Mark Twain wrote, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." These wise words can be a rallying cry for all travelers once comfortably back home. When courageous leaders in our community combat small-mindedness and ignorance — whether pastors contending with homophobia in their congregations, employers striving to make a workplace color-blind, or teachers standing up for intellectual and creative freedoms — travelers can stand with them in solidarity.
I strive, not always successfully, to be tolerant. As a comfortable, white, Protestant, suburban American, a warm welcome always awaits me over with the tyranny of the majority. I recognize that intolerance can be a natural state of rest. I'm inspired by lands that have morals but don't moralize…lands that make tolerance a guiding virtue and consider peaceful coexistence a victory. I want to celebrate the diversity in American life, making room for different lifestyles. And I want help shape an America that employs that viewpoint on a global scale as it works to be a constructive member of the family of nations.
Traveling to learn, you find new passions. Had I not seen shantytowns break out like rashes in Istanbul, I might not have gotten tuned into affordable housing issues in my own community. After observing the pragmatic Dutch and Swiss approach to drug abuse, I chose to speak out on drug law reform with NORML and the ACLU. Having traveled in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where religion and government are thoroughly interwoven, I've seen the uneasy consequences of mixing mosque or church and state. In my church, some want the American flag right up there in front, while others in my community would like to hang the Ten Commandments in our city hall. And, because I care both for my church and my state, I work to keep my church free of flags and my city hall free of commandments.
Travel becomes a political act only if you actually do something with your broadened perspective once you return home. The challenges on the horizon today can be so overwhelming that they freeze caring people into inaction. While trying to save the planet singlehandedly can be disheartening, taking a few concrete and realistic baby steps in that direction can bring fine rewards. Because of my work, I've had some exciting opportunities in this regard. Below are a few personal examples of how I've incorporated passions sparked by my travels into real action back home in the hopes of demonstrating a few creative ways that you may do the same — on a larger or smaller scale.
About This Entry
You are reading "When Travel Becomes a Political Act", an entry posted on 26 April 2010 by Rick Steves.