In 1993, beloved author Dr. Maya Angelou published “Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now,” a perceptive book of short essays filled with gems of truth about spirituality, style, sensuality, and my favorite topic—travel.
Among the collections in this book is “Passports to Understanding,” an essay with great tidbits of inspiration that every travel addict should read at some point in their lives. In this essay, she gives her thoughts on the worth of traversing the globe. They are viewpoints I can both relate to and agree with, especially as an American traveler.
“Human beings are more alike than unalike, and what is true anywhere is true every-where, yet I encourage travel to as many destinations as possible for the sake of education as well as pleasure.”
In the above quote, Dr. Maya Angelou reminds us that traveling has multiple benefits. It is a way to gain knowledge, truth, and understanding about cultures that may seem vastly different from our own at first, but once experienced, prove to have many similarities.
“It is necessary, especially for Americans, to see other lands and experience other cultures. The American, living in this vast country and able to traverse three thousand miles east to west using the same language, needs to hear languages as they collide in Europe, Africa, and Asia.”
Here, Dr. Maya Angelou continues to point out that Americans are particularly in need of venturing off into unfamiliar territory—and she’s right. According to the Office of Travel & Tourism Industries, about 29,000,000 US citizens traveled to overseas regions in 2013. There are over 300 million people in the United States, which means less than 10% of the US population experienced foreign continents that year. In 2015, that number shrunk to 27,000,000! Maybe it’s time for a change in 2016.
Why exactly is it so important for Americans to travel outside the familiar bubble of US soil?
She has an answer for that:
“Being exposed to the existence of other languages increases the perception that the world is populated by people who not only speak differently from oneself but whose cultures and philosophies are other than one’s own.”
Sounds like a pretty good reason to me.
No matter where you live in the world, I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and experience a land different from the one you walk on everyday. You can give a million reasons to never take a trip outside of your homeland, but I believe the logic Dr. Maya Angelou gives us to travel overseas has enough weight to overshadow those reasons. So follow her words of wisdom and go see the world – and be sure to share your experiences when you do.
RIP Dr. Maya Angelou.
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**Statistics in this post updated on February 3, 2016**