Travel – a doorway to culture and empathy

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    A traveler exploring local cuisine

    At a time when we are still emerging from the lockdown and continue to be constrained by many travel restrictions, let us reflect on the travels we have had in the past and how they have enriched us.

    Even with planned itineraries, confirmed bookings and extensive to-dos at our destination, there are certain parts of the trip that we cannot entirely plan and foresee and it is in these moments of our journey that we grow. Even as a silent observer at a railway station or an airport at our home-towns, we see people from different cultures and backgrounds embarking on journeys and reaching their destinations. A traveler’s open mind is looking at every sight and every person as a window that has a story to be told. The idea of travel instantly shifts our frame of mind of observing and learning rather than imposing and doing.

    From a simple walk down the street at a new destination to having their authentic cuisine at a local restaurant, travelling helps us experience different cultures. We can choose to immerse in these cultures through numerous ways ranging from museums to shopping hubs. Through all of these experiences we, in our small ways, live with them and part-take their culture. We see people from a more compassionate and kind perspective. We see what has influenced their way of life and we find ourselves respecting the culture and the people who are a part of it.

    Museums offer deep insights into the culture of the destination

    In our everyday rush, we tend to see the rest of the world in a limited sense. Travel, on the other hand, makes us want to understand and learn. Before we know it, our fond memories of travelling to a destination have also created a soft corner for the culture there. Even the mundane actions of having tea and greeting another person can become the most fascinating acts in a new land. Learning to thank a native in their mother tongue, receiving unexpected help from a local and even simply discovering what makes their tea unique can help us form memorable connections. Every mention of the destination rekindles the fondness we develop for the people there, many of whom would have walked the same streets and dined at the same local restaurants.

    A trip is, therefore, never just about the places we see and the things we do. It is the moments on the trip where we pause and marvel at something we’ve never experienced before. It is the culture that we imbibe and respect and the empathy that we feel for the people there.

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