The Power of Travel

I was listening to Stuff You Missed In History Class, and a listener mail commented that Kyoto was spared the atomic bomb in WWII because Henry Stimson, the US Secretary of War, had it removed from the target list… He had visited the city and, holding an affection for it, fought vehemently to remove it from the lists of cities in consideration. He said it was too culturally significant to attack, and yet, that is what made the city a perfect target. In an article for the BBC, Mariko Oi says:

"That is why it seems that Stimson was motivated by something more personal, and these other excuses were just rationalisations," says Prof [Alex] Wellerstein [historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology].

It is known that Mr Stimson visited Kyoto several times in the 1920s when he was the governor of the Philippines. Some historians say it was his honeymoon destination and that he was an admirer of Japanese culture.

Would you like to know why a travel agent is blogging about this? This story is a testament to the power of travel. Stimson developed an attachment to Kyoto or at least an appreciation for the ancient Japanese capital.

We all come back with quirky travel stories about a crazy food or weird toilet but, without realizing it, you may also return with a greater understanding of a foreign culture and a different point of view. You may not agree with eating a dog, or still have no idea how to flush a toilet in Japan (can you tell I’m still baffled by their toilet technology), but you may return from your travel with an understanding for why certain practices exist in other parts of this little blue and green ball we all call home.

Additionally, you may leave an impression on those you meet while traveling. We’re all ambassadors when venturing beyond our daily cozy confines. I love having conversations with people who have never met an American. They just assumed we’re all loud, beer drinking, rich snobs (ok, I’m guilty of the first two). I discussed my thoughts on travel and terrorism in a previous blog post. It’s nice to give them a real person to think about and not a stereotype (and provide you with the same as well). I’m all for being overly cautious but if we shut ourselves in because of fear, the fear and hate only grow. Stimson may not have developed an appreciation for Japanese culture but his love of Kyoto provides a glimmer of hope for me. It’s a start of the possibility to get to know and value our fellow humans.

Did you sit through the credits at The Black Panther? I love T’Challa’s speech to the UN:

"Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We cannot. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we as brothers and sisters on this Earth should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe."

While he’s talking about a nation, the same goes for us as individuals. The more people get out in the world, learning about each other's rich histories and cultures, the less scary it is. Dare I channel Miss America and say, travel is a key step on the road to world peace?

Listen to Miss Congeniality. She knows what she’s talking about.