“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.” Mark Twain
I may not be quite as scathing as Mark Twain but as a travel writer I have lived by these words. My travels around the world have taught me so much about myself, challenged stereotypes and helped me understand my fears and values. As a result, I thought I’d share one or two trips with you today.
My first travelling experience was volunteering as a teacher in Ghana. Unfortunately, media coverage does not often reveal the true values of their culture. It can dilute our perceptions of the country and after visiting Ghana, I realised how important their sense of community is. The best anecdote I can provide is when Ghana won their semi-final in the Africa Cup of Nations. The whole neighbourhood let out a cheer in unison and ran into the streets. People set up speakers on their rooftops and a spontaneous street party took place, lasting well into the early hours of the morning.
Another place I fell in love with is Mexico. It’s typically represented in the media as a destination for delicious street food or drug cartels. Despite the dangers highlighted in the press, I have now visited the country three times and always learnt something new and fascinating about their culture and lifestyle. What’s more, travel not only breaks down these preconceptions, but helps you learn more about yourself. It reveals your strengths and weaknesses, such as when I first attempted snorkelling and quickly realised that I needed to breathe more. It can represent overcoming our fears and anxieties; travel has taught me not to be afraid and challenge myself, more often.
I am still terrified of heights. No question about it, my hands get sweaty and I feel nervous, sound similar? Despite this, I have learnt not only to manage my feelings but also confront them, such as when I completed the Angels Landing hike in Zion Canyon National Park, USA.
Travelling to different cultures allows for a much deeper understanding of local and different communities, which often contrasts with the ‘black and white’ media coverage that never really, paints the full picture. If we all travelled more often, we’d empathise over our similarities, rather than being divided, by our differences. Only until we meet people in person and understand their lives and challenges, can we really begin to appreciate who we are, and how we can help.
About the author
Davey Womack is an avid traveller and writer. His varied career has seen him be everything from teacher to technician to tour guide. He often writes about his adventures around the world on his blog: womackswonder
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