TED Talks: Breaking Barriers Through Tourism

I recently had a conversation with a co-worker about traveling abroad, and she candidly shared how she had only been out of the country just a couple of times in her life. We shared thoughts about how many people in America (and around the world, I’m sure) have an innate trepidation about traveling outside the U.S. Some of this concern makes a lot of sense, especially given the various political and social situations that are taking place around the world. But a lot of this “fear” really stems from the relative unknown.

My co-worker went on to explain how much she enjoyed her trip to Mexico, and she pointedly made it known that the jaunt was not restrained to the trappings of a 5-star resort along the Riviera Maya. Instead, her trip was quite a rustic and very locally-inspired one that allowed her to do some interesting things –including learning how to cook authentic Mexican dishes from some of the locals. It was a wall-breaking experience in a sense, and one she appreciated a ton.

My own travel experience has been quite opposite, having my share of being in and out of the country. I attribute this love of exploration to my parents, who immigrated to the U.S. before I was born. And early on, my father had the chance to also see many parts of the world through serving in the U.S. Navy. I remember him coming home from those trips back when I was a child, and even then I was enamored by the gifts he brought home and the stories he told. It was then that I knew that I, too, just had to see the world one day.

Since my siblings and I were kids, we were traveling on planes, trains and automobiles –across oceans to The Philippines, and across immigration check-points along the border of Canada. Once I was able to travel on my own, I set myself on a trajectory that would take me to the places I’ve always wanted to go. For me, the experience of traveling has been an educational one -not only in the sense of learning about other cultures, histories or engaging in the “local” social queues and norms. But my biggest lesson so far has really been learning more about myself. Breaking down my own walls and really tapping into my personal capacity to quickly adapt to my surroundings, no matter where I am, has been amazing and very eye-opening. It’s allowed me to truly appreciate and respect the cultures of the world, and in some cases, the experiences have been life-changing. I’ve learned that at the end of day, I put on my pants just the same as everyone else in the world: one leg at a time.

Tonight I came across this short but very poignant idea via TED Talks. Aziz Abu Sarah, a Palestinian activist and entrepreneur, has quite an unusual approach to peace-keeping: tourism. His tour business (MEJDI Tours) focuses on truly bringing people together above and beyond tour buses and walking groups. The experiences that have poured forth serves up a lesson that’s meaningful for anyone around the world who simply just does not know what it’s like in another city, another country, or even across the world.

Take a look at Sarah’s quick, but meaningful talk –which he delivered at an official TED conference last year. Get a quick glimpse into his troubled past, his eventual evolution, and his desire to help others break down cultural and historical barriers through tourism.

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