Erasing borders of the mind
International travel is growing, opening up new views of humanity. Cuba
represents one new destination ready to reward the curious traveler.
By the Monitor's Editorial Board
Despite President Obama's new effort to warm relations with Cuba,
tourism from the US to that Caribbean island nation is still banned, a
policy that only Congress can change.
But the publicity surrounding Mr. Obama's move to reestablish full
diplomatic relations has put a spotlight on the possibility of travel to
Cuba. Already, some 500,000 Americans visit each year.
While most US travelers are Cuban Americans seeing relatives, a
significant number have no personal ties to Cuba. They wish only to
experience its cultural and natural attractions.
Recommended: Are you a savvy global traveler? Take the quiz
Today, by joining educational tour groups, Americans can hop on a
charter flight to the island to learn about subjects from Cuban baseball
to architecture, to study dance or photography, or to watch birds or
tour scenic parks.
Traveling to sit and sun on a beach is not yet legal. But these "tours
with a purpose," which allow travelers to meet local people and learn
about their lives and interests, often make for the most rewarding
travel experiences anyway.
"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry," poet Maya Angelou once wrote,
"but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die,
it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we
may even become friends."
The need to keep Internet access open around the world has received
deserved publicity. It is an important vehicle for ideas and information
to swiftly travel and take root in new places.
But traveling in person beyond one's own borders presents another kind
of learning, one that can add an even deeper human connection.
Volunteer tourism, or "voluntourism," has become more and more popular
with travelers of all ages, from high school and college students to
retirees. Instead of relaxing, these visitors chose to serve, working on
projects that improve housing, education, the environment, or other
areas of need.
Worldwide tourism is on pace to set a new record in 2014, according to
partial year figures gathered by UNWTO, the United Nations agency that
promotes world travel. International tourism through the first 10 months
of 2014 rose 5 percent over 2013, UNWTO reports, well above predicted
levels. By the end of the year about 1.1 billion people will have
traveled across international borders. By 2030, UNWTO projects, that
figure will rise to 1.8 billion per year.
"These are remarkable results considering that different parts of the
world continue to face significant geopolitical and health challenges,"
says UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, noting also that "the global
economic recovery remains rather fragile and uneven."
At any given time some countries are unwise places to visit, even with
the best of intentions. But Cuba represents how other places, once
closed off, are always opening up.
What a trip abroad will yield isn't always apparent beforehand. "All
journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware,"
wrote philosopher Martin Buber.
The willingness to visit new places can open new insights and stir a new
appreciation for how people are all the same in many important ways –
yet also each uniquely and beautifully individual.
Source: Erasing borders of the mind - Yahoo News -