Destroying Hatred, Bigotry,and Indifference
In the face of all the awful things we see today on the news, I often find myself trying to explain the “bad guy’s” behavior. This is a stark difference from the same “me” 5 years ago. And I can only explain the shift from a young, opinionated, and indifferent 19 year old boy to a more empathetic and open minded character through translating some of my travels I’ve had along the way.
I can remember getting the news that I was to deploy to Mosul, Iraq a few months after high school graduation. I faced a lot of fear that next year and a half, some of which I never knew I had. But for the most part, I found myself disguising that fear through a show of hatred, bigotry and indifference. Those ideas that sprang about from some sort of coping mechanism followed me back home and stayed with me for entirely too long. I know this might sound a bit hypocritical because the premise of this story is how traveling destroys these ideas, not how it fosters them. However, these experiences began to shape my life in a positive way as it opened my eyes to the worst the world had to offer.
The next time I really got out of my comfort zone by backpacking most of Europe, I had an entirely different outcome. I had the fortunate hindsight of facing my fears this second time around of crossing the pond. It becomes easier and easier every time you make your way to the airport, watching the ground leave you fast, heading towards a place you’ve never been. But I was taking another chance, and my confidence was about as high as the plane I was on.
Immediately stepping off of the tarmac, you’re forced to open yourself up to everyone out of mere survival. This is where the learning begins, when you are vulnerable and lost. You’re forced to have conversations with people you normally avoided in the past. You eat with your fingers and you poop in a hole (I expected nicer toilets at the Vatican). You drink less water and deal with the lack of AC. And you have to walk everywhere you go, leaving your precious car behind. You can learn from the way others live, and you begin seeing the world in a different light.
Generally, questions will follow, and they come from both parties. I use to get asked all the time why Americans love their guns so much. These questions always sparked a worthwhile debate, and in the process, everyone took something from the encounter, walking away a bit more informed. This understanding of one another left everyone involved a better citizen of the world. Slowly morphing into a state diplomat, I found myself turning on my personal status quos. Previously, when asked why I was doing what I was doing, I would just say that I wanted to see the world before it all went to shit. I guess up until that point I had begun to lose my faith in humanity. And now, I’ve turned that pessimism into a developed understanding that the world is full of diversity, and that with a little more understanding of one another, we can possibly come together in spite of our differences.
Watch this TED Talk of Rick Steve: