It seems as though the word “cultured” has transformed to being synonymous with “interesting.” Therein lies two myths: that one is made a more elite person by travel, and that travel makes you cultured.
Although traveling can be an incredibly rewarding experience, not everybody treats it that way.
When coming back from summer vacation, it seems as though everybody has gone abroad and cannot seem to stop talking about it. The main topics I hear are pizza and partying. Regardless if my cohorts return from Germany, China or Cape Town, their main dietary choice ends up being pizza. People who place importance on travel and being cultured also need to indulge themselves on an important part of culture: food.
To be a cultured individual, one must experience the differences that distinguish one culture from another. Becoming a more broadened person can be inhibited by not indulging with local cuisine.
While some tourists ignore the culture that is all around them, they also quarantine themselves even more by spending time with fellow tourists. Not only do they float on the outskirts of the material culture, they steer away from locals. It may be explained as the fear of the unknown. If this is one’s chosen way to experience their adventure, then they cannot claim to have widened horizons upon return to homeland.
Even more than young adults’ love for pizza abroad, they seem to explain their trip as though it was experienced through a drunken haze. I have heard more stories about bars and clubs in another country than I would like to. It seems as if their trip flew by them as they simply passed time until the evening, to get drunk. The beginning of a great adventure does not start with a hangover.
Most importantly, travel is extremely classist. Tourism is an activity reserved for the wealthy. Those who get to travel the world mainly come from more affluent cultures and visit places that share in that privilege.
And when people travel to places that do not have a booming economy, some look upon the different cultures with disdain. Rather than seeing the joy that people find in the life they live, visitors look through the eyes of prejudice. People who travel abroad carry with them American privilege and use this as a benchmark of standards in other countries. Upon return, they condescend the culture rather than praise the joy that others find in their different lives.
Traveling is an incredible privilege and I envy those who get to experience the things I cannot. There are more ways than just one to see the world, and people can treat their experiences however they please.
People can come back more open-minded and understanding from what they’ve opened their eyes to, but just going abroad doesn’t necessarily do that. One can come back a more cultured person, but getting to go doesn’t instantly do that, either.
Just because one is well traveled, it does not instantly make them cultured. And a cultured person is not an automatically superior person. There are plenty of awesome, interesting and amazing people that do not have the opportunity of travel. Getting to explore the world is not a right of passage — it is a privilege.
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said.
Ella Kimberly is a junior journalism major from Oshkosh, Wis. She is a reporter for the Lariat.