How Travel Promotes Cross Cultural Understanding

Cross Cultural Understanding

The life of travel I have pursued over the last four years has led me to some weird but more importantly wonderful sights. One of the main things that leads me to travel is that I’m fascinated by humanity and the different ways in which we are human beings live on this planet. I love wildlife and nature, but really it’s experiencing different cultures and lifestyles that make my feet really itch, and a strong aching to want to be immersed in them. After all, one of the greatest benefits of travel is the potential for cross cultural understanding.

With that philosophy I’ve come to gain a greater understanding of other cultures, which can never be a bad thing. Sadly not everyone sees it that way, and without having experienced another way of living people can find themselves with misinformed opinions of other countries. In its extreme, this lack of understanding is what leads to problems on our planet, like cultural stereotypic, xenophobia and even racism. Along with thousands of other bloggers, I’m here to preach travel as a means of changing that, and opening those people’s eyes to the benefits of living in a culture alien to your own.

Breaking down barriers

Due to the borders as we as humanity have created, there is a strong ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality which really gets in the way of cross cultural understanding. Not only do I mean actual borders between countries, but the barriers we’ve created through the media and the like showing some countries in an unfair and biased light.

A fundamental thought I find so many of us forget is that stripped down to our very core we’re all human beings – the same species, same function, same basic needs, and that’s something you realise when you travel. I feel like I’ve benefitted so much from realizing that, and I don’t think I would have developed that sense so strongly if it wasn’t for travel.

Stereotypes

When we head off to new countries it is normal for all of us to have a preconceived notion of the kind of culture you might encounter there. With all the influences from holiday brochures, websites, travel blogs, and wherever you find information about that country, it’s really hard not to. What some fall into the trap of doing is turning those pre-conceived notions into stereotypes, which will alter the way you see people from a certain country and could get in the way of your experiences there.

What I’ve experienced with the more I travel is that any thoughts or feelings I had about a place before I went are almost always blown out the water by the reality. I’ve hardly ever been to a country that has met my expectations, either in exceeding or not reaching them, and not one place has been exactly as I pictured it.

The more I travel the more I realize that while there can be the tiniest bit of truth in stereotypes (us British people really do love queuing) I leave those stereotypes at home and just enjoy submerging myself in another way of living.

Curiosity, not fear

Taking the leap into travel is a pretty big step but it teaches you to be curious about the world, and as I’ve seen increasing amounts of this planet, the more my personal longing to see different sides of it has grown.

Not understanding other cultures and having a misinformed opinion of them does come with a certain element of fear of the unknown, even if that fear is tiny and we don’t realise it. What’s the best way to tackle a fear? Face it head on. Travel to those places you’re unsure of and see them with your own eyes. Become curious to find out how they work and why they live in the ways they do. In doing this you can use travel as a tool to just understand other people – figure out what makes them tick and open yourself up to enjoying our world with them.

Not only does this way of thinking develop a level of understanding that’s a benefit to you, but if people thought this way on a global scale and made an effort to understand each other, we can take steps forward to resolving our problems. Do yourself and the world a favor – travel and start understanding.

Emma

Emma Higgins has been writing and traveling on and off since 2009. Her blog, Gotta Keep Movin’ is full of stories and advice from her trips, which include Europe, India, Morocco, South America, the USA and Canada. Her main focuses are budget travel and volunteering, and she has been involved in sustainable farming in Argentina, animal shelters in Peru, and even tried her hand at making goats cheese in British Columbia. Follow her travels on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Categories: Education

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