Why travel? Often people travel for business. Most travel to discover: adventure, unfamiliar places, history, others or themselves in others. For many American globetrotters, overseas travel is the only true means of building cross-cultural connections.
I have friends who refer to themselves as world travelers, internationalists or global nomads. They travel the world. They trek the heights of the Himalayas. They vacation in Venezuela, Vietnam or Victoria Falls in Zambia. They live in faraway cities, countries, continents and climates from China to Chile. They mix comfortably with diverse cultures, are fluent in multiple languages and regularly dine on exotic foods.
What I also notice is how so few of them have traveled across the street and across a few state lines in the U.S.A. to the Deep South. I know staunch New Yorkers—avid suitcase-toting globetrotters—who have never trotted to Alabama or Mississippi. A former colleague, who often bikes throughout the European Union to see and learn history, had never been to Mississippi until I took her there to discover the unfamiliar and learn some U.S. history, first hand. While she had eaten exotic ethnic foods in Marrakech, Morocco, until visiting Mississippi she had never eaten that exotic southern food—grits.
We live in a transient world. Cross-cultural communities are everywhere from Oxford, England to Oxford, Mississippi. Exotic foods, those foods unfamiliar to our palates, can be found everywhere. Louisiana Cajun crawfish is as exotic to some as the Chinese delicacy fried grasshoppers is to others. To learn the histories of different people and places, global nomads visit historical sites. How many American globetrotters have traveled the Trail of Tears, followed the trek of the Underground Railroad or visited Manzanar National Historic Site to experience the histories of First Americans, African-Americans and Japanese Americans?
My friends from Germany, Africa, Ireland and England are eager to include visits to Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia along with their stops in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. They want to hear, see and learn as much American history as possible. They understand that much can be discovered when elitist boundaries fall.
True cross-cultural travel begins by consciously traveling beyond familiar grounds even in familiar places. Diverse communities exist across the street, across the country and across the continents.
- Trapped in the Anglosphere, we’ve lost sight of next door | Martin Kettle (guardian.co.uk)
- Jamie Schler: We Are What We Eat: Putting the Cultural Back Into the Global (huffingtonpost.com)