I hope you enjoyed reading part 1 on the first two life lessons learned through travel. Here are three more for you to ponder.
Our worldviews are highly shaped by our immediate surroundings
Ok, this sounds obvious. But I never realized HOW differently where you’re from colors your perspective until I traveled more. I think it’s something like this – when we are babies and start to become culturally aware, we are given some filters to view the world with. Our filters are specific to where we are born, who our parents are, our economic situation, etc. So, I had a Texas filter, and an immigrant parent filter, and a middle-class filter, and a highly educated filter. And unless I try really hard, I can only see the world through those filters.
But someone from Ukraine might have a Ukraine filter, a USSR filter, a Jewish in a country where Jews were persecuted filter, a refugee filter, and more. Unless he tries really hard, he can only see the world through his filter.
I spent a month recently traveling through Central Asia (Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan). I showed up there with my capitalism filter screwed on tight and thought, well since these countries aren’t in the USSR anymore they must have capitalism filters now too! How wonderful…
It took me quite awhile to really listen and start to understand others’ point of view. Many older people really missed the opportunities the communist system provided them (like free education and healthcare), and to them those benefits outweighed the negatives. This trip really helped me to realize that different beliefs aren’t always “right” or “wrong,” they’re usually just viewed through completely different life filters.
All people inherently want the same things
It turns out that people who travel broadly (i.e. visiting a higher number of different places) are more trusting and therefore tolerant. Interacting with people from many different cultures teaches us that for the most part, all people want the same basic things.
On my trip to Iran, the best part of the experience was meeting interesting people and making friends. While many Westerners considered Iran the “axis of evil,” I was out meeting people who cared deeply about their families, wanted to make better lives for themselves, wanted to be good examples for their children, wanted to spend time with friends over good food, etc. Same thing in Peru, Singapore, Tajikistan, Germany, and so on. We may not always approach achieving these things in the same way, but the underlying desire is the same.
In today’s world people seem so divided on surface level issues. The life lesson I’ve taken away from this realization is that those of us who have traveled the world and seen past these surface level differences can really be ambassadors for tolerance. Even just through sharing how our trips were, and making friends in different destinations – hopefully our actions can have ripple effects.
Traveling is a kind of spirituality
Ok, I’m not (yet) a very spiritual person so this may be a bit amateur for those of you who are! But it occurs to me that very often our daily lives seem huge to us, like… the dog won’t behave and it is THE biggest issue of the week. Or we’re super worried about work, or another major life event. These issues become life sized for us and take up the entire frame of our being.
Traveling is an excellent way to feel small. When putting yourself out into the wider world you realize what a tiny part of it you actually are. Feeling small can help shrink your problems back to normal size, and put your life in perspective. It can help you feel humbled, grateful for what you have, and more empathetic.
It also allows you a path to feel connected to other living beings. You can meditate all you want and wish loving kindness on others but until you have actually met some of those others it’s pretty hard (for me at least) to visualize.
What other life lessons have you learned through travel? We’d love to hear – leave them in the comments below.