We humans seem to inherently fear the unknown, the different, the unfamiliar  – anything outside the our tribal identification.  We want to stay immersed in the safety of our own kind and surroundings.  We have a degree of certainty about them.

This instinct has created more wars, racism, and fear than almost any other human trait.

Back in humanity’s early days, we were few.  We did not encounter different groups very often.  It made sense to distrust outsiders – they may steal your food, your hunting grounds, and your stuff – even enslave you or your family.

Our sense of belonging was very local.  Since tribal groups were small, and virtually everyone was related, we all looked pretty similar.  So we distrusted anyone who didn’t look like us.

As humanity proliferated, our tribes grew into nations and empires.  Tribes included the same religions, people who spoke the same languages.

That pitted nations against nations; empires against empires. then religions became wide spread, providing a way for people to share ideas and feel some sense of togetherness.  Unfortunately, religious differences continued the development of wars.

We fine tuned our distrust of “the others” who didn’t look or talk like us. However, when cultures meet and mingle, they bring new ideas that can improve lives through new discoveries that are shared.  New ideas are created by the fusion of cultures.

Nevertheless, the primal instinct not to trust people who are different endures.  We are suspicious of people who speak other languages, who look different, act differently, believe in different things, eat different foods.  We should be celebrating them instead. It was for how they ate eggs that Blefuscu and Lilliput were at war.

Travel can be the most liberating of experiences.  It exposes us to these “different” people and allows us to see that they are people just like us, but different.

Time after time familiarity with differences breaks down perceived differences in groups. The differences are still there, but the group doesn’t seem as strange or threatening as they once did.

We hear it all the time, how Canadians dislike US policies but quite like individual US citizens.  The group dynamic is negative; the individual positive.

The more we travel the more we begin to understand what motivates other groups and we can empathize more easily. While travel is the best, visiting restaurants to try unfamiliar foods can be an entry point.  It will open your mind.

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