Traveling long term, opens up the world in so many unexpected ways.
You see the good, the bad, and the ugly of the places you travel and immerse yourself in, not just the shiny perfect tourist versions.
Borders between countries and cultures seem to vanish, and both the differences and the similarities become more clear.
You experience ‘holy shit the world is small’ moments like when you meet someone randomly somewhere and find out you have mutual acquaintances or you are from the same remote area back in the States (or wherever home is for you).
You experience the ‘oh my god the world is so vast and I have barely scratched the surface’ moments when you come into contact with people from places you’ve only heard vaguely referenced in books, or have seen on a globe but don’t know anything about.
Yet, it is also true that you can end up in potentially dangerous situations while traveling.
The world seems to become a more dangerous place every day (we are reminded of this every time we turn on the news and see another act of violence or enter an airport and are frisked by more and more security) it seems that many people feel it’s safer not to travel at all. At least not ‘right now’.
But. Does not traveling ‘right now’ really keep you any safer?
The only certainty is, is that not traveling will keep you from seeing the world and, in my opinion, from being part of the solution instead of part of the problem. With all of the ways that information is shared now, we know a lot about more about what is going on around the world than ever before. We see the wars, the bombings, the murders, the rapes, and the shootings that are happening in so many places, even in obscure areas.
Is more violence actually happening or are we just more aware of it now that we can all share information so much more easily? I tend to believe the latter. Violence has always existed, it has just taken different forms.
Fact: There are more people on the planet in 2015 than ever before in history. The world’s population is growing every day.
So, when statistics say that more people are dying from such and such cause than ever before the fact is, that is largely because there are more people on this earth than ever before.
For every statistic that shows something negative, there are that many or more that show something positive.
Like we are living longer lives. By decades.
Like there are more people beating cancer, than ever before (For example the survival rates for Leukemia patients have tripled over the past 40 years)
Like more women are working, voting, and living lives where they have actual control over their own destinies (and bodies) than ever before in history.
No matter how many decades or centuries pass, the world will never be a perfect place where nothing bad happens.
There will always be bad people. There will always be power struggles. There will always be natural disasters.
There will also always be good people. People who make the world a better place by spreading smiles and hope and generosity. There will always be natural beauty that inspires speechlessness, music, poetry….
There will always be the magic of something as simple as a sunny day on the beach with a loved one, that reminds you what a wonderful world it truly is.
My personal belief is that travel, and the cultural exchanges that happen between those who travel, is empowering and powerful. Travel is a catalyst for understanding the world we live in and one another.
But how do you put yourself out there and just trust people with so much going on out there in the world that makes you want to put your head in the sand and build a security wall around yourself?
Short Answer: Just do it. I have found throughout my life that the more I put myself out there and trust people the more amazing experiences I have.
In twelve years of traveling I have come across so many warm, generous, friendly and honest people.
Yes o.k. I’ve also met some assholes.
But, the few bad things are totally outweighed by the amazing stuff.
-Like the time I left my $1200 laptop with 10 years of my life on it, and not backed up anywhere else, in a taxi in Spain and…..wait for it…………I GOT IT BACK! Helpful Hint: ALWAYS USE A CREDIT CARD WHEN TAKING TAXIS AFTER DRINKING
– Like my time in Poland, where I was invited into people’s homes and lives and made to feel an absolutely wanted and valued guest (and offered food and drink constantly) even by strangers who I’d never met and who couldn’t really communicate with me using language
-Like the time a stranger bought me lunch on a train in France, when the train’s credit card machines were 15 years old and couldn’t process any non-French credit cards (the only time in France when my card hadn’t worked in a machine!). He didn’t bat an eyelash, just laughed and said ‘Please. Allow me. And please don’t tell your friends we are so out of date in France! It’s embarrassing!’
-Like my current experience here in Spain. After meeting a group of lovely Spanish women in an English immersion program, we have kept in touch and they continue to offer their valuable and limited time to show me around Madrid (and Spain), introduce me to friends, and help in so many ways. And all during the hectic Christmas season. (FYI This has made the difference between my being alone and lonely in a new city, and feeling comfortable)!
I could give a thousand more examples of the amazing people I’ve met, the generosity I’ve received, and the unforgettable and rewarding experiences I’ve had while traveling (and this includes my travels around California and the USA!). But I’ll stop here.
The fact is, this world is still a marvelously wonderful place, despite the bad stuff that has been happening.
Get out there and remind yourself of the good, and the bad won’t seem so insurmountable.