At the beginning of the New Year, it is customary for magazines (and now, web blogs) to feature lists – anywhere from the top ten memorable things in the past year to the top ten resolutions for the New Year. In order to come up with a list of my own, I asked my three adult children over dinner what they learned from traveling. This is what they told me:
- Chop Suey is American
One child replied that Chinese food is not the same everywhere adding that the way that Chinese cuisine can accommodate local preferences can be surprising. Anecdotally, he mentioned that while the Chinese food in Amsterdam’s Nieuwmarkt was fabulous, it was deeply disappointing in Boston’s Chinatown. Of course, my son’s sample size may have been way too small but the point, I believe, is nevertheless valid. I have no doubt that the ubiquity of Chinese cuisine stems from that impressive ability to absorb external influences. Asking for menu staples such as chop suey or beef and broccoli in a restaurant in China will likely confuse your Chinese waiter because these dishes are more American than they are Chinese. The traveler, like Chinese food, becomes more adaptable absorbing new influences.
- There are places that you can drink water from the tap
The second one mentioned that he was blown away by how different cities operated so differently – from spanking modern Singapore to the more tradition-bound London, from the right-hand drive New York to the left-hand drive Adelaide. The pomp of a Queen’s Day parade imprinted on him how the government in the UK was vastly different from our (American-influenced) presidential system. But what he was most surprised about was how in some countries, you can drink water right from the tap! There is indeed more than one way to skin the cat and the traveler becomes more accepting that different ways can work equally well.
- Camila Cabello’s “Havana” is not Egyptian-sounding
My daughter was delighted at the sheer variety of art and music, of architecture and history. One of her favorite places is Seam Reap – a place that is relatively close to the Philippines and yet so different. She believes that travel broadens the “right brain” and elevates the traveler’s creativity profoundly. She chides that I need to travel more often (and more thoughtfully) because I once commented that Camila Cabello’s “Havana” sounded Egyptian to me.
I believe that my three children have given examples of a phenomenon that MIT Sloan’s Peter Senge calls a Shift of Mind that comes from seeing the world anew. Travel broadens the traveler’s sense of identity – beyond the family, the community, and the nation. The traveler begins to see one global village. And from there, it becomes easier to envision and advocate world peace, coming together to stem climate change, and finally ending poverty, prejudice and inequality.
Happy New Year and happy travels, everyone!