This week as I read chapter three, “The Mindful Traveler” from Becoming World Wise, written by Richard Slimbach, I came across several notable passages which caused me to pause and think about the consequences of how I am living here in Sevilla. I strive to become a mindful traveler, a state of mind Slimbach has deemed of utmost importance. Slimbach urged throughout the chapter that there are key differences between being a mindful traveler as opposed to a privileged tourist or a carefree drifter.
As I have been in the thriving Spanish city of Seville for a month now, I feel as though I’ve been guilty of touristic tendencies. I have not always been fully aware of the process that goes into everything that’s in front of me. But I’m headed in the right direction, I’m learning! Sure, I don’t feel ignorant like a ‘mass tourist’, as if this experience is solely for and about myself. On the contrary, I don’t feel so aloof from society that I’ve become a ‘carefree drifter’ either. One of my goals while I’m abroad is to increase my awareness of what goes into my experience. Slimbach uses Karl Marx’s philosophy here to represent the necessary awareness that us travelers should keep in mind,
“That it is the very nature of commodities to veil the social relations embodied n their production. When we eat a piece of fruit, buy an article of clothing, or participate in a study abroad program, the economic conditions and social relationships of the many people responsible for producing that particular commodity or service are typically hidden from our view. We simply consume the product without giving the larger context a second thought” (Slimbach, 78).
Yes, we are all guilty of this oblivious consumerism, especially at home in America. Yet, while I’m abroad I feel a stronger responsibility to be wary of understanding my role in being a consumer more than at home probably because I am a guest in this culture. For starters I always turn off lights and fans when I leave the room and try to take quicker showers. I also unplug the microwave after use because Rosa does that. Furthermore, I try to support local restaurants and shops instead of chains like McDonalds. The goal I have of becoming a mindful traveler has made me think about my actions here and how they impact the community. Being a mindful traveler is to be aware of one’s own foreign influences colliding with the host culture, to properly understand the impact one has in a different country, and to realize one’s own personal responsibilities towards the existing community one is entering. I know, it seems like a lot to be a mindful traveler, but I can simplify it. For me, to be a mindful traveler it’s all about being open to understand the differences between a privileged life and that of another less fortunate person. The important silver in this lining is to be willing to meaningfully connect with others and to focus on how these connections can make lasting impacts. A semester abroad is not meant to be enjoyed like a vacation. Slimbach uses Marxism ideas and the term “Autopilot” in a passage to show what not to be when abroad, when he emphasizes to not treat being abroad as, “A luxury commodity consumed more or less mindlessly” (Slimbach, 74), Instead, an experience abroad should be an opportunity for students to learn about the world in a sensitive and curious manner. This whole mindfulness idea brings me back to the characteristics of being in the liminal stage of a Rite of Passage. In liminality there is a certain aspect of becoming aware of all the unfamiliar occurrences and to acquaint oneself with them in order to gain insight.
Now way back in May or so, my fellow classmates also going abroad and participating in blogging and I were in a workshop on a Saturday morning in Connecticut brainstorming what a “global community” was. We were all months away from being abroad, and many of us had barely ever made it out of the States. Our working definition of global community went something like, “Global community is the many bonds that connect all the diverse societies in the world together, socially, economically, and politically”, in retrospect that is a very simple definition and I’d like to expand upon it. Being in Spain and reflecting upon my journey thus far has changed my opinion of what a global community is. Honestly I feel as though global community is something much more than words… especially when you sincerely meet people of another culture, there’s something so humbling about it.
I chose this picture of the NBA because in exploring what it means to be a mindful traveler and part of the global community, I have felt a sense of solidarity. I believe showing the growing positive influence of Basketball across the world is a good way to show a modern Global Community. The NBA is an organization that has done exemplary work in spreading positive teachings in global communities and can connect fans everywhere. Photo provided by Sportal.co.nz
After much thought, I’ve come to realize that the global community we should reach for isn’t something concerned about stuff like money or hate, it is a representative of a progressive humanity in our 21st century. Global community is a force that brings together the diverseness of each traditional society in the World underneath a giant umbrella of positive and negative connections, and even though we all may look at each other in a foreign view and think how absurd and alien we must be compared to one another, in truth we are all very similar. Similar in that we crave and feel similar feelings and try to live life just the same. Sure there are external appearances that would suggest otherwise, however, on the inside we are all closely connected. I believe this inner connection is what global community is all about. To connect on our universal inner needs and desires for learning, peace, happiness, and love is really the basis of success and a positive force of coming together in our global community. Just as Slimbach was influenced by Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali Poet of the 19th and 20th century, I was too. Slimbach holds that Tagore, (a well-travelled man), coined his vision of a global community and citizen that was borderless and untainted by nationalistic pride, “Convinced that borders were folly, [Tagore’s] ideal became the world citizen, the Universal Man […] [Tagore] believed that in time, and with the increase of cultural exchange, the cosmopolitan ideal would be reached. That humanity is too good for narrow interests and exclusive loyalties” (Slimbach, 71).
We are now in the year 2016 and this idea of a global community has begun to take shape. Unfortunately, the cause for Tagore and his contemporaries to come to this conclusion of a global community was influenced by the “war to end all wars” or World War I; in which there was such mass destruction that had never been witnessed before and such an atrocity of the young generation, that the few that made it out alive were forced to critically reflect upon what it means to be a human on this earth and how to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. They all came to a similar conclusion that for peace and global connection to come to fruition one must not consider national borders as restricting, and the differences in the world’s society should not be negative issues. Others who followed this philosophy of solidarity are those like Gerald Brenan, who wrote South from Granada (1957), which is a memoir of Brenan’s relocation to rural Spain after the first World War and living amongst traditional Spaniards in a remote Andalusian mountain village, (I also read this novel as a travelogue and highly recommend it), as well as Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient (1997), which similarly extrapolates upon World War II’s destructive impact upon humanity. Currently in this 21st century our World is much more advanced for the better and the worse, and infinitely more easily connected through the internet and business we have begun to similarly instill a sense of needed Solidarity amongst World-wide citizens. Being abroad in another culture is teaching me what it means to be a part of this Global Community.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, Va: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.