Travel makes us more accepting of our commonality with others regardless of culture, race, or creed. When we travel with an open mind, we soon see that underneath the cultural overlays, we are all human beings with common needs and desires.
We need to face the fact that we are rapidly developing as a global community. Social media has consciously tied people together as never before, showing us that our similarities as humans are greater than we realized. Cultural appreciation has ascended at a critical time in our history. Xenophobia, racism, and fear of those who are different from how we see ourselves, all suppress the universal recognition of our commonality. And it is becoming increasingly obvious that our survival as a species will depend upon our ability to cooperate together.
The only two things constant in life are the spectrum of human nature and change. While this is indisputable, it is also true that the essence of human nature, despite its behavioral variations, is fundamentally inescapable. We are each born with a particular set of traits that combine with the environment to form our individuality. Yet we are instinctively competitive. We have learned over the course of our evolution to create informal and formal structures of cooperation that enable us to live successfully in groups. This dichotomy has shaped us.
But today, more and more, dead-heat competition has superseded cooperation as the primary edict underlying our social contracts. In almost every culture across the globe, we are at a bifurcation point. Because of our technology, economics, and fractured political systems, we have reached a juncture where we can either destroy life as we know it on this planet or transcend to a global society at peace with itself.
I believe this is the most critical time in the history of humanity. The overarching human struggle exists in the dynamic tension between those who want to maintain their narrow self-interest and those who see the need for cooperation to weather the coming changes. Or, as Benjamin Franklin allegedly remarked, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
We are a fascinating species living on an extraordinary planet at a precarious time. After traveling to more than 140 countries, and living and teaching in South America, I’ve learned that when exposed to cultures not your own, your aperture widens and your conventional way of thinking blows away like dandelion seeds on the wind. Travel is a social, relational, and political act that makes you more compassionate and less cautious of differences. My experiences exposed me to the vast diversity as well as the fundamental commonality of humanity.
We are evolving toward a global community. If we don’t open our minds to that idea, we cannot effectively deal with problems that are global in nature, such as climate change, pandemics, supply chains, clean air, adequate water, and food. By realizing that we are all part of one cohesive whole rather than smaller, entrenched social units, we are much better able to solve problems common to all of us.