Changing the Perception of America Through Travel

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”

Aldous Huxley

I was traveling through the Czech Republic in September 2016. As I boarded a train, an older man approached me and began speaking Czech.  I replied politely that I only spoke English and went to take my seat.  To my surprise, he followed me and in English asked where I was from.  I responded “The United States.”  In what became a common theme throughout my 2016 travels,  He wanted to know about Donald Trump.

While Barack Obama’s Presidency saw the global image of the United States receive high marks, Donald Trump’s path to the White House has sent shock waves throughout the world. His base responded to the bleak state of the country he depicted and the villains he portrayed as responsible.

This is in stark contrast to the message that typically resonates out of the United States.  Familiar phrases portray hope, freedom, liberty, and an overall abundance of optimism.  Trump has painted a far more dismal portrait of the United States.  One of unrelenting pessimism and he alone is its savior.

With all of doom and gloom out there, it is important to note that the United States and the world are not in such a dire state of affairs.  Problems exist as they always have, but overall the world is enjoying a state of relative peace and growing prosperity.  Democracy and freedom exist in more places than they have at anytime throughout human history.  With the internet we are becoming a more connected global community every day.  The world is shrinking and the possibilities to be exposed to different cultures is vast. 

The most recent election has many wondering if the United States is becoming more nationalistic, less inclusive, and there has been a longstanding stereotype that American’s are selfish when in truth the United States is one of the most generous countries on earth.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Mahatma Gandhi

American travelers have an opportunity to change the narrative emanating from Washington. What can one traveler do? Every smile, every handshake, every good deed narrows the vision of those with narrow minds.  One interaction, one village, one city, one country, one continent at a time, we can build the bridges that will break down any wall trying to divide us.  One step at a time we can change perceptions and bring the world a little closer. Those moments slowly blaze a path of influence.

Travel is rightly portrayed as a way to find yourself.  Experiencing other cultures is a wonderful way to broaden your horizons.  Travel is also a way to bring your culture to a distant land. Breaking down pre-conceived notions becomes a two way street.  There is a lot of fake news and alternate facts out there.  It is important for citizens of every race, creed, and country to engage so we can break through the walls of false truth.  We may all be citizens of of a country but more importantly we are all citizens of the global community.

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