The world has never been as connected as it is today. We defied space – and soon maybe time – and made it easier than ever to cross the border, travel thousands of miles away, discover a land far away from home, and meet people different from us. This is the world we have known for decades, and it is more than possible that this will even be seen as rudimentary in a few decades from now.
Today, all these technological advancements are the mere result of our human need to connect, reconnect, and conquer the unknown. Our species depends on movement and interaction by default. In fact, we have become so dependent on movement that we started to sentence people accused or convicted of crime to non-movement. We confine them in an isolated locked building with cells that we call prison, with little or no interaction with the outside world. We have become so connected and so informed that we had to invent a virtual networking space that we call social media. We invented so many of them, and developed them to meet the different needs of our daily lives and adapt to the rapidly-changing circumstances around us.
So it is no secret that we need to move and change position. People nowadays fly everywhere, connecting cities and continents, islands and peninsulas, north and south, green and arid, getting to any place they want within a few hours on a highly intelligent and sophisticated machine that we call airplane. Every day, more than 8 million people fly all over the world, using the services of more than 5000 airlines that tirelessly connect thousands of cities around the globe.
When I board a plane, I am already one step closer towards unveiling something new. I start noticing new faces, hearing new languages, and well – if I’m unlucky, babies crying from all sides. When I land in a new city, I immediately start exploring, even before leaving the airport. I look around, study architecture, examine the atmosphere, discover the currency, hear the language…Then I dive into the local city life, the culture, the food, the people, the sounds around me, everything that draws my attention and makes me feel the change in my surroundings. Then I get to meet new people, make new friends, and maybe even fall in love.
But what does all this mean? What is the purpose of it? What value can this kind of experience add to our lives? Well, to answer these questions, we simply need to actually take the initiative, travel somewhere new and intriguing, somewhere where we can immerse ourselves into a new culture, a new society, a new community. We need to take the initiative to say hi, learn about someone we haven’t met before, and let them learn about us. We need to break all judgement and all inherited ideas and let the experience engross us. Then, we ask a more important question. Are we the same person as before?
Throughout history, civilizations evolved because they were not opposed to the idea of learning from each other – at times they were opposed to helping each other, for a million different reasons, one of which is ego – but that did not exclude the idea of human interaction as the easiest and simplest way to learn, adapt, and develop. We have inevitably become experts at initiating dialogue, a debate, a conflict, a trade, an alliance. It’s just who we are.
It is simply in our nature to want to know someone like us, who isn’t like us. It’s in our nature to want to move and relocate, to learn how to say “thank you” in a different language – or “fire” if the circumstances are different – to taste something so appealing and so catchy, to unravel a mysterious situation. And it is thanks to our nature, that we have been able to learn, understand, translate, make agreements, cooperate, and support each other in times of need.
All this can help us understand one thing, we are better off when we connect, when we move and interact. Because travelling changes us. It helps us keep our lives valuable, full of meaning and purpose. It changes us and makes us value knowledge even more. It feeds our urge for discovery and keeps us unsatisfied with who we are, where we are, and what we know. It makes us believe in the only way life should be lived; by constantly trying to find the best versions of ourselves so we can call ourselves Homo Sapiens, the curious nomad species, born to learn, born to move.
PS: Special warm greetings to all the YaLa friends and alumni who are living away from home and doing amazing work in cities and countries they’re not from. We are all one big family, wherever we are.