I feel that most the time I tend to talk about my good experiences traveling. I always want to encourage other travelers, especially women, to expand their horizons and to think about the world in a new way. That’s originally why I started this blog in the first place. I believe that travel can really make people more aware of other cultures and in so, make them aware of what they can do to change it for the better.
But there are times when I have not fully agreed with this original thought. There are moments where I wonder whether I am doing more harm than good while abroad, or when I find myself developing certain prejudices against a people or place based solely on my experiences. Travel can, actually, cause stereotypes to be continued on. It can also be used to exploit certain views rather than seeing them from all sides.
I’ve definitely seen travelers who instead of opening their minds, have tended to close them because of negative experiences on the road. One of the challenges of traveling is that it does not always live up to the expectations that we have, and we are left feeling bitter because of it. I’ve talked to many people who have felt that their money could have been better spent on other things. While this is a personal feeling, it can greatly affect how we choose to see travel and can cause us to question why we choose to travel in the first place.
Just as there can be a lot of good from any experience, there can also be bad, as well. Much of it depends on the person traveling, but one horrific event or a stolen wallet can go a long way toward creating a negative impression about a place. I came back from Egypt with my mind pried wide open, but I know many who would have felt bombarded with cultural differences and may have even felt as though their stereotypes had been affirmed by the attitudes there. Again, it comes down to having an open mind and being willing to throw expectations out the window.
Has travel changed me negatively? In some ways, yes. It has made it difficult for me to accept an “ordinary” life. I am bored incredibly easily. I find myself thinking about other cultures negatively sometimes because I am relating it to my own experience while there. I find myself comparing places rather than just appreciating each and every one for its own unique flavor. Sometimes, I find my impression of the culture and country is altered because of my own internal mood and problems I might be having that day.
I’ve thought about my interest in the environment and my wish to make it better, but how I really haven’t started in the right place—right where I live. I’ve thought about how travel has made staying in one location incredibly difficult for me, and how I’m never fully content when I have no plans to leave again. I find myself already thinking about my next trip before the one I am on has even finished—the sure sign of an addiction.
And it is times like these where I wonder whether or not travel has indeed made me a better person, after all. There is no way to know, but accept the truths that I can’t, and to see where travel might alter me negatively. As with any sort of power, it’s our choice whether to use it for good.