“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
As I sit here writing this there is more vitriol, more division, more close mindedness and misunderstanding happening in my country than I have seen in my lifetime. So many people feel like what they think “America” stands for is being taken away from them, caught up in an identity that is not real, shaped by people who want you to believe this is who we are and this is what America is. Others are drowned in hopelessness, homelessness, and fear that today will be the day the violence finds me. People are scared, angry, and our sense of hope, community and togetherness is floating away by the day. I understand this is not the entire story of my country, but it often feels that way and I don’t think I am alone in that. For this very reason travel is more vital and more powerful than it may have ever been. Whether its across your state or across the globe, we need movement if we are ever going to find our way out of the darkness into a new way of being and seeing.
For many, a reason to take a trip is not needed. But we need travel to be more than an escape, a distraction from the issues we face as a society. Travel can, and should, play a vital role in growing our collective compassion and understanding. Here are some reason why you should travel now and be part of the movement toward peace.
Travel Makes You Smarter
Now when I say that it makes you smarter I’m not talking about all of a sudden being fluent in Calculus or being able to recite the periodic table. Don’t get me wrong, this is important knowledge to have, but what I’m talking about is a different type of learning that helps you connect with and understand those around you in a deeper way. When we choose to travel, be that to other parts of our own country, or to places like Nepal, Africa, or Ireland we are choosing to step out of what we know and learn about other people, places, religions, and cultures. When we are brave enough to do that, what we learn is that most people are good and decent and they are just like us, living their life in the best way they know how and striving for a good life for those around them. Yes, they may look different or talk different or believe something different, but at their core they desire peace, happiness, and community just like the rest of us.
When this sets in this is when the transformation happens. Our minds are open allowing us to form our own thoughts and opinions about the world instead of just following what we are told. This type of learning will play a key role in finding our sense of community, our identities as individuals, and what we stand for and what we believe in. It also makes us more able to accept people for who they are and not place our own bias’ and preconception on them. When you travel you begin to understand that there are infinite ways to live life and to create something beautiful with this short time we have.
Challenges Our Perceived Biases
In many ways travel can be a political act, choosing to put a face on the “other” is an act of defiance to what we are told we should do. No matter what political side your on it is easy to label and assign value to those who aren’t like us or are out of our small bubble. Travel is a rejection of that model. With it we are making a statement on how we want to look at the world around us. My first trip out of the country was when I was 24 and I headed to Kenya in East Africa. Everything I thought and “knew” about this place was determined on what I saw on T.V. or read about in books or magazines. Boy, where my ideas wrong. It was a slap in the face and a major reality check when I came to understand this place and the people who lived there in a deeper and more personal way. It made me uncomfortable and challenged everything I thought I knew, which is exactly where the most growth lives.
This happens to me every time I travel. The experience takes what I think I know and twists it all around, beats it up, and leaves it battered and bruised. Then travel builds it back up, bandages it’s wounds, and leaves me with a stronger and more resilient form of how I see the world. There is nothing stronger than learning from the actual people whose home it is we are visiting. When we take time to sit and have conversations it opens up space for us to learn and challenge and change our biases that we have about the world around us or even about ourselves. Some of my favorite memories are talking to a dear friend in Nepal, and him challenging me and how I view things. It was hard at the time but something I’m so grateful for. Being able to gain different perspectives has no price tag. Even though it can be awkward and a bit uncomfortable there is a freedom in this that we all need to experience in our lifetime.
Travel Helps You See Your Own Country In a new light
America is far from perfect, we have made plenty mistakes abroad that have caused more suffering than good. We believe it is our duty and right to “save” others from poverty and “save” their souls, when we can’t even agree on how to help our homeless populations, the mentally ill, create affordable healthcare for all, or combat climate change. We have a president who chants “send them back,” whose words and actions have helped embolden the voices and violence of White Supremacists and violent domestic terrorists. We allow our political climate and what we read on online to shape who we are, our outlooks, fears and preconceived notions.
When we travel and open ourselves up to having conversations and learning from others, we realize that our actions affect everyone and everything around us. That most of the time, what we think is true about something or some population is not correct, or at least not complete. This perspective is hard to obtain when we don’t leave our country or even travel to a different state within America. Americans have freedoms and conveniences that don’t exist everywhere. From the right to free speech to the ease of picking up mail, we are privileged in big and little ways that make it easy to overlook our shortcomings. Most of the time, most things work. Nothing has made me appreciate these things more than traveling and seeing what type of privilege I hold in this life, and how I want to use that going forward.
Start Traveling – Keep Traveling
Even though the world seems a bit scary and uneasy right now, I would urge everyone to keep traveling if you already do, or start traveling if you have not. As a woman of color, traveling has helped me gain confidence and move around in the world with a better understanding of who I am and how I fit into the larger world community. No matter how much it seems like the world is on fire, I remember that most people are good, accepting and loving no matter the color of our skin, religious practices or cultural differences. This is one of the most important things we can learn and keep participating in as we get older, and to pass down this knowledge to our children. We have no choice but to keep participating in the world around us. If we reject our connection to others and close ourselves off in our small corner of life, we not only limit our own experience but we lose out on the chance to positively impact someone else.
Traveling is one of the keys to helping fight against the fear, anger and hate, and misguided ideologies that are making their way back into the forefront of America. So I urge all of us to go somewhere new, even if it’s just for a weekend. Hire a local guide and allow them to show you their world, share a meal with a stranger, reach out and get to know your neighbors, and open yourself to the people and world around you. We are all depending on you to do it. Don’t let us down.