No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusiveMahatma Gandhi
No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. It’s how we learn and grow from those mistakes that set us apart from each other and transform us into who are are today and in this moment. The events of the past few weeks relating to the Black Lives Matter movement and the global pandemic have truly shown the world who we are and what each of us are willing to do or not do.
Wait a minute. I thought this was a travel blog? Don’t worry, travel is deeply ingrained in this post for reasons that I will soon make obvious. My posts will always have travel at their core and I try to reflect current events to show my stance on matters I feel strongly about.
You cannot travel without witnessing and experiencing diversity. It’s just not possible. Even if people still look like you wherever you go, there will always be differences. It’s those differences that should be celebrated for what we can learn about others and also ourselves.
Below I’m going to go much deeper into ways that I think travel can improve mentalities, break down barriers, and help set the world on a better path towards equality and inclusivity. While we might not be able to travel right now, we will soon and we need to be prepared to listen to others, re-evaluate our world views, and evolve to become the best of what humanity has to offer. Travel can do that.
Giving Up Your Sense of Superiority
Nothing humbles you quite like travel can. Your ego might need deflating and that’s okay. There’s something wonderful about stepping out of an airport and going “oh sh*t…what now?”. Unless you’re an international celebrity, you most likely are just another tourist in the eyes of everyone around you.
Travelers often sport the mentality of thinking they are superior and that their host country should bend to their every whim. It’s best to remember you’re a guest in that country, city, town, etc. If your mother would be appalled by your words and your actions, don’t say or do them in another country. Learning to respect a different way of doing things can be difficult, but it’s a million percent possible. It just takes effort.
So, the next time you set off on a trip, remember to leave your superiority at home or locked in a dark closet buried at the bottom of the ocean. One you shed that baggage, you can experience everything that new place has to offer without the divisive lens of entitlement.
Using Your Talents to Build Others Up
Everyone is talented at something. Whether it’s as simple as always finding a great compliment to give or as complicated as brain surgery, you have something to offer the world at large. I’m not saying you have to turn yourself into the patron saint of good deed traveling. Find small or large ways you can contribute whenever you travel.
Hold a door for someone. Offer to carry a bag or two to someone’s car. Stand up for someone who needs it. The point is you can always choose to do something for another person if it’s in your capacity to do so. My country (USA) is mind-blowingly divided right now and for good reason. Inequality is essentially a disease that is gripping the entire planet. Small deeds can keep accumulating and eventually turn into something as horrible as systemic racism or go the positive route of spreading equality.
Your travel itinerary is entirely up to you, as is the option to go out of your way to help another person with your talents. I try to hold doors open, pick up trash, offer to take photos for couples who are obviously trying to take a selfie, and I want to do more. I’ve run to car accidents on my travels and made sure the police were on the way since I’m not in the medical field by any means, but the point is, I tried.
Assess how you can help without causing harm. Put your plan into action. Start small or shoot for the moon. Any act of kindness is a win. After all, it’s much better on the soul to build others up than to break others down. I want more positivity in my travels, so that’s where I’m starting.
Imagine what we could do if we embraced diversity instead of creating barriers and shoving people in an outsider category. Imagine how the world and its opportunities would open up for you and everyone around you if you decided that minorities, immigrants, and marginalized people all over the world had worth.
It breaks my heart to say that many members of my non-immediate family think “foreigners”, immigrants, and minorities are dangerous and therefore “lesser”. Diversity creates authenticity, intelligence, and enhances our culture. There isn’t a country in the world that has not benefited from bringing in other points of views. Those that choose to shove others aside for a cookie cutter version of their citizens leaves many behind to suffer.
Help travelers visiting your country feel welcomed. Wouldn’t you want the same done for you? Call or email your representatives, mayor, governors, and more to let them know your stance on issues that impact diversity. Last, but not least, be understanding. It’s hard to travel to another country. Many people traveling are nervous and we, as part of the travel community, can help those who need it. No one should ever have to feel like they are an outsider and as a result a lesser human being.
Tear those mental barriers to shreds and start using your traveler’s world view to show others we’re all human and we deserve a chance to have an equal life. Look for the qualities we have in common with each other. You’ll find many more similarities than differences and it’s humbling. Learn to admit you aren’t better than anyone else, and you’ll be able to start moving others towards a better future.
Empathy & Education is the Way Forward
The best way to use travel to implement positive change is through empathy and education. See others through an empathetic lens. See past the exterior and pick up on smaller cues that show who a person truly is. Someone might look rough today because they went through a bad break up. That doesn’t mean they are dangerous. Someone might look so well put together on the outside, but they could be on the verge of a mental breakdown.
Educate yourself on the history behind inequality, movements affecting your community and the world, and use that education to really see what’s happening around you instead of ignoring the less appealing aspects. Read books, talk to people around you, and arm yourself with knowledge of how and why we’ve gotten where we are today.
What’s next you ask? We include those that also want to exclude others. You can’t conquer division without both sides being present and willing to learn, assess their actions and thoughts, and then search for a peaceful compromise. It will absolutely not be a picnic, but it can and will make changes that impact millions of lives worldwide.
Because once one area gets on board and the success stories start to travel, it becomes infectious. Only this time, this infection is positive and is needed. It might be the hardest thing the world ever does and there will be many who don’t want it to happen, but I believe change can happen. It starts with us.