This article was originally published in December of 2009. As we approach Thanksgiving, we thought it was a good time to reflect on the message and to be thankful that we have the opportunity to leave our “little corner of the earth” and gain a wider perspective and a deeper understanding of life outside of it.
Mark Twain was not often known for his tactfulness. One statement of his that has become a favorite, and in some ways a motto, demonstrates how travel can help in nurturing world peace.
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.
By taking the opposite of Twain’s statement, we create a maxim for world peace that is the result of travel.
Leaving One’s Little Corner
As Twain implied, when we leave our little corner of the earth, the result is broad, wholesome and charitable views of men and things.
Visiting new cultures and experiencing new ideas can create an expansion of your mind, the consequence of which is a better understanding of others, a more comprehensive credo, and a philanthropic philosophy.
I remember when I first moved out of the United States. We were moving to Costa Rica, but drove there from Utah, down through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Often I felt that my mind was literally being added to. With each passing mile, I was creating a more complete image in my mind of the world and what it was like. Pieces were being added to my world view that I knew could never be removed.
I saw the expansiveness of poverty, mile after endless mile, but my definition of ‘the poor’ was altered as well. I began to see them not as an ambiguous hoi polloi, but as individuals not unlike myself.
As Oliver Wendall Holmes has said, “A mind, once expanded to the dimensions of bigger ideas, never returns to its original size.
Travel will leave you with a mind, and heart, that is wide open.
Travel is Beneficial
If travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, then it is definitely beneficial to tolerance, acceptance and open-mindedness, all qualities that are essential for nurturing world peace.
Men fight and die over intolerance to the ideas and beliefs of another person or country. Rather than accepting, and respecting others for their unique and diversified beliefs, blood is shed.
While not the answer for creating world peace, travel certainly contributes to it by providing a personal look at the lives of those foreign to us. What we once thought as strange, we begin to understand. The foreign (and foreigner) now becomes familiar, and often respected.
Imagine if we could all have that experience- of being a stranger in a strange land, and getting to know the people there, who they really are and what they are like.
Not to see a land by the political leaders who push their own agendas, but to know the ordinary citizens who work, eat, marry, raise children and die.
We may be surprised, or not, that in whatever land we may be, the people there are very much like the people at home, despite all of our ‘differences.’
They care about their families. They fall in love. They have challenges. They want a better life. They live, they die.
My refusal to vegetate in my own little corner of the earth has led me to be not only concerned with my own welfare, but with the world’s welfare. It’s led me to seek answers to the problems that we face as humanity, not just the problems I face as an individual.
Travel has led me to love for the world and all the people in it.
all photos by Rachel Denning and may not be used without permission