I saw a man torching a dead dog on the sidewalk. Or what counted for a sidewalk, anyway.
It was in Vietnam, and my heart hurt. We had walked around the city of Hanoi for a few hours, checking out the small streets and bustling markets that hectic city had to offer. While the markets were a great place for cheap fruits and cheap bread they were also a hub for the sale of animals. Many areas were dotted by cages crammed with chickens, so cramped, in fact, they couldn't move an inch. It was these sights and their accompanying smells we found almost overwhelming, the chaos of it all inescapable. It was shortly thereafter, strolling back to the Old Quarter, when I caught sight of a man cooking up a dog with a hand-held torch. I couldn't help but tense. I felt my stomach, and my heart, drop. I kept walking.
I will never unsee that sight, and it marks one of the many horrible experiences I have been witness to during my travels. I will never forget that image, just like I will never forget the sight of a dog roasting on a spit in Nanning, being sold to passers-by in China. Nor will I forget the sound of my taxi running over a stray cat as I was shuttled to a subway station in Bangkok, the crunch and crush of bone felt audibly under the weight of my $3 ride. The driver sent a side-glance my way to see if I noticed the lifeless corpse left in our wake. I did. I stared at him in shock. He paid me no mind and kept driving.
I'm not sure what the point of all this is. Maybe it's to serve as a reminder that travel isn't all #stokedwanderlust and sandal tans. It isn't all fun in the sun and wicked pics for your Instagram. Coming from North America, travel can be one hell of a wake-up call to the less-than-ideal conditions the vast majority of the world is living in while you hostel hop and barter for those shitty elephant pants.
More importantly, perhaps, it's a reminder that we could all likely step up our compassion. It's almost 2016. Do we really still need to be roasting animals on a spit...or, God forbid, with a blowtorch?