (and despite the two-year travel lockdown), I lived in Panama and Switzerland, with interim stints in the US. I have another trans-continental relocation in the works, so I am slowly (finally?) achieving my lifelong dream.

Why am I sharing this on a professional platform like LinkedIn?

  1. Combined with my having visited all 50 states (plus DC and Puerto Rico), all of this world travel has given me a first-hand appreciation for how absolutely HUGE the USA is ... geographically, demographically, and economically. Other than folks in China (which I visited in 2006) and India (I imagine), no one else can possibly view the world the same way an American can, at least from a sense of scale. I'm not casting judgement positively or negatively, just stating a fact.

  2. It is difficult to overstate the global impact--good and bad--that the US has had over the past several decades ... economics, culture, language, technology, business, law, politics, and, yes, military. Of course, my perspective may be skewed, since the 32-soon-to-be-33 countries I have visited were almost all US friends/allies. Then again, even China had a McDonald's in Beijing!

  3. No matter what differences drive us apart, at the end of the day we are ALL human beings with so much more in common than anyone remembers to admit during arguments over sovereignty, politics, religion, or economics. We have been homo sapiens for millenia, sharing a common biology that has united us throughout. In fact, the very nation-state framework that divides us into the 195 currently recognized "countries" is a relatively modern system that may or may not survive too much longer as a means of organizing our almost-8B-person global population.

Thanks to the advances of modern technology making our global economy completely interconnected, every person on Earth is also becoming a "world citizen", even without ever leaving their home city.

Regardless of our professions, what we do on a daily basis in our little corner of the world directly and indirectly impacts fellow humans beings on the other side of the planet, and vice versa. We should be mindful of the personal and business decisions that we make and consider their global impact.

As professionals, we need to recognize this and embrace it.

And American professionals in particular need to recognize and embrace the tremendous social responsibility that comes with the outsized impact (both good and bad) of our decisions.

During my varied career, I have been fortunate to meet and work with incredibly talented people around the globe, so I am filled with hope and optimism for what humanity can accomplish as a planet of "world citizens". And I look forward to continuing my exploration of our big beautiful home planet in the years to come.


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