Friday, February 24, 2012

Travel as a political act by Rick Steves

Rick Steves at Westminster Presbyterian Church
Six months of travel abroad for all students after completing High School is something travel expert Rick Steves recommended to redirect the United States on a better political course for the future.  This idea was presented in response to a question at the end of Mr. Steve's presentation "Travel as a political act" at the Westminster Town Hall Forum.  He discussed the benefits of gaining insights from the lives and cultures of others who do things differently around the world.  His talk was broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio.

Statuary outside of
Westminster Presbyterian
Rick discovered an important example misunderstanding of language and culture while traveling in Iran.  When caught in traffic his taxi cab driver shouted out "death to traffic".  Seems this is simply a statement of frustration, much as a parent might say "death to teenagers" when rooms aren't picked up, loud music is blaring and homework isn't done.  Here in the US we've taken this expression to mean something much different, and are spending tremendous financial and human resources on the military. This fear of others is in large part contrived by the media and political leaders and is perpetuated by our lack of understanding of other nations around the world.

Did you know that about 1/3 of the world uses knives, forks and spoons for eating, 1/3 chopsticks and 1/3 use their God given tools... fingers! Asian cooking is done in such a thoughtful way so that the one eating a meal need not go to the added effort of using a knife to cut up their food.

Travel that is off the beaten path and engages one with the local people is a fantastic way to reduce ethnocentric and often misguided perceptions of our global neighbors.

Given the great costs of travel, both  financial and on our carbon footprints, I would suggest we can also learn a great deal from the refugees and immigrants that have come to settle in the United States.  Sadly many are never invited in to the homes of American neighbors and would love to both learn more about this culture and to share something of their own.

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