Rashmi Pappu » Photographer

Letter To My Daughters | September 25 2012

the lovely pilot let you take the controls of the 777 after we landed in India.

Dear girls,

When you start feeling yourself getting too comfortable, too set in your ways, it is is time to travel.  One of the best ways of learning is by travelling to unfamiliar places and putting yourself in slightly uncomfortable situations. When you don’t know the language, the roads, the people or the culture, you are forced to step up, be in the moment and navigate your way through the everyday tasks that suddenly seem so difficult. This builds character.

I am an American citizen now but as you know I was neither born or brought up here. Therefore I still have an outsider’s perspective of what it is like to live here. What I have noticed is that Americans tend to lead very sheltered lives. From when they are very young, through the media and even school they are told that this country is the best the world has to offer. It is a very subtle propaganda so perhaps only noticed by outsiders. The evening news might be ‘World News‘ but you will barely see coverage of events from around the world. Even the Olympics, the ultimate world stage would appear to be only about Americans (and their tragic back stories). This kind of self obsession can be a little bit dangerous.

When you are immersed in this kind of self-absorption it is hard to believe that there is an entire, very interesting world out there. Countries and cultures that are thousands of years old. Food and ingredients that are respected, where local and organic are not just buzz words, they are a way of life. Friends and family truly come first above material possessions and you don’t have to call ahead.. you just knock on your neighbour’s door. People actually lead very happy and full lives and believe it or not, most of them really don’t think about America at all. When you return, you will appreciate air-conditioning, personal space, big roads and clean air that much more but you will have gained an understanding that happiness does not come in neat, clean and tidy boxes… true joy can be very messy. You must travel, especially because both of you are bonafide Americans and will always identify yourselves as such.

When your mind expands with a world view, you gain an understanding of the effects of foreign policy. You appreciate what a privilege it is to live in a country that grants us religious freedom and that grants (almost) every single person equal rights. You have more empathy for people. You are not bogged down with religious dogma because you learn about other ways of life. Your heart expands. You have more compassion for poor people and marginalized sections of society. You understand that there is no Us and Them. We are all one people and we need not fear each other.

But when you do travel my sweet girls, don’t be that traveller. The one who won’t try new types of food and will check herself into an all-inclusive resort as far away from local culture as possible. Don’t be the visitor that takes photos of street kids in India with their wide open brown eyes, or the village kids in Africa with flies on their face. Please, don’t be a traveller who travels with a bias. Gain your own perspective. I was most moved by Nirav’s travel to India. For once someone saw what was there for exactly what it was…ugly yet beautiful. Tourist spots are great, but venture outside of what tourists are supposed to see. Immerse yourself in a new culture. If possible, live with a host family not a hotel.

Girls, the world is such a remarkable place. I can’t wait to explore it more with you and I hope beyond hope that you become global citizens and every single page on your passport is stamped with new adventures.

xoxo, Mummy

Please follow the blog circle to Kirsty.. who has travelled to so many many wonderful places with her daughters. She keeps a travelblog (Letters from the Larmours) with lots of photos. Her daughters are world citizens. :)

  • Amy Lucy Lockheart - Rashmi, you may as well have been writing this to me and many other American moms just as much as your daughters — such wise words here! I must admit that I have not yet ventured out of the US (yikes!), but do hope to someday. I hope to instill a love of travel in my children. As you said, it is so important that our children can understand and appreciate what it truly means to be a global citizen. Such important words! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Kirsty - You know that I just want to grab a coffee and sit and spend a day talking and talking with you Rashmi? Everything that you say relates to the reasons I travel with my kids – because it opens the mind when it opens the eyes. If we started talking about travel i think we’d never stop :) thank you for sharing my travel blog too – the passion to travel is as great as the passion to capture it…ReplyCancel

  • Julia - Fantastic letter, Rashmi. Beautifully put, and incredibly true. I’ve never had the desire to travel, I’ve never felt wanderlust and love to be at home, but you make me want to go out and learn more about other cultures, remind and continue to teach my kids that there is a big, big world out there, and for myself, to step out of my own comfort zone. So glad that I am a part of this with you.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - You have just made me a better person and a better mother by reading your beautiful letter. Thank you. I read many blogs and never ever comment, but I feel compelled to let you know how much I appreciated reading your words right now. They were a gift to me and they will be even more so to your beautiful daughters.ReplyCancel

  • Bonnie Hussey - This has to be the best piece of advice anyone could give their children. The world is so big and full of beauty. There is much more to be seen the 50 states. My family was stationed in Germany for 4 years and every day since we’ve been back in the U.S. I wish we could have stayed a little longer.ReplyCancel

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