We should be traveling
In his recent article, digital director of Condé Nast Traveler, Brad Rickman, reminds us why we should continue to travel despite the global climate: “Empathy is born of exposure—a reaching out, not turning in.”
In America we like to dedicate a tweet, a Facebook status, a moment of silence to an event and hope this nod to peace and well-being will somehow ripple good vibes out into the world. While they are noble gestures with genuine intentions, our tweets and well wishes do little more than highlight the American public's detachment from the rest of the world.
Two days after the Paris attacks, French artist Joann Sfar of Charlie Hebdo addressed the English-speaking world with a message: "Thank you for #PrayForParis, but we don't need more religion. Our faith goes to music! Kisses! Life! Champagne and joy! #ParisIsAboutLife." In short, thank you for your acknowldgement of our situation, but have you taken the time to get to know what really makes us who we are? I ask myself: how as Americans can we get to know our neighbors? How can we relate with them, join forces with them, and walk fearlessly into the badlands with them? Rickman suggests in his article that the physical act of simply being present in a land that is not your own is the necessary catalyst for cultural understanding and compassion.
It has been four years since I have been back to Paris. Four years since I wandered among the moss covered mausoleums of Père Lachaise, since I climbed the steps to the Sacré-Cœur, since I saw my reflection in the Seine. In the wake of the recent events that transpired in the tenth and eleventh arrondissements, it pains me to imagine such a sacred place in so much pain. Paris is where it all began for me years ago and with a heavy heart I watch it bleed.
In the same spirit of memorializing a loved one, we tend to meditate on the personal intimacy we shared. Hot fondant rolling over a pastry, yellow light on white stone, the first sip of wine in the late afternoon. This is Paris to me.
The best kind of travel is made of these intimate experiences. Like an unanticipated brush against your arm by a stranger, they hang on your nerve endings like phantom sensations reminding you that they were real. While monuments and museums are part of the travel experience, Rickman belives it is the small, sensorial delights that form our sense of place.
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks in Paris, the State Department has warned against any unnecessary travel outside of the United States by it’s civilians. With the attacks in Mali and shut down of Brussels, a holiday season spent at home with family and friends seems more enticing by the day. However, turning away from the world and isolating ourselves is no solution to the problems we face—it is merely a form of momentary self preservation.
If we wish to rectify this world we must extend our hands and minds out peacefully. We must go forth boldly without fear and open our arms to those in need at all hours.
Lose yourself in the silent beauty of Père Lachaise, climb the stairs to the Sacré-Cœur, walk along the Seine in the late afternoon. Talk to someone who has been there. Sit with a glass of wine and watch children kick a soccer ball over cobblestones.
What the world needs is less reporting, less synopsis, and more first hand, sensorial experiences. Instead of further detaching and dividing ourselves from the world, maybe a turning outward as Rickman suggests—an inclusion instead of exclusion—is what the global community needs if we are ever going to find peace for humanity.