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