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Promoting Peace through Travel ~ mere wishful thinking?

July 10, 2009

By Dian Hasan | July 10, 2009

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Global Traveler and an African Hut. How much good can modern travel bring? Photo:

With change spreading across the globe at lightning speed, exchange of information at nanoseconds, as the words “internet”, “email”, “blogging”, and “SMS texting” enters the vocabulary of local languages faster than imaginable, one human trait becomes a constant: the yearn for traveling. The act of travel is among the most democratic and egalitarian notions of mankind. And as the divide between world’s “have-more” and “have-less” becomes accentuated – in a digital perspective of connectivity – I can’t help but wonder what positive change the world’s travelers can bring to those less fortunate. After all, the vast majority of mankind still survives on a measly $1 a day, and these countries are the same travel destinations that beckons the “modern man” to visit, drawn by the promise of an “exotic experience”. Essentially any travel experience that is different and unique. But there is hope, as shown by organizations such as International Institute for Peace Through Tourism, whose name stands for exactly the seemingly impossible mission. I’ve borrowed a beautiful write up that I came across in their website. For your reading and thought-digestive pleasure. Enjoy

As the technology of travel grows ever more refined, the world grows smaller. Whereas a journey of a hundred miles once took many days, we can now travel across the globe in mere hours. The four corners of the earth are accessible by plane, train, and ship, and there are few pleasures in life as soul-stirring and transformative as travel. In a new land, the simplest of joys can be profound-meditation takes on a new quality because the energy in which we are immersed is unfamiliar. Our sensory experiences are entirely novel. Yet the relative ease with which we can step out of our own culture in order to explore another means that we are ambassadors representing not only our own way of life but also the culture of the traveler. As a conscious citizen of the world, you can add value to the locales you visit while simultaneously broadening your own perspective.

A truly aware traveler sees each new journey as an opportunity to improve international relations, spread goodness, and gain a greater understanding of humanity. To immerse yourself in foreign cultures is to open your mind to fresh ways of being. Your natural curiosity can help you navigate the subtleties that define a culture. While you may not agree with all the traditions or laws of a country, abiding by them demonstrates that you understand and respect their value. Staying centered in another culture is often simply a matter of learning about your destination, being patient with yourself and others, and accepting that people may treat you as an example of your country’s attitudes. New worlds will open to you when you take part in the everyday life of a locale-the reality of a destination is in its markets, its streets, and its people.

Traveling presents a wonderful opportunity to practice being open-minded and grounded. The voyages you make help cultivate a worldwide community in which we as humans can acknowledge and appreciate our differences as much as we recognize and appreciate our similarities. Though you will eventually return home, the positive impression you leave behind will remain as a testament to the respect and amicability that marked your intercultural interactions.

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