I want you to do something for me when you set on your grand adventure traveling around the world.
I want you to take a couple of toothpicks and place them between your eyelids and keep them there.
I want you to make sure you travel with your eyes are wide wide open.
If I could find a way to do the same with your mind and heart, I’d get you to do that too. In fact, if I was in charge of passports and visas I’d make it a travel requirement.
The new travel requirement
To me, I find it a little silly that I even have to suggest it, but I am continually flabbergasted by the amount of people who continue to travel wearing hats of ignorance.
It’s very simple.
When you travel, talk to those who live in the place you are traveling through. Find out a little about their life and culture. Look at their homes, their clothes, the food they eat, how they get around, what sort of work they do, how many hours they are working.
Use the information you gather from your five senses to learn and to question and to try to understand.
Imagine for a second that you were living their life. How does it make you feel? Are you jealous or grateful? What would living their life mean you would go without in your real life? How would living their life be difficult or challenging? What does this mean for your real life? Are you privileged? Are you lucky?
Now that you have kept your eyes open, immersed yourself, walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, questioned, and answered, what have you learned? What has this taught you about you and your life and that of the wider world?
How should you walk forward from this point forward? How can what you have experienced help you become a more tolerant person, an understanding person, a kind person, someone who wishes to turn that fortune that they have been given by birth right to make the most of it, to feel gratitude, to grow, to help others?
I read an excellent post the other day written by an Egyptian Mina Mahrous, titled “No, Not everyone in the world can travel.” Mina does a great job of highlighting the fact that not everyone in the world can travel like is often touted by travel bloggers. It’s an important read for everyone, travellers or not.
Not everyone in the world will ever earn enough money to travel and then, as Mina points out , many are denied access into many countries because of their nationalities.
Those of us who are able to travel do so as a result of mostly luck – luck of where we are born. The rest of it is comprised of making decisions, making the sacrifices and saving the money to bring your travel dream into reality.
Are your travel experiences opening your eyes up?
What astounded me by that post was nothing that Mina wrote, but the comment made by so many other travellers that Mina “had opened their eyes up.”
My thoughts were why were they closed when you were travelling? How did you not notice this as you were buying your cheap buckets of whiskey and staying in bungalows on the beach for $10 a night?
Didn’t you notice the beggars on the street? The locals working from sun up to sun down with no overtime? Didn’t you hear it in the stories they shared with you over a cup of tea or a bowl of noodles they prepared for you?
How can people wander around the world so oblivious to the fact that the majority of the world live in poverty and we in the Western World are so so privileged just by the nature of our birth?
Didn’t this change your life while you were traveling? Didn’t it make you want to be better, to be so grateful for all you have?
A hideously shameful eyes shut tight travel experience
It reminds me so much of a horrible experience we had in Vietnam. We were sitting outside eating dinner by the river in Hoi An. We randomly chose the first restaurant we came to.
The owner greeted us with a warm smile and broken English and the menu looked good so we warmly accepted her invitation to dine with her.
The food did not disappoint, nor did the cold Saigon lager. The peace and happiness we felt was soon shattered when in walked a group of Australians. Five minutes later I wanted to hide under the table in shame knowing that my voice sounded like them.
They demanded that as they were bringing in a “large” group they should be given free beers (beers that cost $1). It was a quiet night and the owner struggled knowing that they would leave and she would lose business. But if they stayed, she would lose money as she could not afford to give away free beers.
She pleaded with them and tried to make them understand that they she could not afford to do that and that times were quiet and tough.
She told them how great her food was and the views of the river from her table. Yet they ignored all of this, so intent they were on scoring their special cheap deal in South East Asia where you can live off $20 a day.
“Well we’ll just leave then,” the leader of the gang, her unruly red curls bounced this way and that with each exploitative demand.
Fear crossed the lady’s face as they started to move off and she hung her head in defeat. She waved them back and showed them to a table upstairs avoiding all eye contact. We could hear their victorious laughter for the remainder of the night.
They made me sick. These are the people whose visa applications should be denied. No entry allowed until you fulfil the travel requirement of having your eyes, your mind, your heart wide open. Buy some toothpicks if you need some help.
You cannot travel without the awareness of the life circumstances of the people whose home you walk through. You cannot live without this.
Sure I know that we get back into the grind of our lives and we get caught up in our problems and forget. We bitch and moan about trivial things and not having enough. I do it all the time.
But, I know how to catch myself out and remember those people I’ve met on the road who have so much less than me. I remember how they opened my eyes up.
The man with no arms and legs, the child begging for water in Africa, the smiles and kind hands and hearts from those I met, wanting to live my life, but never begrudging me for my luck.
These people on my travel road opened my eyes up.
Don’t travel the world for $25 a day and tell everyone how to do it, yet remain oblivious to the fact that all those people in that country you lived off for $25 a day could never travel and do the same.
By all means share your knowledge to help others travel and to inspire them but don’t do it at the expense of being ignorant to the lives of those who are around you.
Share their stories too. Allow them to impact and change your life.
Embrace the new travel requirement and tread softly across countries with your eyes wide open.