Perhaps we have crossed a threshold. Benjamin talked in his sleep last night – in Spanish. Three weeks of language school in Guatemala have certainly not instilled proficiency or fluency. In fact, if anything, the 75 hours of one-on-one tutorial have merely broken the ice. But the investment of energy, hard-work and brainpower signifies a much longer journey. We have merely just begun.
Ours was the only family at our language school in Quetzaltenango. Fellow students included mostly single folks in their late twenties – many of them teachers. As much as I enjoyed watching our sons (12 and 14) blossom into independent sojourners, I was fascinated by the stories of others. In a search to find the common threads among global citizens, I interviewed ten other students at ours and other language schools. Their responses reflect and affirm my description of global citizenship. I look forward to sharing some of their stories (and lessons) in future articles.
I believe that the strongest common thread of global citizens is a thirst for life-long learning. Those who recognize and appreciate the shared values of people all over the world also embrace the diversity and wisdom embodied in different cultures. Curiosity, fascination, and spontaneity are also common characteristics of the global citizen. And most importantly, a global citizen recognizes that global citizenship is a mentality, not an achievement.
Collectively, our family of four plus ten other people I interviewed have experience in over 40 countries, yet the common responses to my question concerning personal global citizenship demonstrated humility. (This would not be true of all travelers). Every immersive travel experience offers new lessons, new adventures, and new reasons to trust others. The journey itself is the goal – not a means to an end. Open minds, grateful hearts and helping hands can make the difference between being a tourist and a traveler. We are all tourists from time to time, but the global citizen seeks a deeper understanding of people, an understanding which can only be attained by putting yourself out there.
- Letting opportunities find you rather than controlling the destination.
- Respecting diverse people and learning from their way of life.
- Making conscious decisions about the way you spend your time.
- Understanding that the choices we make affect people all over the world.
- Seeking new places, new people, new lessons.
These are all part of the global citizen’s consciousness. It’s a desired path for many. It is attainable when sought after, and most fun when shared with other sojourners. “It’s life-giving,” described Sarah Panell, when asked about immersive travel. I love this description. I have always said and heard from others, “life changing.”
“Life-giving” is a beautiful way to capture the personal growth which occurs when one steps out of comfort zone. Our month in Guatemala – living with a family that spoke no English, taking public transport from town to town and struggling to communicate in Spanish – certainly gave life; we were givers and receivers in a mutual exchange between different cultures with shared values. We will treasure our shared experience forever and we look forward to future opportunities that find us.