It is interesting to me the perspective changes I have had over the past couple of years as I have traveled around the world. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been traveling since I was a kid. My family moved from Arizona to England for 4 years when I was 5, then to California and I lived in Haiti for 2 years at the age of 19. So I already had some international experience under my belt by the time I was 20. Haiti, definitely changed my perspective, probably more than any other place I could have lived, except perhaps places in Africa.
But as I have traveled around the world the last few years, as a 50 year old, I feel I have started to gain a different understanding of things I didn’t understand before. I’m starting to see the world for what it is and not that which the media portrays for me. I see both the beauty and the ugly of the world on the ground, not on my TV set or on my computer. And I begin to realize how ignorant I still am of the world, even after as much travel as I have done. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for those who have never traveled, some, outside their own state or country.
Mark Twain wrote one of my favorite quotes, and something that I have been trying to follow for the past 10 years, but even more so in the past few years. He said:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrowmindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth. ”
I’d like to add a few things to the list of things you will learn by not vegetating in one little corner of the world. You will learn how small the world is and how similar people around the world are to you and me. You will learn that religion still plays a huge part in blinding people’s eyes and hardening their hearts and does not tend to help develop charity towards all men, but reinforces prejudice and closed-mindedness. In fact I would probably say that my new religion of travel has done more for me in that regard than any religion I have studied or followed.
You will learn that there are many places that have the freedoms that we enjoy in North America and that we, in no way, corner the market on freedom. You will learn to see outside of your local and national bubble and be able to see that people all over the world are struggling with the same things we struggle with, but many of them, especially the 3rd world countries, are struggling in part because of our consumerism, greed and luxurious lifestyles.
I watched a poignant movie today, Blood Diamond. It was even more relative to me since I am sitting on the African coast. For most of us it is a country over there, far far away. But for me it is right here. It really brought home the point for me how our lifestyles directly impact the lives of people here in Africa as well as other parts of the world. It was a good reminder of how, in my opinion, diamonds are one of the biggest lies we’ve been sold in the past 70 years. They’re not rare at all, but rather common, and it’s the diamond companies who make them rare by hording them away in their vaults and market them as rare and precious in our magazines and TVs.
There are many other movies that point out what our Western consumerism is doing to the rest of the world. Between our need for precious ores and stones to our need for oil. Everything we do has global impact. Everything we buy and throw away has global impact. Whether it’s diamonds or plastics, it impacts the world in ways that we may never see if we don’t travel and see it.
You may never see the plastic island in the Pacific or the beaches throughout the Pacific and Indian Ocean islands littered with trash and plastic. You may never see the wildlife that is being destroyed or the fish that are dwindling because of our god given right to have as many children as we want. As long as we have enough money to support them and feed them, that’s all that matters. Right? Maybe not completely right. On a global level their consumerism is adding to the problem. We can all do better by looking at our consumption and trying to figure out which things we could do without through minimalism. It’s not just about simplifying our lives, but also about helping the world.
I’m sure there are many other things that my travel has taught me that I may keep discovering for years to come. My mind has been opened to new ways of seeing things and doing things and I’m sure that when I return home I’ll start seeing things and learning things there with my new perspective.
I once learned of an NGO (non-profit), operating in Haiti, who was trying to make a difference. They offered something called Transformational Travel to their patrons. Essentially, you travel to Haiti, see the poverty and need there, especially compared to your luxurious life, and you become transformed or changed to the point where you will reach into your pocket and support their organization. What a concept.
I would like to suggest that transformation through travel happens everywhere you travel if you let it. It will transform your perspective and your outlook for the rest of your life. Just like Mark Twain said it would.
We left this morning from Ahaca Island, Mozambique, and we have a 36 hour run ahead of us. We’re trying to get to Richard’s Bay, South Africa, before the next storm hits. We wanted to go all the way to Durban, but it’s looking like there’s another storm coming in on Sunday night.
Thanks for following my journey. Please subscribe by email below or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter by looking for Living Large by Living Little.