My latest decision in life, to sell everything and go traveling, leaves me with many different thoughts in my head. Am I running away from my problems? Am I avoiding dealing with some deep rooted issues that I may have? Do I REALLY need to go to this extreme? Why am I doing this?
For many people, who have never really traveled very far, I can imagine that it is seen as an escape, akin to running away to join the circus. I can hear the criticism’s “What good is that going to do for humanity?” “What a waste of a life.”
But I come at this from a very different view point.
I feel that travelers have a GIFT to offer the world. In the days of fear and intolerance that many are facing with recent political events, it is absolutely NECESSARY to have a polarized view point, that promotes love, understanding and acceptance. I believe that this is the role of the traveler. To offer their fellow man, a different perspective. To be able to spread a message to those who are afraid, that the world is not a scary place.
For sure, there ARE places that are overrun with militant groups, and are literally “terrorized”, and I don’t recommend going to those places, but 99.9999999999999999% of humanity is kind, compassionate, and really just wants to live the best life that they can live. This includes people from ALL walks of life, all colours, all political beliefs, and all religions.
As a somewhat ‘privileged’ (I believe that most of us from the western world are privileged, so let’s just leave it at that) white woman, I have had one time in my life that I experienced Racism that really sticks out in my mind. Sure I have been to places where they are fed up with tourists and I wasn’t treated with the utmost respect, but this story comes from the United States. A land that I considered the same as Canada. A land where many of our customs and beliefs are similar.
My boyfriend and I arrived in South Carolina only one month after 911. We went there to help a friend fix up their boat in Beaufort, a small town that is near the Georgia border, down in what I think is bordering on an area known as the “Deep South”. He had bought the boat and planned to sail it down to the Bahamas and charter it from there to Miami and Ft. Lauderdale in Florida. Our plan was to stay on and crew for him, which we did. We spent a good 2-3 months in this area, so we got to know the lay of the land a little bit more than if it had been a quick trip.
Now, I have to admit, I can’t quite recall if this incident happened in South Carolina, Georgia or Florida, as we visited all three states during the course of this trip. Where ever it was, we were wandering around some place at some point, and we came across a coffee shop. Like millions of people do every day around the world, I walked into the coffee shop to order a coffee.
There was no line up so I walked straight up to the counter, to place my order. I could see that the servers were busy, so I simply stood and waited to be asked what I wanted. Being the polite and patient Canadian that I am, I wasn’t about to yell ‘excuse me’, or make a fuss. There were 4 men behind the counter, and at least two of them saw me, so I figured they would be right along shortly to take my order. I waited and waited and waited as they were all keeping themselves busy with their backs to me doing mundane tasks like cleaning, refilling pots, mostly just puttering around. I probably waited 5 minutes before I finally figured out what was going on. All of the men behind the counter were black. It suddenly hit me that I was not welcome in there, and I could literally have stood there all day, and I would not have been served.
The feeling in that moment that washed over me is impossible to explain. I was hurt and rejected sure, but mostly I was sad. It was in that moment that I caught the tiniest glimpse of what life must be like for those that are “different” from us white people. Of what they must go through on a day to day basis. Of how they must feel, and the rejection that they endure.
It was in that moment that I FINALLY understood racism.
Now, I can appreciate that Racism is not specifically a White and Black issue. Many groups of the same colour, are racist amongst themselves. But coming from a predominantly small white town in Canada, I had never seen any sort of bigotry or hatred of people from different ethnicities. Sure we heard about it, but did we really understand it?
I also travelled from a very young age, so I was exposed to many different cultures and people very early on. I don’t see colour or race, we are all just people on this planet. Sure I take note when people dress differently, or display different ethnicities or religious beliefs, but I do not judge them for their appearance or beliefs, and I certainly don’t lump everyone I see wearing a certain type of clothing into one large pool of people who are a certain way.
If this world is to become a better place, we must promote tolerance, and through that we will beat the hate. I encourage ANYONE to travel, to just step foot in another country, to see how others live, to talk to the locals, to really EXPERIENCE a place. Because only then will we truly find that we are literally all just in this together.
And so, I will travel. I will inspire. I will continue to be a peacekeeper, educating the world that we are all just one. I feel that this is my mission. I feel that this is my passion.
We all want the best life has to offer and none of us has any right to take that away from anybody else.
“Life is Short, let’s get busy!”