Never has it been a more important time to travel. With the rise of nativism and nationalism across Europe and the United States, it’s time to reflect on who we are and how travel has made us this way.
My thoughts on this always point back to a Mark Twain quote from the Innocents Abroad, a classic of travel literature.
“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.”
While I didn’t begin traveling to rid myself of bigotry and prejudice, my continued wanderlust did make me more open-minded, eventually leading to an acceptance of people regardless of race, gender, religion, or lack thereof. That’s one of the beauties of travel. It exposes you to so many different ways of life and living. You may realize what you’ve been taught all along isn’t right for you. Or it may even help you to realize what you have had your whole life, really is wonderful.
Travel has taught me all of this. I’ve learned hospitality from Arabs, spirituality from Mongolians, the art of killing time by Uzbeks, a love of food by the French, beauty in everything from Italians, order from the Japanese, generosity by the Koreans, and warmth from Colombians.
I’ve incorporated little pieces of different cultures and religions into my own life. Concepts that I thought were right for me and the course of my life. Universality is another important thing travel teaches us; that most people have the same basic needs, desires, and emotions.
Traveling abroad has also taught me to appreciate my home. To appreciated its natural beauty, the friendliness of its people, its safety and security, and the freedom and liberty we enjoy. That the pursuit of happiness is alive and well. That doesn’t mean my country is the best place on earth. But rather I acknowledge that it is a good place to live. That I am fortunate. That generations have worked and fought to make it a better place for the generations that followed.
At the same time, traveling has taught me that different systems of governing may be more democratic and socially just. That other religions may have a better path toward enlightenment. That other ways of living may be more fulfilling. That perhaps at home we are materially rich and spiritually deficient.
This year, make of point of exploring a new place with a different culture. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Have some new experiences no matter what your age. Then return home a new person.
Why Travel Now?
The world is a scary place, if all you know about it is what you hear on the news. An explosion in Asia, a kidnapping in South America, political upheaval in Europe, gun violence in the United States. It’s enough to make you want to crawl under your covers and binge watch How I Met Your Mother with a bag of pretzels and a tub of Nutella.
If you’re finding the news depressing and overwhelming, travel can help.
Ask anyone who travels, and they will tell you that the world is really a welcoming place, and that strangers often become friends on the road. Maybe it’s the guy who sees you hiking and offers to fill up your water bottle at his mom’s house down the road, and his mom invites you in for a cup of tea and a cookie and tells you about her experience as a nurse, and you notice the inspiring quotes posted and painted on her walls. Or the enthusiastic young designer who directs you to more shops you might like in another part of town, and then offers to take you there on his bike so you won’t get lost. Or the nice older woman on the bus who asks about your home city, and then seems to know more about it than you do, and it turns out her daughter moved there to work, and now you not only have a new friend on the bus, but you have a new friend back home!
Something great happens when you travel.
If you never venture beyond the confines of your native culture, you run the risk of developing a suspicion or fear of other cultures different from yours. If you travel and allow yourself to interact with the people you meet, and if you are open to learning about their culture, you start to realize that “the other” is not so scary. They might even be friendly. They may set the table differently, or ask you to take your shoes off when you enter their house, but they still love their family, work hard, and get mad when their bus is late.
Travel is an escape to reality, not from it.
The type of travel we offer at Unquote Travel is not the margaritas by the beach all-inclusive never meet the locals kind of travel (though there’s a time and place for that, of course). It’s an escape of a different kind. We’ll take you to a place and show you how much good is out there in the world, and how people are similar all over the world, which is something we need right about now.er the world, which is something we need right about now.
A Different Perspective
Traveling is a way for me to realize that the world is an incredibly diverse place. As a person from a small country in the Far East, I always felt like we, Koreans, are such an odd people. Universally, even in Korea, the definition of beauty was having pale skin, small and high nose, big eyes, blond hair, blue eyes, and thin figure, like the people we see in the movies. We look so different than those beautiful people. We have strange and very complex customs. We are so strange. I mean, we even speak a language that no one understands. The country is surrounded by sea and borders a hostile country that tries to attack us. When I was growing up, I felt like Korea was such a lonely country.
What was it like growing up in a lonely country? It wasn’t easy, especially for an odd kid like me. Not only didn’t I look like the beautiful movie stars, but I wasn’t exactly ordinary, either. I had strange hobbies (like stargazing), I was big and tall, and I never liked following the mainstream. It was a big deal in a society that just wants you to be normal. I didn’t quite fit in. Most of the times I felt like I was wired wrong. Now I realize how sad it was to feel that way for twenty some years. I was a lonely person living in a lonely country.
We are not alone
Travel taught me that I didn’t need to feel lonely anymore. From Asia to North America, Europe to South America, Africa to the Middle East, I got to experience other unique customs, listened to strange languages, and met beautiful people who didn’t have blond hair, blue eyes, or pale skin. My XL size Korean body was only M in America. The world is full of people of all sizes, races, complexions, hobbies, and professions. No one is better than the other because they have pale skin. Speaking English isn’t better than knowing Hindi. Sleeping in a long-house can be more comfortable than a condominium. There’s no better or worse, there are just differences. We are all beautiful in our own ways. In the world, I’m not a girl from a lonely country in the Far East anymore. I’m me, standing among all these beautiful people.
In a world where hatred, discrimination, sexism, and racism are celebrated by some, travel is more important than ever. By looking at the way of living in different cultures, we can learn that there is no one right way to live. Finding similarity among the differences is the real beauty of traveling the world, seeing different cultures, and experiencing unique customs. Travel will help you broaden your view of the world. We’re not alone, but also we are not better than others. We are different and should celebrate these differences, not reject them by building a wall.