Years ago, travelling was something reserved for the rich and privileged. The majority of people never left the town in which they were born. They left school in their mid-teens, got a job in the local factory and settled down, had kids and grew old in a house 50 yards from their parents. People would say that they would love to travel, but ultimately this dream was just not possible.
Today we are living in an age of budget holidays and cheap flights (until flight tax goes up to astronomical levels shortly) where when people say that they would love to travel, it is not a dream but a real possibility. In spite of this, most people still never leave the town in which they are born, get a job in the local factory, have kids and grow old in a house 50 yards from their parents. People talk a big game but when it comes to the crunch, they are not prepared put their money where their mouth is and take the plunge.In part this is for their own personal enjoyment, but also for the good of the human race. This is why.
One of the great pleasures of travelling is learning about the lives of people from different cultures to your own. People from different cultures are not inherently more interesting than people from familiar ones. I found the culture and traditions of the Masai to be fascinating, but to someone who grew up within that culture it is the norm. Although it may sometimes seem from watching the news that differences in religion and culture are at the root of the worlds problems, this is only half the story. These wars and racial tensions are caused by ignorance, lack of education (proper education, not the thinly veiled indoctrination peddled by many religions) and most importantly a lack of integration between different groups.
On an individual level, people get along. We all laugh at the same things, cry for the same reasons and share the same drives to better ourselves. As a result, no matter where you go in the world, people are friendly and eager to hear about your life and to tell you about theirs. Anywhere you go, people want to laugh with you, share their experiences with you, hear about your experiences and sell you things. These are the universal drives of the human race. I cannot count the number of times that I have heard the phrase, “We hate the English, but you are O.K.” in Ireland, Australia and numerous other countries. This is not because I am an exceptionally likeable Englishman, but because these people do not really hate the English. They hate the idea of the English which is a very different thing. They dislike British foreign policies past and present. They hate the British imperialism which in reality had almost completely died out by the outbreak of the First World War. They hate the half-formed stereotype of the English that they have drawn from their limited experience of them.
If we all travelled, learnt from other cultures, integrated with them and learnt to accept one another, as we instinctively do as human beings, then a great deal of conflict could be avoided. Every war ever fought has been caused by a person or group of people in a position of power, projecting their own perceived prejudices onto a race of people. If you look at these situations objectively then the idea of pigeon-holing an entire race, nationality, tribe or group into a neat stereotype is simply ludicrous.
Was every German in the 1930’s and 40’s a bloodthirsty, antisemitic bigot? Is every Muslim an extremist? Of course not. These are stereotypes projected onto these people by societies and governments with their own agendas and prejudices. Unfortunately the little guy’s like us, the regular people making their way in the world are fed these stereotypes through the media and without personal experience of these cultures we are swept along by the propaganda with which we are bombarded.
With a broader personal experience of the world, none of us would fall into this trap and those people that are pushing these points of view onto us would lose their power. The Taliban would dwindle and disappear as people realised that there are different ways to live your life. The atrocities of the second world war could have been avoided if the German populace had realised that pinning their social problems on the Jews was an overly simplistic and utterly ridiculous thing to do. The world as a whole would become a much better and more tolerant place.
Over the last few decades, the word has been moving swiftly away from the nationalistic tribalism that has defined the human race for centuries towards a united, global identity. This is in no small part thanks to the ability of people to draw their own conclusions about one another based on personal experience and not the nonsensical, sweeping generalisations fed to us by the power brokers of the world. National economies are now inextricably linked and the prosperity of one nation can be tied to that of many others. This economic synergy is blazing a trail for the nations of the world to follow suit. Organisations such as the United Nations and the European Union, although not without their problems, are leading the way to a global identity which could only have been dreamt of 100 years ago and this can only be a good thing.
So even if you do choose to live in the town you were born in, get a job in the local factory, have kids and grow old 50 yards from your parents house, make sure you get out there and see the world. Talk to people from distant lands with wildly different beliefs and attitudes to your own. You might just find that we are not so very different after all.