Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by
demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die,
it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand
each other, we may even become friends.
Maya Angelou

The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.
Rudyard Kipling

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.
Saint Augustine

All of these quotes share a certain vibe—that unless we get out there unless we meet new people, unless we learn about different cultures, then our “world view” stays small.  That’s important to note because a small world view can make people afraid of other people, other cultures, other countries.

A 2015 study found that Americans travel abroad far less than Europeans—by half!  And while the US ranks high as a must see destination for others, we count Great Britain and Austrailia as our highest must see for overseas travel.  I sense a pattern here, we want to go to other English speaking countries because Canada is one of the countries that we visit the most.  So when we leave the comforts of home, we prefer to go somewhere that has the same comforts.

According to a 2015 study, there are now a record number of passport holders in the US but the study attributes that increase to the changes in security when it comes to visiting Canada and Mexico.  Previously, passports were not required, but are now.  But that increase still only means that one-third of Americans have passports….what about the other two-thirds?

While I can’t claim that I stayed in Cuba (we went back to the cruise ship to sleep,) I can say that I’ve been on the streets and interacted with local Cubans.  I’m glad that our tours didn’t include modern Havana.  Glad because our tours took us to local neighborhoods where real Cubans live.  That will stay with me far longer than if we’d gone on a tour of modern Havana or to the Hemingway house.

And that is what’s most important.  Seeing real people, meeting real people where they live.  Talking to them about their lives.  What are their challenges? What are they proud of?  How do they live?  Only when we are talking to people will we be able to learn about them, find common ground and grow from our experiences.

That makes for a better, safer world for everyone.

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