How Travel Destroys Our Perception Of A Dangerous World

By Kolena Allen

It has been a very disheartening week, actually it has felt like it has been disheartening couple of months.  Out of control gun violence in the United States, refugee crisis’ the world over, natural disasters, and racial tensions that are starting to boil to the brink. Whenever you turn on the TV or radio it feels like the world might be falling apart. This can have a damaging effect on our collective conscious and people’s ability to open themselves up. In the end this feeling or this turning away from the world around us will have the opposite effect we hope. It will actually aid in the world being and feeling scarier.

There seems to be a belief that the world is growing more and more dangerous and it’s not safe to leave your home. The news media plasters sensationalized stories of terrorism, disease, and violence with a speed and volume that creates a dystopian view of our world. Sure, the world has changed a bit and as a human species we have issues. It’s good to be aware of what is going on and to make sure and do your research before you go anywhere.

With all that being said it is a fact that the world is a safer, friendlier, and more open place now than it has ever been in human history. We are able to move about the world with almost uninhibited ease and people the world over are able to connect like never before. Violence and danger are down across the board and one’s ability to visit just about every country in the world with relative safety is just a fact. I know, it does not feel that way, but these are just the facts.

Here are a couple references to illustrate that point. Obviously all data can be skewed any way we like, but these are general trends that show that the world is safer than it has ever been in human history:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2014/12/the_world_is_not_falling_apart_the_trend_lines_reveal_an_increasingly_peaceful.html
https://ourworldindata.org/slides/war-and-violence/#/title-slide
https://singularityhub.com/2016/06/27/why-the-world-is-better-than-you-think-in-10-powerful-charts/

Because our view as people and the reality of the world is out of balance it’s more important now than ever before to break out of our comfort zones and explore the world around us. The only way to combat fear, anger, hate, and false narratives of the world is to go out and explore it for yourself. In this way travel is a revolutionary act, it is an act in defiance of that false narrative, an act of rebellion against the disconnection of human beings.

There are countless benefits individually and collectively to travel. I have given just four reasons below and why I believe we need to keep traveling in this time we find ourselves, and I’m not talking about sit on the beach traveling or taking a cruise. I’m talking about immersing yourself into another culture, another place, another way of life. I’m talking about rejecting fear and what we are told about our world and throwing ourselves headlong into a love affair with experience. I encourage you to discover your own reasons and benefits for travel, but here are the ones I have found to be of most value to me and do the most to shift the narrative toward truth and understanding and away from fear and hate.

  1. You Learn Tolerance: When you travel you are forced to think outside of yourself and the preconceptions you have about how things “should” be. You are not in the comforts and “safety” of your own familiar home which forces you to reach out and depend on other’s you might not have interacted with otherwise. This brings you into contact with people from different cultures, ways of life, religions, and outlooks and shapes a new understanding that people the world over are just that, people. That we are all sharing this life together and all want the same things from it. Tolerance is so vital for our world to function together. The greater tolerance we can find for each other, the greater joy we can share in life.
  2. Your Understanding Of Human Connectedness Grows: The more you travel the more people you meet and the more true personal connections you make. You start to understand that we are all part of something larger together, something that lives and moves and breathes and connects us to people we have never met. You start to gain awareness of the things that happen around you. That when something happens in the US or France or Nigeria or Myanmar that it effects all of humanity. This understanding brings us closer together and makes us more keen to act in the face of injustice and put your own personal beliefs or comforts aside for the greater good. Without this connectedness we are destined to fall out of balance as humanity and into a darker and more dangerous world.
  3. You Fear Less: When you decide to not take the given narrative as fact and discover the world for yourself you begin to base your understanding off of real life experiences and not off media dictations of reality. Yes, the world may “feel” scary, but if you are willing to get out of your comfort zone and experience it for yourself it begins to take shape as the beautiful, complicated, amazing place it is and in turn seems less scary. This is a crucial factor because this decrease in perceived danger allows us to have more compassion, empathy and to care for people outside ourselves who have nothing in common except our shared humanity.
  4. You Gain Perspective On What It Means To Be Human: Traveling allows you to gain perspective on what life is like in other parts of the world. Every day we hear of another terrorist attack by a “Muslim extremist”, kidnapping by the Boko Haram, or domestic terrorists causing chaos and heartache in the US. When these things happen it’s heart-breaking and scary and can form our view of what we think people are like. But when you travel and interact with people who are not like you, you realize that most people are good and just trying to get by and find joy and love in their lives. They get up each day with the same intentions most of us have: to take care of their family and have a healthy and happy life. It allows you to have patience and more understanding with people who might not have the same beliefs or outlooks on life that you do. When we can all find more of that we will find ourselves in a world that values love and tolerance over power and fear.

Travel is vital not just to our personal growth as human beings, but for the health and success of the world around us. It gives us not only a better understanding of our friends across the globe but also our neighbors down the street. It is time we put down our blinders and start interacting and being willing to work together for all of humanity no matter our race, religion, or political differences. The world will not be less “scary” if we are not willing to put ourselves aside and be willing to learn, listen to one another, and practice compassion, love and tolerance. There is no perfect, clean, easy solution to the issues we face as human beings but travel is a powerful tool in our quest for a better world.

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