Mark Twain wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” Our greatest author was pontificating wisely in the second-to-last sentence of The Innocents Abroad — his tome about traveling Europe and the Holy Land in 1867. He’s right, of course. Travel is good. It has the power to break down our most toxic ideas and open our minds to “the other.” It squashes fear.
Today, we have the science to back up Twain’s proclamation. A travel group studied thousands of people across the world and found that “traveling has given them a more positive view on people from the countries they have visited, other cultures in general and on differences and diversity.” So strong is the power of travel that even the Chinese and Vietnamese are healing the deep scars from their recent past simply because they have started traveling as tourists to each other’s countries.
Expedia is no stranger to travel and tear-jerker travel ads. Their latest ad asks “why do we travel?” and “who do we become?” Some of us just have a lust to wander that’s insatiable, and Twain and science seem to agree that the travel we do makes us better people. It’s what we find out in the world and how we react to it that matters. It’s how travel changes the way we view our own homes.
In this new era of nationalism and isolationism, Twain’s last sentence of The Innocents Abroad rings louder today than ever. “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”