“Life is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” St. Augustine
“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.”
- Innocents Abroad (Mark Twain)
I am very fortunate to have a job that allows/requires me to travel fairly extensively. In 2010 alone, I’ve visited 18 states, two Canadian provinces (about to see a third), five countries and four continents. Sometimes I work when I travel. Sometimes, I visit famous or historical sites. Sometimes, I visit people. Every time, I learn something.
The putting green at Ike's farm outside Gettysburg.
Most recently, I’ve spent time in New Jersey, on the shore, visiting family. My wife and I spent a great night in Cape May (stayed at the Dormer House, highly recommend it). We went earlier this week to Gettysburg to see the Eisenhower farm and the Battlefield Museum (we toured the battlefield last time). We stopped at the Catoctin Orchard Market to get one of the best cherry pies you’d every want to eat.
One of the reasons I really enjoy what I do is that the success of our industry means that millions can experience these and other sites and activities. Those millions also have the opportunity to see and experience people from across the country and around the world. Whatever stereotypes people have about others can wilt away after a little travel.
There is much commentary these days that our culture and our political discourse have been coarsened by a lack of understanding and appreciation of the views, perspectives and experiences of others. This leads people on all sides to conclude that those with whom they disagree are wrong and that their views are illegitimate; it leads people to question the motives of those with whom they disagree, it leads people to conclude that someone who does something a different way must necessarily be doing it wrong.
The Boardwalk at night in Seaside Heights, N.J.
I thought about this while I was in New Jersey, and especially after my kids went to Seaside Heights to have some fun on the boardwalk and they ran into cast and crew from the truly hideous show Jersey Shore. Anyone who has never been to New Jersey might believe that everyone behaves the way those folks do, especially if they are of a certain ethnic extraction, and especially if their “exposure” to the place consists of such trash as that show. If you go to New Jersey you can find some folks who seem a lot like Snooki (my kids found the real thing). But you don’t have to look hard to find a lot of other folks and places that bear no resemblance. And that’s true no matter where you go.
So, take the time to travel and to “read more than one page.” And when you do travel, challenge yourself to find something or someone who goes against the grain of whatever stereotype you might have had about that place. And, then think about all that whenever you are tempted to question someone’s views or motives or way of life simply based on some stereotype.