The USA election happened. I have a lot of concerns about what that means for our place on this planet.
I am a little uncertain where to place my current anxiety. Are we going to become a nation of sameness? Are we going to prevent certain people from visiting? Are we all full of fear and hate?
Do I think more travel could help the USA heal? In short, yes.
Believe there is good in the world, and you will find it.
There is more to this world than your bubble. Travel can help us see how we are all really the same.
Ethnocentrism is the idea that your culture is better than others. When we start to say things are strange or bad because they are unfamiliar, that is ethnocentrism. Let’s remain humble and remember that some people think our culture is weird (fried chicken as bread anyone?).
I hope that people will continue to travel to our great nation and see for themselves how wonderful it is, and that we will continue to let them do so. I hope that other countries will continue to open their borders to US citizens, despite the some of the rhetoric being thrown around.
To be clear, I don’t think you need to get on a plane to travel, and interact with people different from you. You can go to the next state over, or even the next town, and expose yourself to something else.
One of my initial reactions was, I’m leaving the country. I am comfortable in other countries, and travel has always made my heart happy. Then I was struck by the idea, that maybe I wouldn’t be permitted to live or travel in another country as an American. The world is as nervous about the President-elect as I am.
Later I thought, I should stay and make sure my voice is represented throughout the next four years. Because I don’t want a wall to keep out Mexicans or a register list for Muslims. Those are not things that are going to make America great.
People visiting, touring and moving to the United States, no matter their background, is part of what makes this an amazing country.
I understand that people from the rural section of the country felt underrepresented. And that is not a nice feeling. A dominant issue that conservatives cared about and voted on was immigration. That’s not about job creation or even women’s healthcare, that’s about fear of dark skinned people. It’s about fear of different or unfamiliar.
America is a young country on this giant spinning planet. We have always taken the best of what’s around, and improved on it or made it something else entirely. Suggesting immigrants are a problem that needs to be completely eradicated will be a sad day for all aspects of our life. Being afraid isn’t a nice feeling either..
but consider this…
From the beginning, America has been a beautifully stitched tapestry of different cultures, foods, languages and traditions. We wouldn’t have cowboys without Mexican vaqueros. We wouldn’t have hot dogs without a Polish immigrant. We wouldn’t have the word ‘justice’ without the French language. Even democracy as a concept comes from the Greeks.
What makes America great is its diversity, in all characteristics. Beautiful landscapes, soaring mountains, wide colorful canyons and deep blue lakes. The stunning architecture of its cities. Its varied cultures throughout each state, a collection of different people and identities.
The amazing cuisine you can get in New Orleans. The wine from California. The blues you can hear in Chicago and the rock in New York. The languages, foods and ideas that people bring from other places, that we adopt and reinvent.
Maybe if people traveled more, they would be less afraid of people don’t who live like they do. When I open my heart to new experiences in foreign countries, I am almost always greeted with kindness.
Some people suck. That’s true of every race, religion, and creed.
But most people are awesome. If you make constant assumptions about people, you will miss everything cool in life. If you give them the opportunity to engage with you, you might discover, you are not so different after all. That everyone has hopes and fears, anxieties and dreams.
You’re worried about feeding your family because they’re cutting shifts at work. They’re worried about feeding their family because there’s a drought and crops are failing. Same problem, different details.
I’ve been invited to have tea in Morocco from a stranger and learned about their way of life. I spent a long bus ride in Thailand speaking with a local woman about why they feel white skin is more attractive. My friend and I were asked into a home in Cuba where the mom made me a delicious dinner while the local boy taught us Cuban-style salsa.
All this because I wanted to learn from the people around me.
When you travel, you realize that need to have an open mind because things can get strange or uncomfortable. You learn to recognize these challenges and adjust to the life around you because you’re not in Kansas anymore.
When you travel, you realize that you need to be empathetic. You can see how privileged your life is, and how people survive without much.
Everyone has a story. Every nation has a story. Every culture has a story. Let’s sit down and choose to listen and learn from each other.
I think Maya Angelou said it best:
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
My hope is that at the end of the next four years, I will have made some new friends, foreign and domestic. That we will find a way to live with less fear and more openness.
So challenge yourself. Plan a trip and go somewhere new. Believe in the good in the world. You never know who you might meet.
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