Why Travel is Important to Americans Today
There is an epidemic in America today. It affects more than half of our entire population and has no preference for race, gender, or age. It does nothing but destroy and cause destruction to our country and communities. Yet many who have it do not even realize it. It is highly infectious, especially in large groups. And sadly, it has become such a part of our daily lives that us as Americans think there is nothing we can do about it. What could something so large and expansive possibly be? It is not a disease or a pathogen, nor is it the obesity and fast food epidemics that also grip our country. It is, in fact, ignorance.
You have heard the word used so many times in our time that is seems to have lost its meaning. Some seems to think that ignorance is deliberately refusing to believe information that is presented to them. However, the most accurate and simple definition comes straight form the dictionary, “ignorance- a lack of knowledge or information,” (Webster). To truly understand this concept and know how to fix it, the American population must first know about the very sickness that “infects” many of us and our peers.
Ignorance has many forms, too many to count if you ask me. There is racism, sexism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, age-related intolerance, arrogance, pride, etc. All of these and more could be treated or even preventable given that the individual has proper knowledge and learning of what is wrong with his/her belief and viewpoints form the other side. Know you might be asking, how in the world does travel have anything to do with this?
I have, for a very long time now, wished to travel to a different country (preferable an impoverished one). The amount of privilege we and other 1st world countries have is often lost to our eyes through our ignorance. I cannot count how many times I have heard of someone who went on a missions trip or left to go build bridges in a 3rd world country and came back saying, “I cannot believe how lucky I am to have received all these things”. If we as a generation could all at one point travel to countries like these and witness how they live, I strongly believe it would shift the tide in our county towards acceptance and lessen the amount of bickering and hatred that seems to cover the news 24/7.
As students, we need to travel at some point in our studies. This should not be a maybe, or be subject to how much money is available. There should be funding and scholarships for students who take their academic pursuits seriously to travel abroad and see how other cultures live, speak, and go about their daily lives. These are concepts that are often beyond us as Americans, because we only see them on television. They seem too far and distant for us to even imagine how it must feel to be in their shoes. Different countries also teach in different manners, and I think we can all agree by now that dealing with diversity is one of the most important aspects to learn if one is to be successful in college and the work force. To be immersed in a culture that you are unfamiliar with, and to push yourself outside of your comfort zone will put you in a position that will elevate you above your classmates tenfold.
There are many ways one can go about traveling and studying abroad. My sister for example, took a job as a teacher’s assistant in the TAPIF program in France. She plans on being able to teach English students French for a living. But why wouldn’t she take a job in America doing what she would do for the rest of her career? Because she realized that in order to fully understand the culture and the language of the French people, she needed to be completely immerse din it. One foot in and one foot out will only leave you half as good in both fields and deeply disappointed in the end. Higher studies require higher levels of thinking, and no one is able to accomplish that on their own. In order to succeed, you need to have experience in both your field and diversity. No one is going to be exactly like you in the work force, and often times you will encounter individuals who rub you the wrong way. The key to success in these situations is learning to compromise and get past differences, and there is no better preparation for this than international travel.
After studying abroad comes missions and community work. These are often seen just as good community service hours or a way to boost your resume when applying to colleges and the work force. But one must look past these simplistic objectives and seek to get everything they can out of these opportunities. One must attempt to become a more intelligent and experienced individual through travel and personal connection with people who have lived different lives and who work in different fields than you. I see these as more potentially rewarding experiences, as you have to put all your effort into improving others’ lives, and in the process, improve yourself.
My suggestion for both High Schools and college student would be that you take at least 1 missions trip and 1 semester abroad during your academic studies with their quality luggage set. These both serve different purposes but in the end, make you a more well-rounded and diverse member of society. The battle against ignorance in our country is not as hard as some may make it out to be, it just requires us to step out of our comfort zones and take a leap of faith. I trust that this generation can overcome the insurmountable odds that face us in the coming years, and one of the principle parts of that is experiencing other cultures and societies. Textbooks and videos do not do it justice, as true diversity and compassion for others is a beautiful thing.
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