To Travel or Not to Travel — Is That the Question?
How I’m navigating the ethical dilemma of travel.
I recently wrapped up a series of tips from my book for anyone who dreams of spending extended time abroad. The goal of sharing these tips was to offer support and encouragement, knowing what a big deal it is to pivot one’s life and jump into a whole new culture. Making such a bold decision brings up so many doubts and questions, but I want people to realize it’s a viable and valuable thing to do.
However, there’s a question that never crossed my mind when my family was contemplating our big Italian adventure several years ago: Does travel of this magnitude pose a moral or ethical dilemma? I find myself grappling with that question now, and I’m of two minds:
On the one hand I see deep or extended travel as a way to help the world heal. I’m not referring to conventional, consumeristic tourism, which tends to treat foreign lands like some kind of Disney World museum. Instead, I advocate for travel that’s immersive whenever possible, focused on building a relationship with a culture over extended time.
The deeper travel I’m for is about living among fellow humans in distant parts of the world, so that we see ourselves in the “other” and vice versa. It’s about becoming a global citizen — a perspective that’s needed for all of us and for the planet itself.
On the other hand…
There’s part of me that knows the healing of our world starts where we are. We shouldn’t have to “escape” to different parts of the planet to foster connection with humanity nor to stimulate our lives. Furthermore, I can’t ignore the privilege I have, in being able to advocate for an epic adventure to another country during a time when so many people are struggling.
There’s also the planetary health factor that’s come into sharper focus since my family did our year abroad: Now is not the time to add to the collective carbon footprint.
Reconciling two realities
These conflicting perspectives begin to reconcile when I reflect on a fundamental truth: Current societal structures are not doing their job to support humanity as a whole, except to serve a tiny minority. Things need…