Lessons from TravelVolume I

Lesson 1: Ask people for directions.

Travel has taught me to ask people for directions.

Lesson 2: Don’t generalize.

Any time we hear someone start a sentence with “men are” or “women are” or “Colombians are” or “Americans are” or “people with that skin color are” or “people who like cats are” or “artists are” or any other combination of words that throws countless individuals into one same bucket in order to shower them with one same lazy judgement, an alarm should go off in our brains to warn us that the rest of that sentence cannot be accurate.

Sólo los individuos existen, si es que existe alguien.²

This translates into: “Only individuals exist, and that is if anyone exists.” A little bit cerebral at the end there, but that’s just Borges being Borges, and he does have a point.

Lesson 3: Consume less media and have more conversations.

Travel has taught me to value conversations with real people over the consumption of media.

Lesson 4: Avoid discussing religion and politics.

When I was a kid, my dad always advised me, in Spanish, to avoid discussing religion and politics.⁴

Lesson 5: Find common ground.

Travel has taught me to find common ground with people.

Lesson 6: A government is not its people.

I won’t illustrate this lesson with specific examples because I’m too young to have my name listed on some government’s blacklist. Suffice to say that it is misguided to make a judgement about an individual person based on the government of the country that that person is from. Don’t do this. It makes no sense. Everywhere on the planet there are amazing individuals, as well as not-so-amazing individuals, and this has nothing to do with foreign policy or government.

Lesson 7: When in Rome…

…do as the Romans do. This is a cliché for a reason.

Lesson 8: Be a citizen of the world.

Travel has taught me to be a citizen of the world.

But Socrates expressed it better, when he said, he was not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world (just as a man calls himself a citizen of Rhodes or Corinth), because he did not enclose himself within the limits of Sunium, Taenarum, or the Ceraunian mountains.⁵

I have emailed both of these Greek guys for comment, and I look forward to their response. They seem smart.

Many know Socrates as one of the alleged creators of the concept of world citizenship. Few know, however, that he was also quite suspicious at airport checkpoints: “What is your citizenship, Mr. Socrates?” “The world.” “Ah, I see…security!” This photo is a mugshot of Socrates taken after he was detained for suspicious activity at the Miami International Airport in 412 B.C.

Notes

  1. This is one of only two things I know for certain about the future. The other is that, in the future, humanity is still making Fast & Furious movies.
  2. Jorge Luis Borges, “El Otro,” in Cuentos Completos, 1ra ed. (Nueva York, EE.UU.: Vintage Español, 2019), p. 431.
  3. I remember learning in primary school about the four basic parts of any communication: the sender, the message, the medium, and the receiver. I also remember learning that all of these play a role in determining the quality of a communication. So, for example, if a “friend” shares some gossip with me, and I buy into it (and maybe even spread it) without stopping to find out whether the gossip corresponds to, you know, reality, then my “friend” is a gossiper, yes, but I’m not an innocent victim of misinformation: I’m an enabler.
  4. Here’s what he would say to me in Spanish: Con la gente no se habla ni de política ni de religión. And here’s how you say “the mango” in Spanish: el mango.
  5. Plutarch, “De Exilio,” Perseus Digital Library (Tufts University), http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A2008.01.0308%3Asection%3D5.

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