“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
in one little corner
of the earth
all one’s lifetime.”
Twain so bluntly and accurately describes one of the immense benefits of seeing the world. To not understand someone else’s culture often breeds fear which causes one to become more reliant and dependent on the belief that their way of life is the best. To remain in this belief, to refuse to seek out information, is detrimental to the potential education you can allow yourself to soak up. Ultimately, it’s not a matter of declaring any one way of living as being the best, but to realize that there are many different ways of choosing to live and to be accepting and understanding of the diversity that so richly makes up our world.
I can remember vividly when my first trip abroad occurred. It took place during college as I was about to begin to study in France for the summer of 2000. The anticipation was intoxicating and overwhelming. And I can remember the adrenaline rush, as it kept me going for 27 hours until I finally fell asleep utterly exhausted in Angers, France – my destination.
What became instantly clear to me was that other cultures get along just fine going about life in a way that may seem foreign to outsiders, just as my cultural tendencies may seem foreign to someone else as well. I can remember conversing (or trying to converse) with students from Spain, Norway, Sweden and Germany, and feeling less self-assured, but at the same time reassured because everyone else was trying to live their life as well in the best way they knew how.
Now, being that this was my first extended trip abroad, I was more than eager to fly home after the summer, but the funny thing was – I caught the bug. The bug that constantly is encouraging me to get on a plane or a train (love the ease of traveling in Europe) and just get away from the day-to-day routine that I’ve created so that I can appreciate it even more.
Upon returning from many of my adventures, I tend to have that “travel’s high” where I imagine living in the place I have just returned from. More often than not, I come back to earth and realize that I’ve created a fairly wonderful life right where I am, but it is in the traveling that strengthens my appreciation. It is also the traveling that opens my mind to understand that there are many ways of living and living well, and judgment should not be so quickly placed on those cultures we don’t understand.
I would be willing to wager that the majority of society is truly trying to make it through the day, achieve a bit of happiness and feel loved for who they are. Not everyone can grow up in the same environment, and I for one wouldn’t want that because that is what makes this world a place of curiosity, possibility and beauty. After all, the potential for beauty can be found is so many wonderful, exotic, unexpected places if only we choose to see it, be less judgmental and observe without preconceived notions of what “should be”.
It has been recently reported that one of the many ingredients to a truly happy life is to travel abroad two times a year. And I have to say I think there is something to it. Whether you are traveling to relax and unwind, spend time with family and loved ones or simply getting away from the daily routine, it is in the being away that helps you to understand and realize how wonderful your life is already or has the potential to be. It is the perspective that you gain in your yearly journeys that expands your world welcoming in more happiness. So whether it is a trip around the world or to the other side of your state, consider trying to incorporate a few more miles in your life. You might just be surprised what it is added to your world.
Have a wonderful Monday.