Posted by: ritagone | March 14, 2012

A Broad Abroad, Part 2

Hard on the heels of last week’s Rita’s Ramblings, where I extolled the virtues of travelling as it relates to the wonderful people and places you come into contact with and how those encounters broaden you, I’d now like to tackle Part II of that travel series (and the second part is the finale).

There’s another way in which travel broadens you, a way which reaches deep into your mind and heart and leaves an indelible impression.  That is: it changes your viewpoint on the way you see the world as a citizen of your own country.  Sometimes, however, this isn’t a good thing, particularly when you get back home, because you run into people constantly whose approach to life is “America, right all the time.”  As you travel, you begin to see that sometimes this isn’t true.  It doesn’t mean that you don’t love your country deeply and truly.  It just means that you are allowed to see life from a broader perspective, through the eyes of the French and the British and the Russians and the Brazilians and other nationalities whose borders you cross into.

I know this sounds treasonous, especially in this election year when a line has been drawn in the sand and comments are either “pro” or “con” on any given issue, no gray, just black and white.  But travel makes you see much more gray in life than you ever thought was out there.  And of course this works both ways.  You begin to see that Russia, for example, is a country with such a convoluted history – with such corruption and vice and dishonesty and ill-treatment of its citizenry – that it’s no wonder the people revolted when they did.  And it’s no wonder the older generation walks with downcast eyes and somber faces, garbed in drab colors to illustrate their inner feelings.  Perhaps you can see a bit clearer in other countries just because they’re not your country and so you view them at a 30,000 foot height you don’t get at home.  Or maybe it’s because you tend to read up on other countries before you visit them, while you remain blissfully ignorant of your own country’s past history and current events.  So no, I’m not advocating that it’s better to live anywhere else than in Southern California (or probably most every other place in the U.S.) by any means.  What I do see is that no place is perfect, even the U.S., and that often there are two sides to any political story.

And yet, saying that, when I come home to American soil, I am so very glad to be there, recognizing that there isn’t any place on earth that I’d rather live.  I suppose the Dutch say the very same thing, or the French, and that’s probably the way it should be.  What would the world be like if a person didn’t love the country of his or her birth or residence?

So travel does allow you to see the truth that every person feels that way about his or her own country, which is as it should be.  And coming to that recognition means we don’t have to feel that our own country is always right or always best.  We can allow that feeling for others as well.  Patriotism is wonderful and healthy, but sometimes it does cloud the truth, and travel abroad often allows us to see things from a different perspective.

It shocked me a bit as a full-blown adult (not counting travel as an inexperienced and naïve recent college grad, one year away from school, seeing everything with eyes that were colored by the lack of knowledge that only a smart-aleck recent college grad can have) when I traveled, for example, to France, and realized that the French weren’t as diabolical as I had heard they would be.  (Of course, I don’t think any people could be as diabolical as the French were portrayed by Americans “in the know” back in those days!)  Why, I found them genuinely nice, polite, refreshing, interesting.  Everything I had heard was wrong.  (I had had the same experience in reference to New Yorkers, on a more domestic scale.)

And so it has gone ever since then: traveling to foreign countries has shaped and changed my viewpoint of those countries and of my perception of the world around me.  It has placed my context into a broader sphere than ever possible had I not gotten on those planes and made those journeys.  And every time I take a trip now, I know that my mind will be a little more expanded, a bit bigger and keener, more capable of understanding the world around me and of taking the fuller measure of things than had I not left home.

So it’s not just the memories and the scenery and the people you meet when you travel, although it surely is those.

It’s also what that travel does to your worldview that is absolutely and positively an asset that cannot be assigned a material value.

So where are you going next?  Keep an open mind, and let that place absorb into who you are so that you are changed for the better.

You will not be sorry.  As St. Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”


  1. Well put friend. Eyes wide open!

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