By Ali Ashraf
One of the fundamental things that define us as human beings are the "differences" in the way we perceive life, this world and the sociological dynamics therein.
Over the years, I've realized that opposing entities will always exist and have always existed since time immemorial. Fact! There's no denying it.
The Atheist vs. The Theist, The Meat Eater vs. the Vegetarian, Democracy vs. Communism, The Realist vs. The Dreamer, Cottage Cheese vs. Blue Cheese? And so forth...
You see, it is easier to disagree with people than agree with them, because the former reinforces one's ego and aids in the validation of perceived self-worth with notions of personal empowerment and individuality as opposed to the latter. Consequentially, if you speak your mind and live your life the way you want, there will always be a significant amount of people critical of you.
However, these schisms and dichotomies should not be about being right or wrong. In essence, these anomalies should be about finding common ground through mutual acceptance and understanding.
As a practicing Muslim, one of the fundamental things that enables me to make sense of the differences in perceptions and various lifestyles that I have come across around the world has been in the existentialism of my own individual self -- a self defined through the prism of life and its endearing promise. Which is why I believe that this wounded planet -- despite its state of pandemonium and vexations -- has profound capacity to cultivate clemency and veracity unto the human soul against all odds.
Hence, truly embracing this little crumb we call Earth, nestled somewhere in the vast enchanting arena of the expanding universe, is about as human an endeavor as one can ever aspire for. And for me, travelling is how you attain it.
My biggest dream is to be able to travel the world for an entire year non-stop; country-hopping, experiencing the enchanting wonders of travel like a whirling dervish without bounds, and embracing this planet and the splendors of its diverse cultures in ways that many do not.
•Riding a reindeer across Siberia
•Visiting the last surviving old woman in a village surrounding the radioactive Chernobyl zone
•Uncovering sunken ships and the wreckage of World War II planes in the Pacific Ocean
•Carrying firewood down a mountain atop a mule, while helping local Mongolian tribes setup a tipi tent.
•Jumping in a random wedding procession that is cavalcading through the streets of Mumbai
•Taking a helicopter ride with the only pilot in town to deliver mail between the small communities of the Faroe Islands in the middle of the Atlantic.
Just to name a few capers and shenanigans.
In a world where information technology and the internet have supposedly brought us closer on paper, we have drifted away from the nucleus that makes us human. And that is experiencing this planet firsthand.
Sure, not everything can be as fine and dandy as our living rooms, cozy coffee shop hangouts and fulfilling weeknight Netflix binge sprees. However, I have come to realize that feeling uneasy and discomfort while attempting to transcend the boundaries of your familiar comfort-zone is where the real spirit of travel begins in the first place. There is something about that discomfort which makes you contemplate the legitimacy of the odyssey itself; reminding you that the world and all its offerings is never truly a destination indeed, but a journey. A journey where you experience elements of the humanistic mosaic far different than your mind has been preconditioned to embrace as almost a reflex-action. No doubt, once you experience that internal epiphany -- that is how you really get a better grasp of who we are as a planet, as opposed to just 'individual' countries, separated by lines on a map.
Perhaps if we took the time to learn about this rock we live on, understand its dwellers and the plethora of beliefs, ideas and possibilities that resonate from their collective spirit -- travel wouldn't merely just be "leisure." It would in fact become a robust refinement tool; one which polishes our persona, realigns our sense of being and enables us to fine-tune the wavelengths of our existences to a higher purpose. A purpose that serves all and not a few; a servitude that makes you a world-citizen; unbound by the identity of a single flag, passport or a funny sounding name.
"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.