Mark Twain once said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Bold statement, no?
You may be wondering, what the hell does that have to do with happiness? He didn’t mention the words happy or happiness once.
No. He didn’t.
I believe that within this statement, Mark Twain has laid out a key step in recognizing a greater sense of community, understanding, and togetherness within this post. Qualities that when realized will ultimately make us happier as we grow a greater sense of our place within this world and our relationship with all of Humanity.
Rather than fearing or mistrusting one another because their skin is a different color, they call god a different name, they have different sexual preferences, or because they live over there and we live here, we will realize that we have more in common than we think, which will foster a heightened sense of global happiness.
Xenophobia is unfortunately as alive and well today as it was in the 1800s when Mark Twain wrote the opening quote I used for this post. The media thrives on our fear of Others, anyone who isn’t like us, and they hammer us again and again with terrifying stories about how people from this place cant be trusted because they have a different religion, or that they want to destroy us because they envy us and our way of life. I am sure whoever “they” is, that their media inevitably tells similar stories about us, whomever “us” happens to be. The media thrives on this fear to sell headlines.
Politicians will use fear of others to drive their own personal agendas, weaving lies into the thread of public opinion, and assuming that we wont be able to notice because we simply don’t know any better.
This is precisely where travel comes in. If you have the opportunity to see a new place, especially a foreign country, you will be blessed with an experience that make you wiser, fatally destroying any previous sense of prejudice, bigotry, or narrow-mindedness that you may have had.
Chances are is that you will realize that almost none, if any, of the terrible things you have been lead to believe are true. In fact, you will likely be amazed at the similarities that you will realize with your fellow humans. For one, we all share a love of food. Probably my favorite universal experience I get to enjoy whenever I have been lucky enough to travel abroad, is sharing a meal comprised of the local fare with bona fide locals and to try and live a bit as they do.
You will also come to realize that they share the same values by and large. They may speak a different language, or worship differently, but beneath that thin veil they enjoy the love of their families, good times spent laughing with friends, being silly, and just generally existing in happiness together.
Sure you may find pockets where the worst of what the media says may in deed resemble the truth, but while the media wants you to believe that such circumstances are indicative of an entire nation or people, when in fact it represents only the smallest fraction of the most extreme outliers.
Take Iran for example, a country whom according to American politicians represents the axis of evil. Sure you may be able to find a radical mosque somewhere outside of Tehran where the locals chant “death to America!” but I could just as easily find some mega-church here in the United States where the members pray for the destruction of the Iranian people, and I would no more want that to be a representation of my country than any normal Iranian would theirs. In both situations you see extremely misguided individuals being deceived by those who would bastardize their respective religions in an effort to exert influence, both of which would be completely failing to deliver the true message of their respective founders: Jesus Christ and the Prophet Mohammed.
|We are all different pieces to the same puzzle|
If the average Iranian and the Average American had the chance to meet they would come to realize they share more in common and that neither one wishes harm upon the other. This would be the same of people from any country. Once you have the chance to see the place and meet the people and truly get to know them rather than view them as some abstract notion over there, out of sight, you realize that we are all one common humanity and that we should rejoice in happiness that we share this world together.
This of course says nothing about the breath-taking sights, crazy adventures, and marvelous works of human construction that you will be able to experience first hand. I think though that the greatest experience of travel is exactly what Mark Twain said. I think it is impossible to hold a negative view of a race of peoples or a place once you have met them first hand. Until then you may harbor some false notions of their inferiority or wickedness, but this is quickly dispelled with the blessing of travel.
If for some reason your experience isn’t that great, I find that at the very least you are a better person for having had the experience, and you should be happy in the knowledge that you have grown as a person and in your worldliness.
The lack of international and even domestic travel options right now, as the world continues to struggle with corona virus, makes this hard. I look forward to many more international journeys in the days to come, and I look forward to meeting more and more people of the world, discovering one another, and learning to be happy together as one humanity.