Today like many others I guess I am thinking of Charlie. And me, an agnostic at best, is sending out prayers to the victims, their loved ones, and to every Muslim who will have to face repercussions for a crime they didn’t commit in times to come. While reading some articles on the topic, I made the mistake to look at the comment section. One guy was proclaiming that potentially all Muslims could become terrorists, that it was sort of in their nature as Muslims to be prone to violence, and therefore he would never again trust any Muslim. I was shocked and actually thought he was joking. He wasn’t. While I wanted to engage in dialog with him I realized quickly I couldn’t win. And by winning I don’t mean necessarily convince him of my opinion and change his views, but of getting out of the conversation with any kind of satisfaction or with having learned something valuable, of having sparked new thoughts in his minds and mine as well. So I left the comment section and came here.
In a world that is so connected through technology (I’m posting this from a bus with wifi on my way to Antwerp) we still struggle so much to understand each other that it is actually heartbreaking at times. Mind you, I am not above and beyond this inability to sometimes grasp where other people and ideologies are coming from, but I try. And while I love a great beach, a Thai massage, and Cuba Libre as much as the next girl on holiday, I think that pursuit is the real reason why I travel and why I write. I want to learn about others and their world, to explore other ways of living and thinking, and to literally see where someone who is foreign to me is coming from. With each trip I take I learn a little more, open myself a little more to the world that is out there, and I hope to think that I become a little more compassionate with each step I take.
And then in times like today when a horrible thing has happened and I read horrible comments that reek of small-mindedness and fear mongering, I am happy to know that I am not alone with my thoughts. Lisa Lindblad, whom I met during Pure, who is not only a world traveler herself, but is also daughter-in-law to the famous explorer Lars Lindblad, describes their sentiments in an interview:
“Lars stood for something else that was ultimately far more critical. In the terrible debacle that forced Lindblad Travel to close – the dispute over sending travelers to Vietnam – Lars took a position (also held by President Kennedy) that was morally powerful and that coincided with a view on tourism that I had developed as an anthropologist at Columbia: International travel has the capacity to contribute to international world peace. It is a guiding principle of what I do and, if world peace may be a reach, the capacity that travel has to change people’s lives is certainly not. I believe that travel should be a requirement and not a privilege.”
While the reality is that traveling is still a privilege for many a traveler’s mind shouldn’t be and so I write for those who can’t. In the commentator’s case though I think reading about the world is not enough, someone needs to get him a plane ticket. Maybe a Cuba Libre on a foreign beach will open his mind.
Read Lisa’s whole interview here.