Travel helps us appreciate the challenges
other societies face. Stepping into a high school
stadium in Turkey, I saw 500 teenagers punch
the sky with their fists and shout, “We are a secular
nation!” I asked my friend, “What’s the deal? Don’t
they like God?” She said, “Sure, they love God. But
here in Turkey, we treasure the separation of
mosque and state as much as you value the separation of church and state. And, with Iran just to
our east, we’re concerned about the rising tide of
Travel shows us how few of us are the haves
in a have-not world. In contrast, nearly half of this
world’s people live on $2 a day. And travel teaches
you that, if you know what’s good for you, you
don’t want to be filthy rich in a desperately poor
world. It’s just not a pretty picture.
Travel combats ethnocentrism. For instance, I was raised thinking the
world is a pyramid with America on t op and everyone else trying to get there.
But as I traveled, I metintelligent peo ple—living in countries nowhere near as
rich, free or full of opportunity as mycountry—who country—who wouldn”t trade passports
with me. Rather than the American d ream, they have the Nepalese, Bulgarian,
Turkish or Nicaraguan dream.
Such cultural snapshots—the es sential
joy of travel—have made me an enthu siastic
citizen of the planet.
I have some Slovenian friend s who
muse that the world would be sm art to
establish a scholarship giving each person
a free trip abroad as a high school gradu-
ation present. While they know that”s
unrealistic, they’re convinced that i f more
people traveled before they voted , they
would elect a government with polici es that
don’t put their country at odds with t he rest
of the world.
Travel gives us a perspective tha t can trans-
late into policies that will not aliena te us from the
family of nations. And when that hap pens, I believe
we’ll all be truly stronger, safer and b etter off. A
Costco member Rick Steves, owner of Seattle-based
Europe Through the Back Door, spends four months a
year in Europe, writing guidebooks, leading tours and
producing a popular public television series on travel.