I believe travel makes the world a better place. Not just any kind of travel, though – accessible travel, the kind we can all do.
It’s no secret that traveling makes us better: at a very minimum, it forces us to step outside of our comfort zones and grow as humans. Most of us accept that getting a new perspective on the world helps us become more open.
Many of you regular readers of The LITMO Life know that I’m not just a fan of traveling for traveling’s sake, I’m also a fan of changing the world. I believe there’s no greater purpose than trying to make the world better with every decision we make – and therefore, no greater joy. I took off on this journey of travel not only to see the world, but also to find my place in it and I didn’t know much when I left – other than that I’ve always been determined to find a way to change the world.
Although I wished when I was younger that I could be singularly focused on a particular issue (animal rights, women’s equality, LGBTQ issues, racism, gun control, mental health – the list goes on), it was only because I believed I couldn’t be an effective advocate without that focus. The truth is, I’ve written on so many of these issues because I care about all of them and I don’t think we can change the world in isolation. Of course, I believe there are some greater injustices in the world than others, but at the end of the day, I also believe changing the world happens when we start internalizing that all of these issues matter to everyone. I shouldn’t care about women’s rights because I’m a woman, I should care because I’m a human. Similarly, I’m not black, I’m not gay, and I’m not a furry animal, but I will shout my support and advocate for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, LGBTQ equality, and veganism until the day I die – because those issues contribute to our broken world and those that can feel pain can feel pain – whether it’s economic, societal, physical or otherwise.
I’ve realized now, though, that I’ll never be the person that can only focus on one thing – it’s just not who I am. I’ve also realized that traveling isn’t just about making us better people, it’s about making the world better.
The important point, though, is that I don’t believe all kinds of travel contribute to the world. In fact, I think a lot of “traditional” luxury travel is actually really bad for the world. Spending thousands of dollars on a flight and then a resort hotel that you don’t leave won’t help you see the world, it’ll just help you get drunk in another locale. Luxury travel has the potential to exploit local cultures for capitalism and encourage bad behavior from wealthy travelers.
Accessible travel, though – the kind where you stay in local accommodations, contribute to the economy of the place you are visiting, and are truly open to learning everything – can make the world a better place.
1. It introduces people who may never have met otherwise.
This isn’t rocket science: when people travel, they meet other people they may never have come in contact with otherwise. And that’s important: just the simple act of meeting someone whose life looks very different from your own can help the world feel smaller. When the world starts to feel smaller to individuals, those individuals are more likely to champion causes that benefit those outside of their normal “life bubble.” Travel is invaluable in making these connections happen.
2. It forces people to self-analyze.
When you’re traveling and you don’t have access to your friends or your social media opinion echo chamber or even your favorite expensive latte, you’re forced not only to see the world differently – you’re forced to see yourself differently. So many of the problems we have in the world today are because each of us can’t be bothered to step outside of our individual boxes and realize that we, too, may contribute negativity to the world. Traveling forces you to look at yourself and see your own flaws. Once you see them, you can then fix them.
3. It can unearth non-traditional solutions to societal problems.
Just like we’re often stuck in personal echo chambers, we’re also often stuck in societal echo chambers. The same solutions to problems are often discussed again and again – and those conversations revolve around why we can’t effectively implement solutions, not necessarily whether there may be other solutions we aren’t considering. For example: climate change. What if you were a staunch meat-eater and you visited a country where animals were revered – not because of any religious or philosophical reasons – but because of how they contributed to local ecosystems? It would, at the very least, force you to momentarily reconsider your everyday thoughts.
4. It contributes to personal happiness.
I’m not someone that believes that we should all be running ourselves ragged for our “causes.” In fact, I believe the opposite: that we can’t effectively care for others unless we care for ourselves. I don’t believe in being a workaholic that lets everything else go to hell: personal health, familial ties, interpersonal relationships. Before we can make others happy, we have to get happy. Travel, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, contributes to that.
5. It helps stories get told.
Meeting others is great – telling others’ stories is even better. Although I appreciate the moments where I’ve met someone that helps me rethink my own life, I appreciate it even more when I get to tell their story. We’re not all going to be able to travel everywhere, so sometimes, the clearest way travel makes the world a better place is that it helps us tell each other’s stories – and keeps us thinking about new perspectives.
6. It encourages out-of-the-box thinking.
There’s nothing like being trapped in a location with nothing but your wits and a few basic tools to help you figure your way out of a situation if you need to. Without access to our everyday material possessions, we start to think non-traditionally about other things: love, relationships, children, work, money. There’s nothing to stagnate progress like traditional, linear thinking. Travel helps us escape this.
7. It fosters trust.
Staying in our hometowns can lead to a situation where we trust those we know – and that’s it. I’m not advocating blindly trusting everyone we ever meet, but I do believe travel helps open us up to trusting others that may not look or act like us. When we trust others, we’re more likely to treat them with empathy and respect.
For most of us, the act of traveling isn’t normally the end goal. It’s to experience more or live more or love more. For me – and I suspect, for many of you – it’s a way to help figure out how best to change the world and make it a better place.
What are some ways you think travel can help change the world?