– Mark Twain
This week, we have had two visitors; one from New Zealand, and one from Switzerland. We have cooked Vegan, and we have cooked Vegetarian. We have talked about social beliefs and typical ethnic stereotyping. We have discussed religion and politics. We have shared stories of sadness, frustration, and change. We have agreed that compromise leads to respectful tolerance.
I have always believed, and still maintain that Travel is the best education in order to secure a better future and for our survival.
Not only are we exposed to different cultures by travel, but we are submerged into a way of life where we are obliged to behave in a respectful way. "When in Rome, do as Rome does.”
We experience new foods, which flavor the essence of ethnicity, not just the palette. We are obliged to discover things from another perspective, and forced into a survival mode, even if it is just rushing to catch a bus.
We lose control of our rigid lives when we stray away from out safe harbor, and that opens up opportunities for us to explore, being fully immersed in a different reality.
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson
Without travel, we are very isolated and insular. We function within our own beliefs and safety margins. We only associate with the same people, and we tend to adopt the same beliefs.
Here in Texas, for example, it is amazing to me how many people assume that even though I am from a different culture, I have the same religious beliefs as them, or the same political views, and many people make assumptions that are quite offensive to me, even though they do not intend to offend.
I have to respond with tolerance, reminding them that I do not share all their views, but that does not make me a bad person.
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
– St. Augustine
By travelling, we open the doors to new possibilities. It forces both the visitor and the host to reach into their core of respect, to experience differences, and find manners to cope and survive.
As a family of seven, and both my parents as teachers, we could not afford expensive holidays in hotels etc. However, we would pack up a tent, and one "diddy bag” each, and head across the channel to France in the summer. We would spend five weeks immersed in the French culture, camping in basic camp sites, eating the local foods, and doing what the locals do. We learned to play Boule in the street, speak when we were spoken to by the seniors, speak the language with our new found camping buddies, and learn about the history of France from the French perspective, instead of the English. My Mother took us to churches, where we learned about Catholicism, versus Protestantism, and we read about French Kings and Queens, and artists, and the French revolution.
We made friends for life. Friends have bonded not only my love to them, but to a country which has as much diversity as any other.
When I hear people say generalized derogatory things about "the French", I am able to say that I have not had that experience, and soften the light with which someone's ignorance is shone.
"The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson
Since I have lived in Texas, I have traveled around America, and learned that even each of the states is different culturally from each other. Each state played a different role in the American Revolution, the civil war, or the oppression of the Native Americans, or the African Americans.
There are stereotypes for each State that start to dissolve as one travels and stirs the cultural pot.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
I want to see all the wonders of the world before I die, but there are many more than seven.
I fear that with Terrorism and intolerance, there has been tremendous irreparable damage to archeological and historical treasures throughout the world. Mosques have been destroyed, museums and archives full of ancient history. Books and paintings have been burned. Ancient relics are disappearing. In order to preserve our legacy as humans, we have to find a solution to this wanton destruction and deliberate annihilation of our human heritage.
Travel has to be one of the keys to peace.
The art of talking and face to face communication, the sharing of food and ideas leads to the realization that people share a very special human bond. A bond that becomes very difficult to break after the communion of bread and love.
A few weeks ago, in London, some of the Mosques had an Open day for non-Muslims. The event was a huge success! Far more successful than anyone had imagined! The Mosques offered food and drink, and an opportunity for non- Muslims to come and experience the inside of a Mosque. The Muslim congregation was able to share their weekly schedule and extracurricular activities, as well as introduce people to their beliefs in an informative way.
People who attended ranged from elderly Christian conservatives who were curious, to families with children who just wanted to expose their children to something different. Their response was so positive, that other Mosques are planning similar events.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
So I challenge you, each of my readers.
Think about your prejudices and preconceived ideas about people and places. Make a resolution to travel more, and to expose your children to travel. Even if you are unable to travel, consider having a foreign student, or invite children to play with your kids that share different cultural backgrounds. Teach your children to respect other's beliefs even if they are not your own. Teach them to try new foods without disrespectful comments and faces. Remind them that they can make a difference to peaceful changes in the world. They are the future. In order that they are educated to take on the challenge, then travel should be an integral part of their education.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
Happy Saturday :)