This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge.
Week one: Global Citizenship.
Some Christmas after I moved back from studying abroad in Spain, my parents gifted me a lovely print with the Mary Anne Radmacher quote, “I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the earth.” It’s a lovely and inspiring quotation, right? Now you want to fly across the world and see what there is to see and have it change you.
I am not here to discourage that. No, I would certainly never discourage you from seeing the Roman ruins or the Eiffel Tower or Machu Picchu or the Great Wall or whatever it is that lures you across the world. But I do want to chat about the way we travel and when and why it makes us different.
The first time I really traveled outside of the United States (by saying “really,” I am discounting that detour we took through Canada just to say we did it), I was a part of a ridiculous tour group of choir and band members from Wisconsin.
We absolutely consumed Europe. Seven countries, 14 days, 3 tour buses, countless churches, little freedom.
The one time I remember having independence and actually talking to a local without anyone else around, it’s because my little group walked away from the Eiffel Tower in Paris and sat at a little cafe and ordered…who even knows.
But that was the only time that I actually came even close to experiencing where I was. Sure, they did a lovely job organizing a party at our stay in Switzerland with fondue and alphorns and whatever, but once again, we were consuming them. We weren’t with them.
While that trip helped me cross off a list of countries and sites from the bucket list I’ve never written, it didn’t really help me understand the world differently. It helped me understand myself a little differently – I now knew how I didn’t want to see the world.
My next big travel experience was during my semester studying in Spain. There, I lived with a host family, I took classes taught by host country nationals, I went to parks and just sat and observed, I strolled and got lost, and I talked to people. I wasn’t just consuming the culture or the country, I was participating in it and trying to understand it. And this time, the travel changed me and made me different.
I’m not at all trying to say that one must live in another country for it to have a great impact on them, or for them to better understand their role in the global community.
Not at all!
Actually, I want to say the opposite of that!
You, my dear reader, can be a global citizen wherever you are without even leaving your little seat!
According to UNESCO, global citizenship “refers more to a sense of belonging to a broader community and common humanity, promoting a ‘global gaze’ that links the local to the global and the national to the international. It is also a way of understanding, acting and relating oneself to others and the environment in space and in time, based on universal values, through respect for diversity and pluralism. In this context, each individual’s life has implications in day-to-day decisions that connect the global with the local, and vice versa.”
In thinking about how this relates to my own travel experiences, I can say that my first trip abroad was not at all one in which I understood or related to the people in the countries I was visiting.
I was smart enough to realize some of the implications that our mode of travel had, but I didn’t like them.
We bombarded countless kiosks, 200 people spilling out of buses to use the bathroom, to buy postcards, to say, “WE WERE IN LIECHTENSTEIN” – never mind that we did nothing more but buy that souvenir and continue on.
Even without travel, you, wherever you are, can be a global citizen. I myself am constantly working on consuming less. Trying to learn more about where I am shopping. Considering the actions that the leaders of my country are taking and how they impact everyone – not just me – and giving my support or fighting back when I feel it’s right. Join me. Learn, understand, analyze, and become a global citizen, for the common good of all the world’s humanity.