I am currently residing in what may or may not be a distant and foreign land, (depending on the location of the reader.) The territory in question is named Gotland, and it is the largest island in Sweden. This place is not new to me; I’ve traveled here many times before.
My mother is from Sweden, and from this fact you might correctly infer that I have many relatives here. It has become customary for my family and my Aunt’s family to gather here on Gotland, at my Grandparents’ charming abode. This has occurred nearly every summer of my lifetime, but what separates this summer from the rest is my outlook on the expedition.
Previously, this has merely been a time to see the family, hang out, and play. This year, I’ve been trying to also utilize the opportunity to really learn about Swedish culture. You see, my game plan for life consists primarily of three things:
- To understand as much as I can about what already exists
- Apply that knowledge to somehow contributing to humanity
- Have fun doing it
In the quest of understanding, a broad perspective is essential. And among the greatest ways to gain that perspective is through travel. I don’t mean traveling simply as a tourist set on sightseeing, but rather to immerse yourself in a foreign culture, and try to deeply understand the lifestyle of the people.
My cousin Corinna is excellent at this. She has spent the past year with her boyfriend Cameron traveling all across South America. Check out her blog, Ruta Surreal. I got to meet up with her for a couple weeks in Peru, and it was a fantastic experience. It’s fascinating, exciting, and important to see the way other people live, and in the past I’ve hardly paid any attention to all the cultural differences here in Sweden.
But this year, I’ve been trying much harder to do so, as I have found a new appreciation for the importance of travel. There are so many different people on this world, living so many different ways. The more we understand one another, the more capable we become of peace and of progress. It is surely human nature to fear the unknown, and common for violence to be driven by fear. And as each culture possesses their unique set of strengths and flaws, much can be gained by understanding others.
Only through the collaboration of different cultures can we create peace, end hunger, and finally conquer that pesky challenge of intergalactic travel. (Of course, at that point we’ll have to start the process all over again…) The greatest achievements of mankind will come with breaking down borders. We can start by at least traveling across them.