With each trip planned and each itinerary booked, we can find ourselves stretched between excitement and anxiety. Even as we eagerly anticipate the chance to break away from our daily routines and find solace in an exotic locale, often unknown to us but for our imaginations, we can harbor a bit of secret apprehension. New foods, new beds, new climates, new languages – each deliver to us an unsettling dose of, well, new. We like what we have – that’s why we have it. Still, we seek something more. Perhaps it is part of our human condition. What we have is never as good as what we want – which is never as good as what we have. The paradox is most confusing.
Yet, we cannot find a substitute. Even in a world of social media, virtual reality and Asian-fusion, travel is the most direct way to understand a culture and, perhaps, lower our defenses just a bit. Famed Hollywood actress Shirley MacLaine is attributed with noting that, “The more I traveled, the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.” Shared human experience, in Istanbul or Rio, serves best to help us find our commonality and to celebrate our difference.
One travels to learn about others. Sure. But, that education does not stand alone. Very often, we learn more about ourselves than others. At first, one might wonder why they eat what they eat, do what they do, or live like they live. Then, in a moment of reflection, the question is turned inward. Why do we eat what we eat? Why do we do what we do? Why do we live like we live? When observing them in a strange land, the questions come easily. What might the mirror say if we asked it the same?