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Travel Broadens The Mind Essay About Myself

Mark Twain wrote: “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.”

Perhaps, with the summer holidays upon us, and Brexit-based discussions about tolerance, immigration and our relationship with foreigners ringing in our ears, it’s worth examining Twain’s quote. Does travel really broaden the mind, or does it tend to reinforce existing prejudices?

Parts of the travel industry have long been accused of creating a “home away from home”, with English bars and familiar pizza restaurants to reassure Brits that their holiday experience will be different, but not that different. It’s perfectly possible to remain within the resort and have limited contact with “the locals”. 

At the other end of the spectrum, parts of the industry offering more “immersive” experiences in far-flung places are fond of marketing slogans such as “come back different” or “life-changing travel” – an indication that they see their holidays as transformative, which is not always true. 

For some people meeting strangers, often with different languages and ways of life is very exciting, and the essence of travel, for others it’s quite naturally a little scary. How the tourist chooses to manage this - whether you are an experienced traveller, like me, heading to Kenya to be hosted by the Maasai on safari, or a young family on your way to Spain for the first time – is more important than how much cash they have or what they book.

Regardless of the type of holiday we choose or can afford, as Westerners we often have the habit of thinking we know best, that our ways of doing things and our focus on being on time are universal. We learn little travelling this way. Travellers who instead develop the habit of asking questions, being open minded, curious and respectful find it’s reciprocated and their holiday is enriched. 

Of course many tourism businesses have wised up to this and help facilitate mutually beneficial encounters with local people, by designing trips “responsibly” with good local benefits, a warm welcome and open door to learn about and experience different ways of life. Perhaps it’s time to re-appraise our approach to strangers at home and on holiday. 

Justin Francis is CEO of Responsible Travel

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There are so many benefits to traveling. From meeting new people, trying new foods, experiencing new cultures, seeing new sights — travelling gives you experience and perspective. Perhaps the biggest impact travel has is that it can broaden your mind.

Have you ever watched a little kid and thought, “Wow, I can’t even imagine what it would be like anymore to have my life be that simple?” The older we get, the more experiences we go through, the more complicated our lives becomes, the more perspective we gain. Through good experiences and bad experience, our minds are growing and expanding. That’s what travel is like on hyperdrive. The perspective you might gain in five years of life can be gained in a two week trip to a foreign country. Leaving your bubble and seeing a different way of life, a different set of rules, a different definition of happiness — these are all hugely enriching experiences travel brings to us.

Culture is one of the most beautiful things we have on this planet. People are vibrant, loyal, playful, helpful, rhythmic, and communal. Seeing and experiencing these cultures allows us to take a step back and think about our own culture. Our lives aren’t set in stone; we are transient beings who can change and adapt. There is beauty all around us and sometimes all it takes is seeing one person smile to realize your definition of happiness has been seriously misconstrued.

The flip side can also be true. You may have many beliefs and traditions that you value and those might become strengthened even more by learning about other people’s beliefs. Travel helps us to not judge others, keep an open mind, and let whatever may be, be. Travel allows us to see the world in ways we would never be able to understand in our home countries.

Learning new languages is not only a great skill, but there are nuances to languages that really make you realize what a culture values. For example, I had a Thai man say to me once that there are 15 different words for smiling in Thai. Smiling when you’re happy, smiling when you’re shy, even smiling when you’re upset, etc. To Thais, staying positive and smiling is a more effective way to deal with emotions than getting caught up in anger.

Travel can also give you a greater appreciation for home. I was lucky enough to grow up in Hawaii and even though I always knew it was a beautiful place and I never took it for granted, it wasn’t until my early twenties when I started traveling to other countries that I truly understood how beautiful my home was. To this day, after traveling throughout Europe and Asia, I’ve never seen a place more beautiful than Hawaii. And while I still have a thirst to see more of the world, I feel so appreciative of the home I have.

So get out there! Do as the great Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”