I haven’t participated in #TTOT (Travel Talk on Twitter) for a couple of weeks, but I had the chance to join in a couple of weeks ago where the topic presented was the ‘power of travel’.
Firstly, I’m thinking what does that even mean. Secondly, I’ve got the ‘Power of Love’ song stuck in my head with the last word not so elegantly exchanged for ‘travel’. Don’t ask.
Then came the questions, as is the nature of a Twitter chat, and they seemed to clear a few things up for me. They consisted of things like ‘what travel experience changed your view of the world?‘ and ‘what have you learnt from travel‘. Pretty standard, straight forward questions.
But it was the last question that started the cogs whirring in my brain: ‘How have your travels positively influenced the cultures and/or people you’ve visited?‘
Many of the answers offered by participants included nods towards volunteering, and why would they not? Isn’t that the main aim of volunteering – to positively influence other places? Now, I know there’s a huge debate about the pros and cons of volunteering and working in less well-off communities around the world, but this is not what I want to discuss.
Instead, I want to ask you whether the power of travel is internal for each individual or whether it can be externally projected onto the cultures and communities we visit. I’m not talking about volunteers, or people who actively go on a trip to help build a school or feed abandoned baby monkeys. I’m talking about the average traveller, just like me (and probably you), who often goes abroad to see the world.
I can understand how travel influences us as people; it opens our eyes to the rest of the world, introduces us to new ways of living, and expands our horizons. That’s pretty powerful. But it’s only powerful on a internal level. How, then, can we as individuals positively influence the places we visit? Is it even possible? Sure, we can keep an eye on our carbon footprint and leave each place as we found it, but I’m talking on a deeper level here. How can we leave traces of ourselves in these places? What can we do to ensure places remember us long after we have left?
Not so simple, right? In my opinion, the power of travel is a one-way concept at the moment – not in a bad way, though. We have to grow as individuals before we can change the world.