Travel has always been a big part of our family life and our 14 year old son has seen more of the world than most adults will in their entire life! That wasn’t by accident! We planned it that way because we wanted our child to grow up as a citizen of the world and to be in love with all of its diversity. Having just returned from 6 weeks of travel in Peru, I think our plan is working! I watched as our son fell in love with yet another country and its people, cultures and natural wonders. In his short life he has filled his heart with the memories of his friends in Nepal, Turkey, Greece, Australia, Mexico, Peru, Europe and more. These are no longer just places on a map to him, they are places filled with people he knows and cares about and places he wants to preserve.
Night before last we got to see Rick Steves, the budget travel guru, talk on his new book “Travel as a Political Act” and his talk really struck a chord because travel, when done thoughtfully, opens your eyes to the beauty of the world we live in and opens your heart to the amazing people we share the planet with. Having just opened his book I am struck by his words “We travel to have enlightening experiences, to meet inspirational people, to be stimulated, to learn, and to grow….Travel has taught me the fun of having my cultural furniture rearranged and my ethnocentric self-assuredness walloped. It has humbled me, enriched my life, and tuned me in to a rapidly changing world. And for that, I am thankful.” He goes on to say “Travel challenges truths that we were raised thinking were self-evident and God-given. Leaving home, we learn other people find different truths to be self evident. We realize that it just makes sense to give everyone a little wiggle room.” These words ring true. We won’t all come home with the same impressions but we’ll all have our eyes opened wider and have the faces of those we’ve met and who have treated us so well indelibly etched in our hearts. That makes it more difficult to see them as our enemies. Travel, by connecting us to others, can truly be “A political act”.
As I sat and listened to Rick Steves I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between “purposeful travel” and “fair trade”. Each is about connecting and recognizing that through our differences we have a beautiful shared humanity that should be celebrated as one of the most precious gifts on earth. We get to see through the eyes of others and glimpse their own version of the world and they get to see through ours. As I’ve stood beside women producers in Nepal who have far less materially than I do, I have seen a richness of spirit that made me feel as if I were poor. The beauty though is that they shared that richness with me without a single hesitation and made my life much richer for it. In turn I’ve shared some tools with them to help them access a market that will give them more monetary stability and help them plan for their future. Fair trade and travel, they are about the rich exchange of the gifts of humanity and working toward the betterment of all. When we connect, whether through travel or trade, we remember that place of brother and sisterhood and the true meaning of a global family. Happy holidays, safe travels and thanks for supporting Fair Trade!