TL6 “Mindful Traveler” Danielle Tomlinson, Paris France

“Many of us venture to distant lands in order to test the limits of emotional maturity and world understanding” (Slimbach) In Chapter 3 of Slimbach’s book, Becoming World Wise, he talks about ‘the carefree drifter’ and the ‘mass tourist’ as individuals who travels abroad with the purposes such as tourism or service learning. These individuals are never fully engrained or come to understand the culture in which they inhabit for however many days they are. Never coming to understand, the full social and cultural atmospheres of the countries they visit. Slimbach encourages mindfulness when travelling abroad. “Travel is a school of life that generates fresh insights and unforgettable memories.

 

Mindfulness, in my opinion, is imperative for today’s travelers; especially those who are studying abroad. “Mindfulness compels us to stay cognizant of who gains and loses… from our presence abroad” (Slimbach) Similar to Slimbach, the Rites of Passage theory talks about the transition one must go through to emerge as their new self. In the same way, study abroad students must transition from citizens of one specific country to global citizens, cosmopolitans.

 

In our first workshop, we discussed the idea of a global community and came up with a working definition: “A global community is a shared living space of interdependent individuals endowed with universal human rights, while choosing to act upon them embracing differences and working toward common goals” Though I still believe this definition to be true, I think another aspect should be added, conscious learning and understanding. “Mindful global learning aspires to narrow the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’ strengthening the bond between strangers” After reading this I realized that I have begun this type of leaning by not only living in Paris and trying to culturally assimilate. But being cognizant to the fact that not everything about the culture I will not readily understand. So by taking classes in the society, history, art and architecture of France, I will hopefully come to have a better understanding of France.

 

As I grasp the the concepts of the way of life of the French and the countries surrounding it.  I will become more than a tourist, but a mindful traveler. “Given enough time, [one] may eventually become [an] ‘accepted outsider’… Neighbors come to admit, not only our eagerness to accept native ways… but also our willingness to speak…in the local language” (Slimbach)

 

And though this is true, this ‘acceptance’ is not without without its challenges, Slimbach mentions how locals are often exacerbated by the presence of foreigners coming into their country. For the reasons Slimbach had aforementioned. Many times when individuals travel outside of their country there is not much that they reap from this trip, though they may be exposed to many cultural and historical influences they do not fully understand them nor try to understand. To the locals these travelers exhibit similar behaviours: going to the famous monuments, driving back to their hotel and eating a somewhat Americanized meal. In their eyes, foreigners are superficial. This, I believe, influences their behavior with individuals who in fact would like to integrate and further assimilate themselves into their society. On many occasions, I have been in a public place and I will ask a French native a question in French and rather than engaging me in their own language they switch to English. This often frustrates me as I am trying to become fluent in their language and mindfully learn about their culture and how to conduct myself in an everyday scenario. It is instances like this that I consider setbacks. However, I refuse to let these setbacks stop me from trying to become somewhat a Parisian, or at least an ‘accepted neighbor’.

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