the make light summer break: on travel

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I have some thoughts before I get into this week’s Make Light episode.

I recorded this a few days ago, before news broke on the white nationalist who massacred dozens of people in El Paso, Texas; before news of the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio. I’m still in Europe, and it is a strange place to be while these things are happening in my adopted homeland of the United States. Friends and family shake their heads at the senselessness, confused by America’s unwillingness to enact stronger gun laws, but their attempt to understand feels like a theoretical or academic exercise: it doesn’t affect them, after all, living in countries with far lower gun crime than America.

Europe is a strange place to be, where there is no one to whisper my palpable fear that the US president’s white nationalistic views, of his distaste of people from “shithole countries, of his desire to of desperately wanting brown government representatives to “go back to where they came from” is encouraging criminals and home-grown terrorists to take matters into their own hands. Because my fear isn’t academic or theoretical: I am, after all, a black immigrant to the United States from an emerging-market country — and recent events have prompted me and friends of mine to carry our US passports on our person at all times, “just in case” (I began carrying mine around with me a week before I left for this trip.) I am scared that my interracial family is quickly becoming a target of the hate. I worry for my teenage daughter, whose friends are beginning to drive, and who often go to places like malls and other public areas that are fast becoming the scenes of mass shootings — because where else do teenagers go to socialize, after all?

And yet, while I’m away from the US, visiting new and amazing places like Stockholm, Sweden, and even meeting friends in person I’d never met in real life before (a story to come), the views I share in today’s episode of the Make Light Show are reaffirmed: travel has the ability to change minds, to open hearts, to literally broaden horizons. The act of being a stranger in a foreign land breeds empathy for strangers in your own land. The act of connecting with people who are unlike you allows you to see glimpses of our common humanity, of the way we are truly brothers and sisters on this planet, no matter what country we call home, what God we pray (or do not pray) to, what language we speak. Travel is important, even if it’s only to the next town over. I truly believe that if more people sought out opportunities to connect with people different from them, the world wouldn’t be as frightening a place. We’d care for each other more.

So click here or on the arrow below to take a listen to this week’s episode. And think about where you might plan your next trip — because travel is more about simply seeing the sights.

On that note, I send so much love to all who have been affected by the recent massacres back home in the United States. We deserve better than this.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
— Mark Twain