I get lots of social media feeds with photos of beautiful American landscapes, often with captions that read something like this: Why travel internationally when we have this incredibly beautiful country right here in our back yard.” It is true that the United States has it’s share of incredible landscapes and must-visit places. One does not have to visit Switzerland to see great mountains (go to Colorado or Utah); go to Florida or California instead of the Mediterraneans to enjoy beautiful beaches. This argument makes perfect sense if international travel was not about “Instagram moments” or getting great pictures and video clips of famous, must-see, historical sites, buildings, and famous structures.
For us at Go Global, as important as these moments are, we continue to travel in order to experience a country through her people and culture. The Swiss Alps are beautiful; but they become memorable, special, and even magical when we engage with the locals and put Swiss faces behind the destination! For us, international travel is also about gaining a new appreciation for our own country, and for the things that we may have taken for granted.
MY TRIP TO THE SOVIET UNION
I grew up during the Cold War in Poland. As a kid, it was common knowledge that Russians were the “bad guys.” After all, that’s how they were depicted in almost every movie that has villains. To this day, no matter where I am, when I hear Russian accent, I become more vigilant. In 1986 my parents took our family on a trip to the Soviet Union. The trip introduced me to the locals, and to my surprise, they were not all bad guys. In fact, many of the locals looked at me with distrust and fear. I was not one of them. That trip taught me to “never judge the book by its cover.” Many of the officials that we met were either unpleasant or arrogant. By contrast, many locals that we had come to meet were friendly, curious, and welcoming.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY REMAIN THE SAME
After we got married, my wide and I moved to live in Switzerland. We came from Oklahoma and George Bush was our president, and he was not very popular in Europe. But, we are not the president. We are people who may agree or disagree with our government on a variety of issues. Visiting with locals and exchanging our views ended up being a good experience for all of us. We met many kind Europeans who gave us an earful about their policy leaders. The Russian people are not Putin, Belarusians are not Lukashenko, just like all of us are not Trump or Biden. We are fathers, mothers, co-workers, friends. And most of us do not like or want war. I believe that if more people traveled to other countries to meet the people, the world would be just a bit more kind and compassionate and safer for all of us.
I want to encourage each one of you to explore other cities, states and countries. It may be a bit scary but it is extremely rewarding to get out of our bubble and see, hear, eat, and experience something different. Just do it.