Travel can show us our preconceptions about the world and ourselves. I’ve got my fair share of preconceptions. They’ve been hardwired into a belief system of opinions about the world. Most of which are utterly false.
For example, before I sojourned Africa I honestly thought Africans we’re “tribal and backwards.” They’re not. They’re culture is vibrant and progressive but not in the Western preconception of “progress.”
And a couple years after the 9/11 attacks I went to teach English in Egypt. Family and friends showed their beliefs (whether overtly or subtly) that Arabs we’re dangerous. Even I was unconsciously worried that I’d be singled out as American. The first few months I hid behind a beard, but Egyptians (as with most people I’ve met) don’t equate an individual with their government. I realized that I believed that people and their government we’re almost the same thing because I grew up in liberal democracies.
With that in mind, I want to echo a guest blog post by Allistar Humphreys over at As We Travel. He lists out the “10 Things I Learned While Cycling Around the World.”
Here are the best points:
- The Middle East was one of the kindest, most welcoming regions I have visited.
- This proved to me that preconceptions are dangerous – most countries are not.
- Being cold is worse than being hot.
- America has a lot of critics, and for many good reasons. But spending 6 months there made me conclude that I would prefer to have an American hegemony than any of the other main candidates (China, Russia, India, the Ummah).
The last point is one of the most interesting. As an American, I’ve been very critical of my home culture and government over the years. Recently though, I’ve learned to appreciate the positive with the negative. I also prefer an American hegemony to others, as Churchill famously called “democracy the worst form of government, except for all the others.” But I’m holding onto the preconception that hegemony need not be a foundation for civilization.
And yes, being cold is worse than being hot!