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What Can Travel Do For You?

In my opinion, the movie Motorcycle Diaries offers an important message to live by: “Deja que el mundo te cambie y podrás cambiar el mundo” (“Let the world change you, and you can change the world”).  Before we can create positive change for ourselves and for others, we first need to discover the world around us and be changed by our experience. 

The fact is that we live in a world where obesity is an epidemic, but where 850 million people are malnourished.  We live in a world where advanced medicine has allowed those who can afford it to enjoy longer life expectancies, but where millions die too soon due to war, starvation, and curable diseases.

As privileged Americans, most of us will never know what it is like to go hungry. When we are sick, we simply seek treatment from a doctor, and we can sleep safe in our comfortable homes with no worries of being wakened by gunshots.  In fact, we could live quite a happy life busying ourselves with our career and our family, while turning a blind eye to the tragic realities of the rest of the world.

However, as a compassionate individual, I believe that it is absolutely necessary to assume the responsibility of helping others who are less fortunate.  I hope that we can begin to embody the quote on a meaningful level as I firmly believe that traveling the world offers a unique learning experience and a chance for personal development and growth.  We can develop a new perspective of our own life and have a much more genuine appreciation for all of the privileges that we enjoy.  In addition, it provides us with the opportunities to step out of our comfort zone, to let go of our inhibitions, to take more risks, and to stop being so apathetic.  I believe that we need to be more open-minded and receptive to meeting new people and learning about their beliefs, cultures, opinions, etc. rather than simply ignoring them.


8 thoughts on “What Can Travel Do For You?

  1. Lauren, I think you should be a walking salesman for some of the service program trips our school offers. Although I think that going abroad is an amazing opportunity to meet new people from various cultures and countries and instills in people a new sense of independence, I feel like that many of us still gravitate towards our comfort zones. Despite being away from the amenities of our own homes and lifestyles, I still felt safe and surrounded myself with similar people when I was away. I feel like if I had gone on one of the services trips Bucknell entered, or even participated in the initiative Joey participates in, I feel like I would have had a more unique and moving experience. Even though going abroad translates for many into “seeing the world,” its seeing a very similar world to the one we live in, unless you go to a less fortunate area on the globe.

    Posted by Dana Silverstein | April 23, 2012, 1:23 pm
  2. Is there a difference between travel to learn and tourism? Is there a concrete way to get more people to do the travel you imagine?

    Posted by Jordi | April 23, 2012, 1:34 pm
    • In my opinion, there is a distinction between traveling to learn and tourism. I much prefer the former, as I don’t really like the idea of being a traditional “tourist”. I like to think of traveling as an opportunity to have an authentic experience of a particular culture. In the past 18 months, I have done more international traveling than ever before in my life – Spain (study abroad), Dominican Republic (service trip), and Mexico (visit friends). I would argue that while I did partake in some tourist attactions in these countries, I also had the unique chance to understand and learn about the “unembellished” lifestyle of the native inhabitants. In addition, I think that physically being in a place and seeing it with my own eyes actually propelled my interest to learn more. For example, my trip to the DR prompted me to do some research into the country’s government and infrastructure. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about one or all of these places and the fact that I have comtemplated the idea of living in another country for an extended period of time tells me that I value more than just the tourism. I think that it is also important to consider that ‘traveling to learn’ may not always be a glamourous experience (it is a learning experience!) as we often think of the tourism, even in underdeveloped areas, as lavish and pleasurable.

      As far as how to get more people to “travel to learn”, I liked the idea that you posted of “home swapping” and I think that this definitely supports the notion of an authentic living experience through travel.

      I would also argue that people need to get past the language barrier. It is really unfortunate that people forgo traveling to new places simply because they do not speak the native language and they are afraid. I truly believe that people want to help people and there are means around the communication barrier. Fear should not be a reason to not travel – the idea is to learn and if it means learning a new language in the process, then so be it!

      Posted by Lauren McGuiggan | April 23, 2012, 6:07 pm
  3. I agree completely with Dana – your pitch was not only completely persuasive in nature, but it hits a nerve of being authentic. I think that having experiences in foreign lands are irreplaceable. In stepping out of our comfort zones, it forces us to grow and really get a sense of self. I’m glad you brought up the point to language barriers. We’re lucky that a lot of places in the world do speak some form of English – we can certainly get by. Plus, I think the language barrier adds to the excitement and immersion into the unknown culture. After graduating high school, the French club went to France for roughly 2-3 weeks (it’s been so long I can’t remember, hah). Though I had studied the language and culture for 5 years and became pretty fluent, that in no way was a total preparation for when we actually landed. I was completely out of my element – speaking it amongst classmates is certainly less intimidating than actual people who have spoken this way since birth! I tried my best and was able to get by, very easily actually. People appreciated my attempts at speaking their native language and most were more than happy to assist when I couldn’t articulate. In circumstances where the group was more rural, there were spots in the country side that certainly did not speak English. There are other ways to communicate than the spoken word. To get back to your original topic Lauren, it’s inspiring how passionate you are about this. These experiences are quite humbling.

    Posted by Danielle Marquette | April 23, 2012, 7:14 pm
  4. In all honesty… I do not know if I could bare the conditions. I feel like I would be able to go into towns or villages, talk with the people but not spend the night. I will admit, I am spoiled and selfish in that sense.. I am used to traveling a certain way and I guess I dont really want to change that. I wish I had the courage and ability to grit and bare the conditions but, I think I would probably just complain the entire time. Also, I had a really bad experience in Spain the summer after my sophomore year in high school. I was on a traveling competitive tennis program and I got really sick. I wasnt staying in the greatest of places and I could not get the care I needed. I ended up having to go home after only a week because there was no way I was going to get better. I think this also pushed me to always travel a certain way and go to places where I feel comfortable.

    Posted by Dana Silverstein | April 24, 2012, 9:15 am
  5. Lauren, I thought your argument was persuasive however I think it would be difficult for an American to overcome their comfort zone. While many Americans travel to these unsafe places where there is violence and gunshots, there is still some sort of safety net since they are American. I guess one resounding image that I have in my head is from the movie Hotel Rwanda. During the civil war that took place in the country, there were many Americans that were visiting at the time. Once the violence located in a certain area outbroke, all the Americans were able to board a bus and leave the awful conditions, leaving behind children and people to die. While the bus was pulling away, I remember seeing that a small dog had its own seat on the bus as all the Americans were watching the people. I thought it was so said that a dog would be saved but not the people experiencing the genocide. These Americans had a chance to help in some way or another and instead choose their own safety. I think that helping others in need is going to take more than seeing the horrible conditions in person.

    Posted by Amanda Skonezney | April 24, 2012, 2:44 pm

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Blog 5 before session 6 What (interest) or Who (person) Inspires You? For this week’s prompt, the Blog Council wants you to examine how this class relates to your own interests. So, please write about how this class relates to some of your own intellectual or other learning interests. We are NOT interested in how it relates to a specific career goal. Plan B: same idea, but based on a person. See whole post for details.

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