Friday, July 13, 2012
Spin a globe, point at a map; now wherever you're pointing (unless its an ocean in which case do it again), chances are there are people there who have a distinct appearance, language, and culture. For those of you who have traveled out of the country (cruises and resorts don't count) you are probably already nodding your head in agreement. Growing up in the United States we tend to develop an attitude of superiority and feel as if the whole world should just speak English and watch one of the "Big Four" Sports. However, the reality is much different; the world is comprised of individuals, just like yourself, who seek to do the same things you do in life like find their place in society, find love, and raise a family (or none of those if that is what you prefer). Traveling is a truly eye-opening experience and can provide you with some valuable lessons in history, culture, and can serve to humble you.
The history of modern civilization in North America extends back to the Spanish exploration of the "New World," with the oldest settlement in the United States being St. Augustine in Northeast Florida. The history of modern civilization in Europe though, extends back to, let's say, the Minoans and Mycenae at approximately 2700 BCE. This means that when traveling Europe, you have the opportunity to visit sites of civilizations that flourished thousands of years ago. For example, in Spain, you can visit numerous Roman ruins and even view old Roman cities such as Cordoba, which still have a number of Roman architecture still standing. This is an opportunity to feel the magnitude and longevity of humanity and serves as a lesson in the rise and fall of civilizations.
A result of the long history of many parts of the world (we will continue to use Europe as an example), is that they have a unique history, outlook, and language that combines to create cultures very different than our own. Culture is one of the most interesting aspects of travel, as it gives you a very different perspective on life than the materialistic, "success at all costs" mentality often found in the United States. Across the globe you will find cultures in which men live at home until their late 20's, social life is found in the streets, the future is behind you unseen while the past is in front of you clear as day, and language in which the context and perspective of words lead to a different view on life. Learning about another culture is an invaluable lesson that can lead to more understanding from both yourself and the people you learn from and can lead, to in my opinion a more understanding world.
Upon traveling to other places and learning about their history and culture, you will find yourself realizing the gravity of reality. That is to say, humans are humans everywhere, the only difference is the way in which we see the world. Hopefully, upon this realization you will be humbled and realize that this even applies to the people you meet every day; that is to say, the culture they grew up in affects their view on the world and explains the decisions they make much as the culture you were raised in affects the way you see the world.
In a world of unprecedented technology, globalization, economic failure, and social woes, we find ourselves at a turning point in time in which understanding each other is more important than ever to the success of the human race. We have the ability to communicate and do business instantaneously with people around the globe, an opportunity that previous generations could not even fathom. Let us then remember the opportunity there is in traveling to learn about various histories and cultures and let us be humbled to the point where world peace is not merely a fool's dream, but a reality. So get out there, travel the world, meet some cool people, and become a citizen of the world, not just a citizen of your own biases.