Do You Know The Travel Has Become Much Easier Now

When I overcame a flying pho­bia, I resolved to make up for lost time by visiting as much of the world as I could.

So in the course of a decade, I logged over 300,000 miles, flying everywhere from Buenos Aires to Dubai.

I knew intuitively that my travels would “make me a better person” and “broaden my horizon,” as the clichés have it. But I’ve come to believe that travel can, and should, be more than a hobby, luxury or form of leisure. It is a fundamental com­ponent of being a humanist.

At its core, humanism is about explor­ing and debating the vital ideas that make us who we are. We study music, film, art and literature to do just that. And while it’s important to explore these ideas in our own communities, people and places that are not like us have a role to play that’s just as crucial.

This is where travel comes in. It’s what sent me packing to see some of the places I have spent so long reading about. And it’s what compelled me to write The Importance of Elsewhere: The Globalist Humanist Tourist, in which I wanted to make a case for a new approach to travel.

The imperialist tourist

In academia, travel studies have long looked at the intersection between impe­rialism and tourism, describing how they flourish in tandem.

From the 16th to 19th centuries, Euro­pean empires gobbled up territories around the world, planting their flags and building embassies, banks, hotels and roads. Impe­rialists traveled to collect cinnamon, silk, rubber and ivory, using them, upon return­ing home, for pleasure and profit.

The golden age of travel roughly coin­cided with that period. Not long after the military and commercial incursions be­gan, tourists followed imperialists to these far-flung locales.

Both tourism and imperialism in­volved voyages of discovery, and both tended to leave the people who were “dis­covered” worse off than they had been be­fore the encounters.

Globalism’s impact on the way we travel

Over the last century, globalism – a vast and daunting concept of transnation­al corporate and bureaucratic systems – has replaced imperialism as the dominant network of international relations.

Globalism can be overwhelming: it involves billions of people, trillions of dol­lars, innumerable inventories of goods, all ensconced in a technocratic vocabulary of geopolitics and multinationalism that’s anathema to those of us who approach the world on a more human scale.

It has also made travel much easier. There are more airplane routes, more ATMs on every corner and international cellphone service. You can travel else­where without ever leaving the comfort­ing familiarities of home, with McDon­ald’s, Dunkin Donuts and Holiday Inns now dotting the globe.

But why bother traveling if you want familiar comforts?

I would argue that we need a new trav­el guide that acknowledges the sweeping interconnectedness of globalism, but bal­ances this with a humanist mindset.

Because beneath the innocuous activi­ties of visiting cathedrals, lounging on the beach and collecting souvenirs, travelers can still harbor selfish, exploitative desires and exhibit a sense of entitlement that re­sembles imperial incursions of yesteryear.

In a way, globalism has also made it easier to slip into the old imperialist im­pulse to come with power and leave with booty; to set up outposts of our own cul­ture; and to take pictures denoting the strangeness of the places we visit, an en­terprise that, for some, confirms the supe­riority of home.

The right way to be a tourist

Humanism, however, is proximate, inti­mate, local. Traveling as a humanist restores our identity and independence, and helps us resist the overwhelming forces of globalism.

There’s nothing wrong with going to see the Colosseum or the Taj Mahal. Sure, you can take all the same photos that have already been taken at all the usual tourist traps, or stand in long lines to see Shake­speare’s and Dante’s birthplaces (which are of dubious authenticity).

But don’t just do that. Sit around and watch people. Get lost. Give yourself over to the mood, the pace, the spirit of else­where. Obviously you will eat new and interesting foods, but think of other ways, too, of tasting and “ingesting” the culture of elsewhere, of adapting to different hab­its and styles. These are the things that will change you more than the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Psychologists have found that the more countries you visit, the more trust­ing you’ll be – and that “those who visited places less similar to their homeland be­came more trusting than those who visited places more similar to their homeland.” Immersion in foreign places boosts creativ­ity, and having more diverse experiences makes people’s minds more flexible.

With the products and conveniences of globalism touching most parts of the world, it simply takes more of a conscious effort to truly immerse yourself in some­thing foreign.

My own empathy, creativity and flex­ibility have been immeasurably enhanced by such strange and fascinating destina­tions as a Monty Python conference in Lodz, Poland; a remoteness seminar near the North Pole; a boredom conference in Warsaw; Copenhagen’s queer film festi­val; Berlin’s deconstructed Nazi airport; a workshop in Baghdad on getting academ­ics up to speed after Iraq’s destruction; and an encounter as an ecotourist with Tierra del Fuego’s penguins.

There’s an especially vital argument to make for travel in these fractious times of far-right ideologies and crumbling in­ternational alliances, burgeoning racism and xenophobia. The world seems as if it’s becoming less open.

A trip is the greatest chance you’ll ever have to learn about things you don’t experience at home, to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise encounter. You’ll probably find that, in many important ways, they are the same as you – which, in the end, is the point of doing all this.

Humanists know that our copious in­sights and deliberations – about identity, emotions, ethics, conflict and existence – flourish best when the world is our oys­ter. They dissipate in the echo chamber of isolationism.

Source: The Conversation

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