The world news has been catching my attention lately in a way that it hasn’t in the past. Seeing coverage of the election of the new Pope at the Vatican a few months back, and the details of the escalating instability in North Korea made me think of my recent visits to these places.
Both of these recent events really brought home how much travel has changed my perspective on the world. The world feels like a smaller place, where tensions or joys on the other side of the globe have the potential to impact my daily existence. Before traveling outside of the country, these things would have seemed more trivial and distant to me. Now, I care. Now, I get it.
When I hear about the uncertainty in North Korea, I can picture the faces of the kind people in South Korea who are understandably worried about any instability from their neighbors in the north.
I can remember the tension and worry that I could feel in daily life there, lying just underneath the surface, and the sadness that comes from living in a relatively recently divided country where many people still have relatives that are on the other side that they might never see again.
The Vatican to me is not just some place that I see occasionally on the television news. I can remember that moment of awe when we walked into St. Peter’s Square on our first big international trip when I had to take a deep breath and think, “Wow, we are really here!” Being in this awe inspiring place gave me a different type of appreciation for the Catholic faith and the influence that it has with its millions of followers.
I do realize that I have been truly blessed in my life to have had the opportunity to spend so much time traveling the world. I just wish that everyone could have the opportunity to experience the magic of learning about another culture through the lens of travel.
What travel has taught me is that as a global community, we are all more alike than we are different. Despite differences in DNA and geography the basic realities of daily life on this planet as a human beings tie us together. When you break it down, we all have similar needs, hopes, disappointments.
When you are in a foreign place, and you really make a connection with someone different than you, it can be a life changing experience.
It might be a moment where you are in a restaurant and a helpful local sees the confused look on your face and they help you order off of a strange menu, or in a subway station where a stranger points you in the right direction.
In that moment, as you share a smile, you make eye contact and you realize that even though you might not speak the same language, you really are more alike than you are different.
It is these moments that I remember from our travels moreso than the incredible places that we have seen.
If everybody could learn this lesson in the way that only travel can give it, I think that the world might be a more peaceful place.
Travel and world peace? I think so.