Confab | 002 | Pillars of Hope | Travel Rewards

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Uniting hearts and opening minds: the unexpected benefits of taking that trip
By Vanessa Bassett

More and more, humans are seeking out travel as a form of enjoyment as well as personal fulfillment. Our planet is smaller and more accessible than it has been at any previous point in history. Social media, Google flights, AirB&B and Uber connect us as never before. As globalization and technology become more and more a requirement for personal satisfaction and professional success, our ability to travel further abroad for less money influences our lives and give us hope for the future.

Travel is a dynamic act which brings many rewards. While some people enjoy the simple thrill of arriving in a new country and exploring a new city, others enjoy historic, cultural, and educational aspects of travel. All of these aspects unite in a common theme of expansion and understanding, resulting in more open minds and hearts. This result gives us hope by breaking down barriers and highlighting our shared qualities as humans regardless of our nationalities or ethnicities.

Travel is a huge priority for me, and I explore the world whenever I am able. I love the experience of seeing new things, taking beautiful pictures, and having stories to tell back home. The feeling of connectedness I get usually occurs at an unexpected time. One of those times was when I purchased a falafel sandwich from a Palestinian woman at a small food stall in Bethlehem. The woman had such grace and kindness in her eyes, and the warmth with which she served me was a reminder that goodness knows no cultural or political boundaries. However, it does not take a devoted travel junkie to appreciate the sweetness of a new culture and a friendly face in a small town halfway around the world. Travel is increasingly accessible and there are many reasons why it can be appreciated and valued.

Travel is unique in that it gives us hope through our connections with people and places. It is that hope for connection, of finding that place in a guidebook where we walk in the footsteps of countless other humans who came before us which is the basis for inspiration and exploration. It is that feeling of standing in front of a painting, building or even a tree, where we know thousands of others have also stood experiencing the same awe that we are feeling in that very moment. In Petra, Jordan, not only can we be amazed at an entire city carved out of a valley of rocks, we can also marvel at the way in which the builders told their story through the art they carved into their city. As I viewed the statues and scenes on the narrow walls leading down the ancient Nabatean road, I felt so many things all at once: admiration at the artistry I was witnessing, connection to the countless others who would walk the stony streets before and after me, the timelessness of a culture that preserved its life and history in the stone walls that guided me down the path.

This feeling of connectedness can be found walking the ramparts of a castle, imagining the ancient feet that walked those same pathways hundreds or even thousands of years before we got there. I remember a spring trip to central France where I walked the ramparts of the castle in the city of Carcassonne. Knowing that innumerable other feet throughout the ages have walked those ramparts before me made me feel connected not only to the residents of this castle in medieval France, but to human history as well.

Connection to one another can come from the feeling of wonder we have at seeing some of earth’s most beautiful sights, knowing that our fellow humans have had their breath taken away just as ours is. Thankfully, one does not have to jet out the country to enjoy this phenomenon. A simple weekend getaway or even a day trip a few towns down the road can be enough to change our perspective and give us the thrill of new views, people and scenery. A short jaunt from my hometown of Seattle to the historic town of Coupeville, Washington took me back in time and showed me Mother Nature at her finest. Puffy clouds rolled across the sky above the harbor while we walked the short historic streets. Despite stormy conditions, the water in the bay shifted from vibrant blue to dusky gray hues with a different sheen every time I glanced across the choppy waves. Though just an hour’s journey from home, I could still feel the unique appreciation for my new destination.

This universal experience of travel is really one of love, because in moments like these our hearts are opened with the joy of being in a place of newness and excitement and in this openness we are able to connect with one another at a most basic level. This is why travel gives us hope for the future. In moments like these we become more conscious and more aware of our connectedness to one another, and to those who will come after us. It is this type of link that breaks down walls and barriers, leaving us free to love each other and accept our fellow global citizens as well as ourselves.

In travel we are given the unique opportunity to see ourselves in the cultures and communities that we visit, whether that visit is overseas or a 90 minute car trip from our front door. Exposure to an experience different from our own gives us the chance for personal growth, enhancing our mental and emotional capacities. Travel holds for us a vast reservoir of expansion, which we engage simply by deciding to go on that trip. We have the opportunity to think outside the box of everyday life, and this gives an understanding of universality. When we consider the challenges that we face as humanity, that feeling of connection to every one of our human and animal neighbors is a great start for the solutions we seek.