Goodbye 2016, most people will be glad to see the back of you. Hello 2017, what do you have in store for us then? 2016 brought some seismic changes around the world and no matter what side of the political debate you are on, we can all see that a lot of communities are divided. There are many reasons why these divisions are happening, ignorance being the most common one.
A great way to stop ignorance is to travel. The more you see of the world and its people the more knowledge you have about different cultures and why we should celebrate our differences, not fear them.
2017 is the UN’s year of sustainable tourism. Sustainable / responsible tourism is something very close to our hearts. We believe the more we travel responsibly, the better the trip becomes. Responsible travel encourages us to interact with the communities in the countries and cities we visit. This is key to breaking down our fears and prejudices.
Our own travel experiences are a perfect example of how interaction with locals can change beliefs. Before we visited Russia we presumed that the people wouldn’t be helpful and that they would take a dislike to us. On the contrary, during our 3 weeks travelling the country the Russians turned out to be some of the most helpful people we have ever come across. People constantly helped us with directions, one man shared his dinner with us because we foolishly presumed there would be food on a train journey and one woman even let us sleep in her home when the hostel we booked was full. It’s hard to have an accurate impression of a country or its people unless you have visited a place and truly spent time with locals (staying in an all-inclusive hotel doesn’t count).
The world we live in is not made up of us or them, it’s just us. We live on a ball of rock hurtling through space at 1,000 mph. Astronauts can’t see borders from the international space station, all they see is a stunningly beautiful planet we call home.
The world population will increase to 9 billion by 2050 and with global warming impacting huge areas of the planet, we have to accept that we are living in a world where mass migration is going to be with us for decades to come. This isn’t a new phenomena, humans have always migrated for one reason or another, be it because of the climate like the last ice age or to explore and discover new lands. Now we can either put up walls and fear the inevitable or we can sit with our brothers and sisters and try to work out what we can do together. History has shown us that when the human race works together we can achieve great things.
Plane travel is cheaper than ever. In only a few hours you could be in a completely different city where the language is alien, the food more spicy and the temples of worship like nothing you’ve seen before. You’ll also find that like you, the locals want to be happy, healthy and loved. And if you take the time to get to know them you’ll see that there is more that makes us similar, than there that sets us apart.
So in 2017, let’s all make a vow to “get out there” more. Let’s sit with the tea seller and chat with them about their lives, let’s visit a different house of worship and experience the spectacle of communal prayer, and most importantly, let’s get rid of our prejudices by seeing for ourselves the world we live in and making our own minds up about our fellow human beings.