I read a statistic recently on a travel group I follow that approximately 60% of United States Citizens do not have passports. Some folks on the feed responded to the effect of, “who cares, I’ve got mine!” Well, I have mine but I think you should have one too. Travel is important, and it’s important to encourage travel and access to it, for everyone.
1: DEVELOP COMPASSION BY UNDERSTANDING SAMENESS.
We are the same. We wish to avoid suffering, we seek happiness. I’d venture a guess those who disagree with that statement are likely without passports. Let’s change this. See, when I travel to a place where people don’t look like me, don’t speak like me, and may not act like me – I first see all the ways in which we are different. But with time, I understand all the ways in which we are the same.
As I navigate my way through new spaces and places, as I rely on the kindness of strangers, perhaps share a drink or a smile with new, and quite different friends, I share stories, hear experiences, and have tons of my own. The more time I spend within other cultures in strange places, what was once “different” becomes more familiar, and my relationship to “different” changes. Unfamiliarity or a sense of separateness dissipates, and compassion and connectedness grow. Imagine how my brain would change if I had more and more of these experiences? Would I, could I, reach a place where my primary reaction was not to see separateness or difference at all? (the answer is yes).
“Strive at first to meditate upon the sameness of yourself and others. In joy and sorrow all are equal.” – Shantideva
We don’t have to look far to see how intolerance towards difference can hurt and harm. There is real danger in seeing ourselves as separate from others. The spiritual illness of feeling “different from” can manifest in personal ways, such as a depressing feeling of alone-ness, and in extreme circumstances, may manifest outwardly as pathological hate, anger or aggression. To recognize the unity of all things, the ways in which we are similar, and the humanity we all share is an anti-dote for intolerance.
Travel more, and your barriers begin to break down. Travel more, and you see the connectedness in all human beings.
“The meaning of our self is not to be found in its separateness from God and others, but in the ceaseless realization of yoga, of union.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore
2: DEVELOP EQUANIMITY BY EXCHANGING SELF FOR OTHERS.
I consider myself an open-minded person, even compassionate at that, and I have used my imagination to conjure up empathy in the past, but until you have had LIVED the experience of what it’s like to be different from, you cannot truly understand. And even at that, to have lived that experience as a privileged white woman from the United States, there’s still a lot I will never “know.” With travel, however, I’ve been able to glimpse what it feels like to think everyone is looking at you (and sometimes they are), what it feels like to struggle with communication when you don’t speak the language, and what it feels like to be laughed at over silly mistakes with customs and traditions and that are not my own.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things” ~ Henry Miller
Travel has seriously bruised my ego, and has put me through more than a few hardships, but it has also shown me the overwhelming kindness of others. Through both good and bad experiences, I have not just seen, but FELT the consequences of being a foreigner in a strange land, and this has made me think REALLY HARD about how I’ve treated foreigners in my own land. I’ve been spat on for looking different, and I’ve been welcomed with exuberance by complete strangers who’ve treated me as family. To live this for yourself, is something you will always carry with you, and it’s important.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ~ Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad
3: DEEPEN APPRECIATIVE JOY BY PRACTICING ACTIVE GRATITUDE.
A passport from the United States is a powerful, powerful thing. Worthy of saying powerful twice. Let’s take a moment to reflect on the millions of people around the world who cannot get passports, visas, or permission to leave their countries. The millions of people who do not have freedom of movement, choice, or vacation in a new place. Registering for a US Passport is a vote of action that says, “this is important to me, and I’m grateful.” I’m going to get mine, and use mine, so no future statistic could ever point to the fact that this is an unused freedom that should one day be revoked.
It may seem like apocalyptic thinking. But honestly, we never know. Everything is always changing. Let there never be a day when your government can say ‘most people don’t use it anyway.’ Let there never be a day when you aren’t ready to board a plane or cross a border. Let there never be a day when you forget how lucky you are to have been born in a “free” country, with freedom to come and go as you please. If you can afford it, and you can access it, do it. Do it for the sake of all your fellow citizens.
“Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~ Mary Oliver
Use your privilege. Demonstrate your gratitude for this precious life by using your privilege to get out and go. Learn, see, experience, notice, make friends, leave your comfort zone, walk new paths, change your brain. Do all of these things with self awareness, and these things will make you kinder, more compassionate, even more grateful. These are the best reasons I can think of to download that application.
Sara-Mai Conway is a world traveler with multiple passports and residencies. She intends to use them all to the fullest, and dedicates her travel to the freedom of all beings everywhere. Follow her adventures on Instagram @saramaic, or travel with her via @bajasurfyoga. For more information on the spiritual principles behind this post, visit this page.