The reading “Why We Travel,” confused me. It seemed to work against the previous reading, “Mindful Traveler.” A lot of its points centered around the aspects of our culture that we can bring to the cultures we visit and improve those cultures we travel to. But “Mindful Traveler” spoke about the damage we can inflict by inflicting our culture onto those we visit. So now, I’m confused as to what we’re supposed to take away from this reading. I don’t know why anyone else travels, but I would hate to think that they travel with a “white savior” complex.
Personally, I travel to learn from the cultures I visit. I travel to countries with different languages to learn the language. Take France, for instance. I visited Paris, and most people speak English in Paris. But I wanted to speak as much French as I could. I made a reservation at a restaurant entirely in French. That experience rendered the entire trip far more valuable to me than any tourist attraction. That’s not to say that I’m, like, “better” than people who travel as tourists. There’s nothing wrong with that! But I don’t think it’s good to encourage people to think that bringing their culture into other places will make that place better. I’m reminded of the building-houses example. Well-meaning missionaries travel to build houses for the poor, which wind up standing empty and creating a drag on the economy. I think that’s a good example of how bringing our idea of progress to other places may not always be a great idea. So I like to focus on how we can learn from the places we visit, rather than the other way around. And “Why We Travel” didn’t really do that for me.