Few people realize how powerful stepping outside of your comfort zone can be. We’ve accustomed ourselves to always doing predictable things that complement our abilities and our worldview. However, travel, if taken with the right attitude can have a transformational effect on your politics, your ideas about culture, society, people and values.
According to the UN World Tourism Organization, world tourism increased by 7% last year, which indicates a 7 year high. It’s apparent many people the world over are traveling. Travel has become cheaper and the hospitality industry has gotten more competitive as it ramps up deals to compete with home-sharing apps like Airbnb, Onefinestay, and Oasis. According to statistics by Deloitte, hotel revenue is set to top 500 billion in 2018.
But beyond the numbers, travel does something really powerful. It gives you not only a window into another society, but a window into being an immigrant. Most people rush for the beaches and the great views, but try to get off the beaten path. Stop taking pictures with other peoples children and look at what day to day life looks like in the country you are visiting. Contemplate what it might be like if you immigrated there.
Being a visitor in other countries has helped to de-glamourize immigration in my own estimation. I realize that immigration is no more noble than deciding to take the deal that earns you the most money or the shoes that fit the best. Apart from refugees and descendants of slaves, people who travel and immigrate are simply trying to find a more lucrative and convenient place to live. A place that provides some level of comfort, opportunity and social respite. And we all make those kind of choices every day, whether we are looking for the perfect watering hole or the best restaurant to host a birthday party.
Travel also helped me to understand the idea of respecting other’s culture. In the U.S. we are often overwhelmed with many rules about being hospitable to visitors–and in many ways that’s good. However, when you travel abroad, you find that is not always the case. Immigration is nearly impossible in some areas and local populations can be downright nasty visitors. Maybe it’s cultural?
Additionally, I think the greatest thing that I have gleaned from my travels so far, is the idea of respecting the cultures and the people to whom I have chosen to visit. I found myself being extra careful in other spaces, because while it may be just a visit for some, or a new world for an expat–this place is home for the millions of people who never asked me to come there.
Travel helped me see the correct way in which you should immigrate or visit. I learned how to respect every citizen there–regardless of their story or their station in society. They didn’t ask to be there, but I did. So in this sense, we’re not quite on the same footing–like, ever! This is their home along with all of the contingencies therewith; and there were nuances and aspects of it that perhaps I was missing as a visitor–non-native to the country.
Travel isn’t just about learning new cultures and sharing your own. It’s about learning to respect other peoples and cultures no matter how alien it is to your own. It wasn’t just about seeing the beauty of the country, but showing a beauty and grace as a representative of my country and my people group. Don’t be the ugly visitor or the ugly immigrant, the beauty of traveling is that you are an involuntary representative of your nation–no matter how little or how long you live in a new country. You’re also a voluntary visitor, which means you didn’t have to come. This, in my opinion, is the definition of traveling well.
Travel well, friends. Travel well.