As I’ve said many ‘a time before, travel is important to me because it opens your mind, enhances your life, blah blah blah.
You get the idea.
But travel is only one way to do that. You can expand your horizons without moving an inch.
This is what I’d call a “Global Life.” Being “Worldly,” as some may say. This is just carrying a tad more information than most, to make you well rounded to roll anywhere (I overheard that phrase in a barbershop in Delaware when I was super young, wrote it down in my LG enV flip phone, and have kept it close to my heart ever since). You might know how to say thank you in Swahili, know the difference between a burqa, hijab, niqab and so forth, and you don’t let out a reflexive, “Ewwww!” when someone mentions how guinea pigs are a delicacy in Peru. It’s a certain kind of sophistication I’m talking about, that not only enables you to live a fuller life yourself (I mean, the world is giant, so why keep your experiences limited to your location?) but it also lets you see the world through other people’s eyes, which is a huge step to making the world a more tolerant and pleasant place.
And while I totally think everyone should leave their houses or hometowns and explore another city, if you can’t, or just don’t wanna, I still think exposing yourself to what the world offers as much as possible is a good thing, and I’m not alone in that. Here’s some reasons why.
Reason Number 1 to Live a Global Life: “Intercultural Communication Skills”
Intercultural Communication Skills are a fancy term that if you’ve done any job application recently you might recognize. This skill is an assortment of many, including flexibility, empathy, and a perceptiveness that’s above average. You can read body language and assess how people are speaking to you, and know how to interpret this information. This skill means that you’re super-sensitive, in a good way. You’re picking up what people of all backgrounds are putting down and know how to behave accordingly.
You can tell when someone’s uncomfortable, you can tell when they feel themselves, and you can tell if what you’re doing is helping or hurting them.
Don’t be a Richard.
This drives home the value of just doing unto others as they would do unto you. Just be nice to people, and the more skilled you are at being nice and well-mannered to everyone, the doper you’ll be. It’s basic human decency.
Reason Number 2 To Live A Global Life: A Reduction of Bias
I’m sure by now you’ve heard the phrase implicit bias (as a former sociology student, it’s fascinating to see the terms I learned in academia reach mainstream recognition), and if you haven’t, here’s a primer.
From a very, very, very young age, we receive messages from our society at large that tell us how to perceive different people and things. For example, golden retrievers are good dogs, pit bulls are bad and scary dogs. Even more dangerously, in American society and in others, white-skinned people are good people, dark-skinned people are bad people. These perceptions manifest as biases that we may act on without fully understanding why or even recognizing it, like feeling unsafe when you see a group of black people hanging out, or feeling secure when you see a group of white people. It is believed by many scholars that implicit bias carries a lot of weight in how police officers act when they encounter black people, as opposed to white people, and it is something that your typical sensitivity training has difficulty seeking out. (To uncover your own implicit biases – we all have them! – you can take a test created by various social psychologists studying the phenomenon.)
That being said, implicit biases are a byproduct of living in a society of humans, and while some may be useful (spiders are scary, because some are indeed, very dangerous) most are static distracting us from engaging meaningfully with many people and things in our world. Reducing our biases allows us to see the world through others’ eyes, understanding the good and bad that we all go through, and it gives us the tools to properly advocate for others. If you’ve ever found yourself saying, “Not all [insert group here] are like that!,” this exercise is for you. Don’t be a Birds Rights Activist.
It’s good to question yourself, feel uncomfortable with your implicit biases, and work to change them.
Reason Number 3 To Live A Global Life: Enhanced Creativity
So imagine this: your whole life, you’ve been reading from one or more books. They’re simply, How to be American, or How to Be Black. Now what if I told you that you can read from other books, like, How to think in the Mandarin Language, or Understanding the Significance of Native American Headdresses (which is apparently a book that a LOT of people need to read). Imagine being able to pull ideas from so many things now that you know more about them (and can give proper credit and know when you’re the right one to employ different information!!!)
Point being, your brain literally changes when exposed to other cultures. We all know learning a second language or two can strengthen your brain to the point that it can reduce your chances of Alzheimer’s disease, but did you know that your brain will literally recall multicultural experiences to solve complex problems? Once exposed to different cultures, languages, and experiences (meaning this isn’t limited to race, but people throughout the gender, sexuality spectrum, among other groups), your brain has a greater ability to approach problems in multiple ways, uncover a variety of connections and associations, and it is more capable of getting out of a rut. Living abroad can significantly increase your creative potential, but even if you can’t move your entire life, expanding your creativity is a good reason to seek out ways to get multicultural experiences.
Whoa, that was a LOT of words, and I wasn’t planning on writing that many! I think I’ll get into the How of living a global life next week, no? So let’s make a date, August 14th, 2017 will be info on the How to live a Global Life. See you then!
Sources by Order of Appearance:
Williams, Tracy Rundstrom. “Exploring the impact of study abroad on students’ intercultural communication skills: Adaptability and sensitivity.” Journal of studies in international education 9, no. 4 (2005): 356-371.
Aberson, Christopher L., Carl Shoemaker, and Christina Tomolillo. “Implicit bias and contact: The role of interethnic friendships.” The Journal of social psychology 144, no. 3 (2004): 335-347.
Devine, Patricia G., Patrick S. Forscher, Anthony J. Austin, and William TL Cox. “Long-term reduction in implicit race bias: A prejudice habit-breaking intervention.” Journal of experimental social psychology 48, no. 6 (2012): 1267-1278.
Maddux, William W., Hajo Adam, and Adam D. Galinsky. “When in Rome… Learn why the Romans do what they do: How multicultural learning experiences facilitate creativity.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin36, no. 6 (2010): 731-741.
Saad, Carmel S., Rodica Ioana Damian, Verónica Benet-Martínez, Wesley G. Moons, and Richard W. Robins. “Multiculturalism and creativity: Effects of cultural context, bicultural identity, and ideational fluency.” Social Psychological and Personality Science 4, no. 3 (2013): 369-375.