Over Memorial Day Weekend, Jim and I - as is our custom - headed east to the tiny Oregon town of Spray to watch their rodeo. Spray boasts a population of about 150 people, but it swells to nearly 15,000 over the Memorial Day Rodeo weekend! There is one motel, with only five rooms, and in-town camping facilities for about 30 trailers. The rest of the folks camp either in "nearby" towns (meaning anywhere from 40 to 50 miles away) or in the Umatilla National Forest. And that is where we choose to camp.
To add to our enjoyment, we took the grandkids with us this year, leaving on Thursday. Ada's mommy and daddy joined us on Friday evening, and my sister and brother-in-law arrived on Saturday. The kids were not particularly impressed with the rodeo, but did enjoy seeing the animals and definitely enjoyed the freedom of playing in the forest! We arrived home on Monday, exhausted, but with lots of happy memories.
Upon my arrival home, I found an email from one of my eFriends, commenting on our recent travels to Europe, and outlining her adult children's travels, along with a few of her own. She closed her email with a question: "Don't you think it would do most people good to travel outside the US to see how others live?" (I do hope she doesn't mind that I'm blatantly using her comment in my blog!)
I've thought about that over the past couple of days, in light of our recent European travels as well as our trip across the US last year, and even this past weekend in a small Oregon town. And I've come to the conclusion that travel of any kind is good for us. It opens our minds and broadens our horizons. It keeps us from becoming too comfortable with our way of life, and it challenges our assumptions.
By encountering people of different cultures - whether it be a foreign culture, or just the culture of a different region of our own country, or a town of a different size - we frequently come face to face with people whose ideas are opposed to ours, but who hold those ideas with the same fervor we feel. By taking on the role of guest in another culture, we have the opportunity to experience what it is like to be in a minority position - language, religion, government policies, food preferences - the list is long! - and to be for a short time in a position that is outside our usual comfort zone.
I am a woman who is not known for being submissive or feeling insecure. However, in a foreign country, or even in Spray, Oregon, I am much less assertive than I am in my "natural" environment. I am aware that I am a guest (with all that this status implies, thank you , Mom!), and I am always aware that my views on everything from politics to religion to the environment may be diametrically opposed to those whose space I have invaded. It makes me listen more carefully, examine my own comments more carefully - perhaps even editing what I want to say, and even putting myself in others' places to try to understand why they feel as they do.
So, yes, I do think it would be good for all of us to have the experience of travel. Not just outside the US, but outside our communities, our cities, our states, our geographic regions. I think the key to understanding is meeting each other face to face. It doesn't mean we will change our minds about anything, but it at least allows us to see that those who think differently are not demons, but our fellow travelers on this planet. Broadening our horizons in whatever ways we can will only make us more whole, and will certainly go a long way toward lessening our fear of that which is "other."
Thank you, Holly, for asking!