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August 13, 2018 | by  | in Editorial | [ssba]

Editor’s Letter

You know what people say about travel. “It broadens your mind, you’ll become more learned and generally a better person. Everyone should travel.”
But, we’ve debunked that one, right? People are saying “the thing is, only middle-class and rich people can afford to travel. By saying that ‘you become a better person when you travel’, you’re saying that rich people, by virtue of being rich and being able to afford both plane tickets and time off work, are more wise or worldly or whatever, which is unfair and classist. People mostly go travelling cos it’s fun, and to layer extra meaning on how it’s ‘educational’ is just so typical for rich people to justify their behaviour. Besides, there are plenty of other ways that are just as good for opening your mind. Try reading a book.” I kinda agree and kinda disagree with both those arguments. Here’s why.
Travel can broaden your mind. But the part that’s mind-broadening isn’t the getting on or off the plane. Nor is it the moment you see the Eiffel tower with your own two eyes. It’s when you interact with people who are different from you, and you learn that people canexist in different realities, living lives and doing things unheard of in your world. And no, reading a book is no substitute for being face to face with difference. Sorry. Words on a page can never replace Real Human Interaction.
And I got good reason to think that learning about difference, and other cultures, is a good thing.
We fear, therefore hate, the unknown. I remember watching BBC’s series on “proud racists”. The Proud Racist interviewed said, very proudly, that he’s never had the misfortune of meeting someone who wasn’t white. I can’t guess all of his motives, but I really do believe he would have had a different mindset if only he went out and, ahem, travelled, a bit more.
But the thing is, we got some sort of idea in our  head that “travel” means plane tickets to Europe, or South America, or Bali at least. But c’mon, that stereotype gotta budge. All travel means is going from the familiar to the strange. There are different places a plenty without having to board a single plane. Within Wellington there are hundreds of different social subcultures which are home to some, and exotic to others. Maybe it’s the Cat Show. Maybe it’s going to the District Court and witnessing the shit that goes on there.
I mean it when I say that the different people we should interact with to “broaden our minds” is right here. I went camping with a friend up in Kaitoke, and we met this guy who lived in a van and told us about his 20 year meth addiction and his prison time and he got real excited when he learnt my friend was a government worker. He asked her lots of questions because when else would he meet a government worker again? I was surprised because we were just outside Wellington, and isn’t every second person here working for the government? But then my friend told me that was the first time she’d met someone who had gone to jail so there you go. Different circles. The fact that we don’t interact more is fucked up.
Have I mentioned hitchhiking yet? Great stuff. I’m a fan. Doesn’t cost a cent, which appeals to my inner cheapskate, and you get to talk to a wide cross-section of society. While I won’t pretend it’s a safe thing to do (that time when my ride ripped a bong going 110 down the highway); you do tend talk to people of all social demographics. The only common denominator for a ride is they’re willing to pick you up. I’ve gotten CEOs, numerous Catholic priests, social workers, tourists who barely spoke English, labourers, old people, young people, big families tiki-touring, etc. You get the idea.
So. Travel broadens your mind. You don’t have to be rich to travel. Go forth.


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