“Nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly
instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact
with many kinds of people.”
Can you give your family, your friends and yourself any opportunity which offers more open-ended discovery than travel?
Travel gives you new knowledge which you cannot obtain by staying home.
- You can only get visceral knowledge of oceans by being in them. How else would you know in your toes and limbs that an ocean can be bathtub warm or so cold that, after a few minutes, your senses can’t really tell how cold it is?
- How else would you take into your mind just how long it takes to cross the Atlantic Ocean at surface level? Jet flights telescope travel time until it doesn’t make sense; it means no more than Monopoly money. But steaming across the waters at 26 knots, hour after hour, gives a different meaning to the project.
Some things just have to be seen. A friend who grew up in Kansas thought that palm trees were just an artist’s fantasy until she saw and touched a real one in California. Imagine if she had never left Kansas!
Travel teaches you what it feels like to live in different places.
- How “close” is the humidity in the Amazon rainforest?
- How hot and how dry is the desert?
- What does a brisk walk require of a flatlander at 12,000 feet? (And how soon can she stop gasping for breath?)
- What is an oxygen deprivation headache?
- What feels different when the sun only peeks above the horizon briefly for a few hours – or when the sun is in its early evening position at 11 PM?
When the sun casts shadows from the north rather than the south, and when the Big Dipper is nowhere in sight but you can see the Southern Cross, something happens in your internal orientation. YOU have changed places and have seen the world from a new vantage point.
Just as your senses help you gain a new perspective on what life feels like in different parts of the world, your mind will probably be taking in fresh insights into the way life is lived in these same places. Is life noisy or nearly silent? Do the sounds come from abundant wildlife, from machines, or from people? Are people crowded together or far apart? Are people happy? Are they connected, separated, isolated?
With each detail that you notice about the earth and its people in an unfamiliar place, there is a chance that you will learn something new about life there – and about all human life. With that knowledge come understanding and acceptance of why people there think and feel the way they do. You might not agree with them but it is more likely that you can appreciate their worldview.
And that can go a long way toward peace.
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
29 August 2013