The World is not “Politically Correct”

Yesterday, I had an interview with a journalist from Metro, a publication that is distributed in over 22 countries. The interview was about extreme and adventure travel. It’s a growing tourism market and one that is attracting a large number of people from the western world. It is also one of the types of insurance we offer. Many countries are trying to attract these travellers.

We talked about dangerous locations, war zones, and pushing the travel envelope. He asked about risks and how to prevent them. I mentioned a theme we repeat at seminars especially for students: “The real risk of travel is not travelling.” If we go into the world, we can see the world and understand the world. We all struggle to get by, in very human ways; we have friends, families, hopes and dreams. We are not very different from one another. The core of being human is that we are HUMAN; we are the same—same weaknesses, strengths and needs. You can certainly learn a lot about other people when you travel. And, in turn, they learn about you.

As a species, we are good at dividing ourselves. Everywhere in the world, locals have names that differentiate themselves from visitors. Divisions between human groups is common; much of it historical, from an inherited pain or past injustices. When I was a child living in Jamaica, the shades of your skin made a difference. Speaking at a Chinese home for seniors, the residents asked one of our team ‘what’ she was, meaning what ethnic group (southern Chinese and Indonesian). In Mexico, there can be a class system between the percentage of Spanish and indigenous mix. In the UK, US, France and Canada, it can be your status or wealth. In many parts of the world, it’s your religion, your parents or your politics, your tribe or where you live. Intolerance comes from a lack of knowledge, fear and isolation.

In educated, industrial countries we worry about being politically correct rather than understanding what may be going on, and unfortunately, we can be as bad as others who do not have the perceived benefits of our lifestyle and easy access to information. Life should not be about where you come from or who you are; it is what you do and how you do it that should count.

Knowing who we are is part of growing up. Some of us take a long time and may never get there; maybe we need to also know about those around us?

How can we change things? The international education industry created for students outside their home countries can change all of our lives. And our future. It connects us with those around us in a meaningful way, bringing together groups searching for knowledge—to meet, live and learn as one. Each student in turn leaves behind a long lasting benefit of understanding in the communities where they lived. International students gain a unique knowledge of their host countries; they share and experience the culture, language and lifestyle making it better for all of us.

If we encourage and promote dialogue, education and travel, then we do change the world. Travel more and save the world? It’s a good start.

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