Mark Twain wrote in “Innocents Abroad”: “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.”
Recently, I was reminded of this quote and how travel and meeting people from other countries can broaden our perspectives as I pulled into one of our local hotel-casinos for dinner. I was near Amargosa and the restaurant was filled with customers.
As I sat there I could not help but marvel at the number of languages being spoken by the guests dining in the restaurant. There were families, young couples, teens, college students, and retirees dining after their day visiting Death Valley.
It is traditional for many Europeans to take a month off during the summer, generally July or August. Often companies will close for the entire month, giving their employees vacation time because they reason it is better for everyone to take time off at once than to try to stay open with less than a full staff of workers.
Several years ago, while attending a business meeting in Frankfurt I was having a casual conversation with my German counterpart and I asked him what his plans were for the summer. He told me his office was going to close for the month of July and he was coming to the United States for four weeks on vacation. His itinerary included stops to Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Death Valley. Europeans are fascinated with our national parks and want to experience many of the things we take for granted that they only see in movies or read in books.
In the United States, we struggle to take time off for any type of vacation. “Stay” vacations have become increasingly popular and are viewed as a way to save on expensive airline tickets and hotel stays. But a “stay” vacation does nothing to broaden your views and give you new experiences. We seem to categorize international travel as something that wealthy or retired people do, but it does not have to be expensive or limited to retirement age.
While in college, during the summer months several of my fellow classmates would take off for Europe. Armed with a backpack, a rail pass, and a list of youth hostels, they would spend four to six weeks traveling around Europe. They did it on a college student’s limited income and had a blast. They would meet students from other countries, see historical sites hundreds or even thousands of years older than the United States, and gain a broader perspective on the world and how we interact with other cultures.
Travel can also give you a greater appreciation for home. You may find that we have conveniences and freedoms that we take for granted here that are not available in other parts of the world. You may learn how remarkably similar the needs and desires of other people are even in diverse cultures. When you travel you learn how much the United States influences much of the world culturally, economically, politically, and socially. Travel and meeting people really helps to gain a wider perspective of events and not focus solely on our one little corner of earth.
“It liberates the vandal to travel––you never saw a bigoted, opinionated, stubborn, narrow-minded, self-conceited, almighty mean man in your life but he had stuck in one place since he was born and thought God made the world and dyspepsia and bile for his especial comfort and satisfaction.” – Mark Twain, The American Abroad speech, 1868
Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org