But you can only reap these rewards of travel if you're open to them. Watching a dervish whirl can be a cruise-ship entertainment option...or a spiritual awakening. You can travel to relax and have fun. You can travel to learn and broaden your perspective. Or, best of all, you can do both at once. Make a decision that on any trip you take, you'll make a point to be open to new experiences, seek options that get you out of your comfort zones, and be a cultural chameleon — trying on new ways of looking at things and striving to become a “temporary local.”
Assuming they want to learn, both monks and hedonists can stretch their perspectives through travel. While your choice of destination has a huge impact on the potential for learning, you don't need to visit refugee camps to gain political insight. With the right approach, meeting people over beer in an Irish pub, while hiking Himalayan ridges, or sharing a hookah in Cairo can all connect you more thoughtfully with our world.
Traveling in Bulgaria, you learn that shaking your head “no” means yes, and giving an affirmative nod can mean no. In restaurants in France, many travelers, initially upset that “you can't even get the bill,” learn that slow service is respectful service — you've got the table all night…please take your time. And, learning how Atatürk heroically and almost single-handedly pulled Turkey out of the Middle Ages and into the modern world in the 1920s explains why today's Turks are quick to see his features in passing clouds.
Traveling thoughtfully, we are inspired by the accomplishments of other people, communities, and nations. And getting away from our home turf and looking back at America from a distant vantage point, we see ourselves as others see us — an enlightening if not always flattering view.
About This Entry
You are reading "Choose to Travel on Purpose", an entry posted on 11 May 2009 by Rick Steves.