We have been fooled. Traveling is supposed to make us wiser and more tolerant. We are told it is the best antidote against prejudices. None of this is true. There is no inherent quality in traveling that makes us kind, world loving creatures. Take my word for it: traveling does not make you a better person. Not if your mind is made up and your heart is closed.
A while ago I was visiting the Simien Mountains in northern Ethiopia with my parents. We stayed in a lodge in the mountains – it is one of Africa’s highest (not in the Amsterdam way) hotels, located in an elevation of roughly 3,2 kilometres. A gorgeous place but also insanely expensive. At night you can hear the screaming gelada monkeys (not baboons, as was a few years back proved by DNA tests), in the morning you wake up to one of the world’s most beautiful sceneries, a never-ending stretch of mountains.
It was late (mountain late. It means 8 pm. After hiking in the mountains one is exhausted already at sundown) and we were nearly falling asleep when our neighbours in the next room started a loud banter. There was no sound isolation and thus we could hear everything they said. So there we were in a gorgeous, relaxing place, in the birthplace of humans, beautiful, beautiful Ethiopia, listening to this group of tolerant travelers going:
These bloody Liberians and bloody Polacks and all others come to our country and they take our benefits! They take our work and they come and enjoy our bloody benefits!
These bloody politicians these days…they used to be farmers, you know! BUT! These days they are bloody political scientists and what not. You can’t trust these bloody politicians. Nobody is telling the truth.
Why should we become a muslim country?!
The alpha male in the room did most of the talking, he finished all his sentences with a compelling ‘BUT’ and the BUT! was followed with an illogical explanation to most things in the world, the conclusion being that immigrants and muslims are the prevailing pests in our otherwise uninfested serene societies.
Now what did I think of such a conversation?
I was curious to know where these opinions rose from. Were these people really being robbed of their benefits? And if so, how could they afford traveling to one of the most expensive lodges in Ethiopia?
Were they blind to their own richness in those isolated mountain surroundings?
What did they mean by their country being forced to become a muslim country? Where were the facts?
What has happened in their country that makes them so suspicious of all other nationalities? Who is really to blame?
How is public discussion in their country tackling immigration issues?
How is media tackling immigration issues?
How would their children react to their parents’ comments?
I think the only opinion we shared was that politicians can’t always be trusted. But! That night I also hoped a gelada monkey would open their lodge room door and bite them in their buttocks. I’m kidding! I’m not.
Travelling at its best will put your mind into a constant state of flux. Your thoughts can and will change. For our neighbours at the lodge (and similar alpha males in Finland too), I would like to post-join the discussion by bringing up some surprising facts, not meant to belittle the value of opinions, but to closely scrutinize these opinions, which these days, despite of us having access to more information we could ever dream of, spread as quickly as a forest fire:
Would someone care to do a similar infographic for my country Finland and the upcoming elections there?
I tell you people. The mere act of traveling does not change anything in you.
Think of traveling as the ingredients for a delicious meal. You have to do the cooking yourself.