What’s the point of traveling?

Zakim Bunker Hill BridgeI HAVE A THEORY

My theory is backed up by nothing other than anecdotes and personal experience, from living and visiting places that sometimes have populations that are less than diverse. My theory is this: People who are xenophobic, those who are most vehemently afraid of others who are not like them, likely do not travel—and have not traveled—far from their home bases.

While I don’t have any data to back up this theory, it makes sense. When you stay in one place your entire life, and refuse to see the world around you, how can you understand the viewpoints of other people? How can you be a good person who truly cares about others, about the environment, about anything but yourself? Why wouldn’t you be afraid?

But when you travel, you open yourself up to other people and their cultures, traditions, foods, habits, and everything that makes them who they are. When you open yourself up and immerse yourself among people unlike yourself, you are forced to learn. You are forced to confront beliefs that you may have held your entire life that may not hold true in places other than your home. You become a citizen of the world.

That conversion from town citizen to world citizen is crucial. It’s important. It’s why travel is so important. I believe that without travel, we are less than good human beings. Without experiencing other cultures, traditions, foods, music, economies, and arts, we deprive ourselves of the ability to understand and be educated. I’m just going to say it: without travel, we are stupid.

I HAVE A QUESTION

Why should I travel?   I mean, I’m perfectly happy sitting at home, watching television, letting other people tell me what’s going on in the rest of the country, the rest of the world. I lead a comfortable life, one that does not require much of me other than going to work to earn some money, taking care of my family, and occasionally going out for a drink or to the bowling alley. I can do that all from my little corner of the world. Why should I care to see the rest of it?

0817071926Because I am a lover of the outdoors. I am a fanatic of culture. I am an appreciator of art. If I had simply stayed in my little hometown in western Connecticut all my life (as so many people I grew up with have), I’d never be a lover of anything, except that which I had already known. Having traveled to so many places, and spent so many nights outside, and written so many times about why and how I travel, I’ve become a better, more compassionate, more empathetic, person. To me, that is how we change the world. Knowledge coupled with compassion and understanding will not only give us stronger minds, but will also make us better world citizens.

Imagine if we could empathize with all our enemies? Imagine if we all could comprehend that we spend a short amount of time in this world, and that conflicts over mutual stupidity is wasteful? No, we’ll never not have war, or conflict, or death. But imagine if there were less. Imagine if all we had to do was earn our privilege and make a move to see life from the other side. Imagine if we could understand. You don’t gain knowledge or understanding by sitting at home.

Travel is important. The world depends on it.

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