I love travel. It’s given me everything I have: A pinch of success, some true friends, and a lack of significant savings. Most of all, it’s given me what I like to call “a well of experiences” — a reservoir filled with stories to trot out at parties and teachable moments that shaped me into something approaching a human grown up. I didn’t go to war, have a child in my early 20s, or experience a significant trauma. It took travel to propell me toward adulthood.
I say all that to add texture to this statement: No matter how upside-down our world seems, we must keep traveling.
Yes, we live in an era of government-sponsored travel bans and blatant racism — both horrible (I can’t believe I have to note that, but feel compelled) — but we also live in a time of sneaky nationalism, hipster localism, and groupthink xenophobia. Across the political spectrum, divisiveness seems baked into our cultural discourse. The chasms that separate us are no deeper than they once were; in fact, we’re brought closer through tech, the universe’s gradual arc toward equality, and the fact that flying is cheaper than ever before in history. But lately those chasms feel nigh uncrossable.
We need travel. We need it to remind us that humans are beautifully different while remaining essentially the same. We need it to help us grow and evolve — both as distinct cultures and as a human family. To offer new inputs and teach us to think for ourselves. In a way, travel is the anti-social media. It encourages depth. It’s not naturally reactionary and doesn’t lend itself to outrage. On the road, unlike online, we can fumble and fall and even accidentally offend others… then learn from our mistakes and move on.
Thank god. Because what the world needs now is compassion, patience, and a willingness to give people the benefit of the doubt — and these, above all things, are travel’s strong suits.