Lately, the world being crazy and falling apart seems to be a common topic among my friends and family. It seems we’re all scared, confused, tired and fed up. Somehow, the best solution to so many seems to be to retreat into our homes and build walls to keep the outsiders out- anyone who looks different from us or acts different from us, we’re scared of. Ignorance is bliss, it seems, and we’re happy to contrive our own ignorance, even if it means blatantly ignoring what’s around us. I don’t know which way is right or wrong, or what the solution is; I can only speak for myself. So as for me, when sh*t hits the fan, when politicians start to get confusing and worthless, when bombs go off and innocent people lose their lives, I choose to travel in a world of uncertainty.
We only fear we what we don’t know
I’m sure there’s an evolutionary reason to fearing what we don’t understand ― but that’s exactly why I desperately want to get to know the world. Every single crevice of it, to a fault some might say. My uncle still loves telling the story of how he called me the day after the Nepal earthquake and asked me to go to Nepal with him. Little did I know he was a few cocktails in and feeling his heartstrings pulled at by a segment on CNN. But I said yes, and I was 100 percent serious. Within a few minutes I sent him info on flights and timing and organizations we can join forces with to help. It turned out, once he slept off the alcohol he thought it was a silly idea, but I on the other hand, stone cold sober, was completely serious about going. I’d never seen an earthquake, or felt the fear of having my home demolished by a massive force of nature, but I wanted to understand what it is, I wanted to look into the eyes of people who have felt it, I wanted to ask them a multitude of questions and then I wanted to help in any way I can.
Empathy is the only way to understand
It’s a fault that we humans have ― we don’t know how to empathize with something we don’t understand. We just can’t. No matter how badly we want to say “I know what you feel,” we don’t, unless we’ve experienced it ourselves. This all clicked for me when my Dad passed away to an awful disease at an awfully young age ― words can’t describe how much it stung and hurt and sucked. It sucked so, so bad. And the interesting thing was, I could always tell when condolences came from people who knew and understood the path I walked from first hand experience, or when they came from people who had just Googled the right lines to say. So how does this relate to travel? Well when we leave our homes, our fences, our countries behind, we have experiences that are beyond our every day, we develop a keen empathy towards others and their plight, their struggles, their joys. All of a sudden, we start to understand, or maybe just scratch the surface of understanding, but even understanding how little we actually understand is progress.
“When we feel the magnitude of the large world we live in, we respect life, we respect nature and we act in a way that’s good for the greater good.”
Travelers are ambassadors
This has been fresh on my mind lately: last weekend, my husband, Shai, and I were in a small town in northern Israel, making a small stop for some lunch and a break from driving. A group of American teenagers from LA bought shwarmas in the same little stall we were at. They were one Shekel short of the total amount due to the shopkeeper (about $0.25 worth) and they didn’t have any more Shekels, so they just walked away and made jokes about “It’s a quarter, why is he overreacting so much about a quarter”. I was beyond furious by this scene, and though my first inclination was to throw a Shekel at their hard, stupid heads (sometimes I’m overdramatic), Shai and I quietly walked up to the shop owner and handed him the 1 Shekel. It was our way of making up for our fellow country-men’s disregard for others. They’re young, I hope they learn. I hope they learn that when they travel, they are doing a job more important than that of the Secretary of State- they are the face of a nation. They’re the ones interacting with real people on the ground, having conversations, sharing experiences, making jokes and yes, even paying for the food they eat. They are the ones influencing on the ground, grassroots opinions- through our travels, we not only open our own eyes to the world, we also open other’s eyes to the world. It’s one big beautiful two way street.
Feeling small is a good thing
Let’s be real, in our day to day lives at home, it kind of feels like the world revolves around us. And in many ways it does: it’s OUR family, it’s OUR friends, it’s OUR jobs. We build this little cocoon we live in, and we thrive in it. So of course, it’s no surprise that we happily feel like we’re king of the hill. But guess what, when you find yourself on a busy intersection in Tokyo, a city of 20+ million people, or when you stare up at the night sky in the middle of the desert in Kenya, you all of a sudden feel smaller than an ant; teeny tiny. This sense of awe creates an incredible sense of respect for our world, and for the role we play in it, which isn’t such a bad thing at all. When we feel the magnitude of the large world we live in, we respect life, we respect nature and we act in a way that’s good for the greater good ― not just for ourselves and our little cocoon.
So please, for the love of G-d, GO, go there, anywhere! Go often and much, take your kids, take your parents, take your neighbors. It’s not vacation; the future of our world depends on it.