I just returned from visiting New Zealand and Australia (and I feel very privileged that I could have such an incredible opportunity). First off – GREAT places to visit. New Zealand is absurdly gorgeous (seriously, I was shocked at just HOW gorgeous a place can be…took TONS of pics) (including the one for this piece) and Australia has an incredible diversity of landscapes, all lovely, and intriguing. They’re worth a visit just to see all that…and the people were lovely! I made friends in both places, easily. That said, the chat for today is that when I travel, I like to learn.
I want to know what other countries are doing RIGHT, and what we can learn from them. I also am interested in how they see the US and what that means for everyone. It’s a lot… and I really think that more of us would benefit from this perspective.
I love my country (I was born in the USA, if you don’t know), BUT we do things that embarrass me AND they should embarrass all U.S. people, AND we should call for a change. The way we treat our people of color, our indigenous people, our homeless, our poor… it’s horrible. WHY do we continue to do that? So when I travel, I look for answers around how other countries handle there these various groups' issues.
New Zealand wins the prize on honoring their indigenous peoples. They have many programs (like immersing indigenous kindergarteners in their indigenous languages…..giving the indigenous back land AND giving them mentors to teach them how to manage opportunities that will bring them an income…..giving THEM space in museums to express what THEY want about their culture…it was impressive. Australia is not as far as they are, but they are well moving forward. Uluru, for example, was given over to the indigenous people, and the entire “resort” is owned and run by them, with mentors to help out. I also saw something related to the AU indigenous people in every museum and library I entered. They have a great quote actually, that you see in multiple places – “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land”. It felt really good to see the indigenous peoples begin to get what they deserve AND that the countries are committed to that.
When I go to other countries, I also get to see what THEY are observing and experiencing of the United States. I’m not even going to elaborate on everything around Trump (you can guess), but the other stuff – why our health care is so pricey (I remind you that we are the ONLY country in the “developed world” without nationalized healthcare), why we allow guns when we continue to have so many mass killings (I remind you that Australia had one mass killing and quickly collected guns and completely shifted their policy, proving it can be done), why we are so arrogant (watch a loud American in a restaurant…you’ll blush. I’ve never (NEVER) seen someone from any other culture misbehaving the way Americans do), why only a third of us have passports (are we not curious about the rest of the world? Why?), why we really don’t care about learning (and maintaining) foreign languages (78% of Americans speak English only) though our country has almost a third of us speaking them (of note - I was at a NATO party in Scotland once and talked with 5 ship captains – I asked how many languages they spoke and ALL of them spoke over 7 fluently, and could “get by” on 5-8 more) AND, this is interesting – people in the U.S. often don’t discuss politics with each other. When I’m with foreigners, politics are bantered about openly, and without people leaving the conversation in a fury. They all agree to disagree, but only after really understanding where everyone stands and why. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn. All this…this is what we’re missing by not traveling, by not talking with other cultures, and I experience us as “less than” for it.
When we know what’s going on around the world, we’re more likely to bring that knowledge back and improve our situation, and vote in people who understand that too. Traveling is fun, and interesting, AND it’s an opportunity to improve what we have based on what we learn.
So go travel team….and ask questions. Help the US be better.