This is a blog about travel. And I intend to keep it that way. I don’t want to get into politics here. I have another platform for that.
But I do think it’s a good time to talk about the importance of travel and, in particular, international travel, after such a polarizing campaign and election here in the US.
You see, now more than ever we should travel. We should jump on a plane to Germany or Argentina or Morocco or Thailand. Or even hop in our cars and travel to a state that is different from our own.
Why do I think it’s so important?
Let me start with a story.
11 years ago I traveled overseas for the first time — to southern Spain. It was 2005 and we were in the midst of a very unpopular war in Iraq that a very unpopular president (at least around the world) decided to declare (with Congressional approval). I was a bit concerned about identifying myself as an American for fear that I would be treated unkindly. I seriously thought about saying I was Canadian.
But I didn’t. At my first stop in Nerja, a lovely beach town along the Mediterranean, I met a nice English couple. We struck up a conversation and I did indeed tell them I was American. The woman said something about President George W Bush and I commented that I had not voted for him. She replied, “I didn’t think you looked like a Republican.”
At the time I wanted to kiss her and I did laugh and probably even thanked her. But now I realize that Republicans and Democrats don’t look a certain way. I think maybe it was just more her “gut” feeling from our conversation.
But I think even if I had said I was a Republican I don’t believe I would have been treated unkindly.
Mostly because I believe that we don’t see a person solely as their country. Or their country’s leader. And people don’t see us that way. At least I hope so.
With some of the hateful rhetoric that has been spewed during and now after this election, I think it’s important to remember that underneath it all we’re all human. And travel teaches us this— travel in our own country and definitely travel outside of our country. Mark Twain is famously quoted here:
“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.”
I couldn’t agree more with this quote which is probably why I do what I do. Travel teaches people to be open-minded and it reminds us that — no matter the color of our skin, the language we speak, the god we pray to, the traditions we practice — we are all human. That we all need oxygen to breathe, food to eat, water to drink and shelter above our heads. That we want to love and, in turn, be loved. And we all want to be respected and we all want to respect.
But so often I have felt that through this campaign and election, and the aftermath, that we are forgetting this.
There have been Trump supporters threatening to lynch black folks and terrorizing Muslims and the LGBT community. There have been Clinton supporters calling those who voted for Trump idiots and racists. We are forgetting that we are all human beings. And that we’re actually more alike than we are different.
Look, I may not agree with some of you on your vote. But as a travel planner, I am a travel planner for anyone who wants to go to Europe (or anywhere else). Anyone who’s curious enough to want to learn about another culture. Who’s adventurous enough to eat some new food. Who’s eager enough to explore and get lost and then have a fun conversation with a local who speaks a different language. Because in the end, we’re all human beings with those same needs and that want of love and respect.
So now more than ever, go travel. See some place that is different from your home. But most of all, connect with others who are seemingly different from you. Be kind to them and I can guarantee, you will be treated kindly in return. Respect them and they will definitely respect you. Take note of the differences and learn from them. And above all recognize the sameness. See yourself in them — their basic human needs, their love for their families, their smiles, their laughter, their tears.
Travel is indeed fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. It shows us that people are people. It teaches us love and respect. And I think now more than ever, it’s what each and every one of us needs to do — especially us Americans — no matter who we voted for, or if we voted at all. We need to travel.
But here’s another reason
That story I told in the beginning…well, I think a lesson I took away from that first trip was that I am also an ambassador for my country.
No, I’m not on the payroll of the US Government. But every time I travel to a different country I put my best foot forward. I think of myself as a representative of the United States of America. It’s important that I am kind to my hosts. That I observe social norms. That I dress appropriately and speak appropriately. It’s important that I learn a few words of the local language. That I smile and am friendly. And that I am respectful.
The world was watching as we chose a new president. And most of our fellow human citizens were not happy. They were surprised. And they are worried. I get that. We’ve got an incoming president who has said some things that have them concerned. There’s no “track record” of public service to provide us with clues as to what he is going to do. I hope he does great. But let’s face it, even for those who did vote for him, we’re simply not sure what the future holds.
So our brothers and sisters around the globe are rightfully worried. We can set their minds at ease by traveling to their countries. By being the kind, friendly, respectful person I know you are. Put your best foot forward. Be open-minded. Listen to them. Learn about their lives — their families, their jobs, their hopes and dreams. Hear their concerns. And be considerate. Show them you are not prejudice. That you aren’t a bigot. And that you are not narrow-minded. Show them what a true American is.