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  • Writer's pictureAlison Conigliaro-Hubbard

Humans Being: Travel as the Great Equalizer

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

One thing I have always appreciated about traveling the world, whether for business or pleasure, and something I have experienced since I was an infant when my family and I first made the trip to live on Crete from Brooklyn, is the opportunity to experience life and humanity from a new lens. The ability to expand my lens offers me a way to see the world from someone else’s perspective. It offers me new ways to relate, to connect, and to find a greater sense of empathy toward others. To me, I can’t think of many things more valuable in all aspects of life.


But traveling on my recent vacation, observing the world around me, I noticed that travel experiences can break down barriers and can be a great equalizer…


As I sat in a restaurant on the ground floor of Harrod’s department store in London, I looked around my table at the Indonesian mother & daughter both wearing hijab to one side of me, and the three Japanese travelers on the other side, all in walking shoes, enjoying the iconic store and ordering the same fish and chips as my husband - some asked for ketchup, some ordered a beer. One table sent the too-large fried concoction back to take away – the one her daughter ordered was enough to share. The other group was a little confused by a comment from the waiter that he had to get permission to serve a table of 3 (we all would have been). It worked out.


Earlier in the week in the London Underground on route to O2 stadium for a Robert Cray Band concert, we all of us crammed in like sardines, shoulder to shoulder, and butt to who knows what body part - white, black, brown, gay, straight, young, old, suits and tennis shoes, men, women dripping in sweat in the unusually hot temperatures. All of us clearly thinking to ourselves - ‘how many more stops?!’


Back at our hotel, we met an American couple from South Carolina via Texas. He was a large & jovial man, recently retired from the Veterans Administration, and she was a stylish interior designer and antique collector. Incredibly friendly couple - we spoke about various vacation spots, and I shared details on where to stay in the Amalfi Coast as they planned a later trip. We spoke about the London theatre shows we were seeing and compared notes. We spoke about Veterans and some of the experiences my dad faced after retiring from the service. We shared laughs on a couple occasions this week…


At yet another point during the week, we stood waiting for a one-time-annual event with hundreds of people at Buckingham Palace in the blazing heat, an Italian family from Bergamo to our right, with whom I spoke Italian, and a new mother and father from India to our left, pushing their baby in a stroller. All of us were taking in too much sun and anxious for what we would see next.


A week before London we were on the island of Corfu, where we shared a meal and compared island explorations with an old friend of mine from the SF Bay Area who was also traveling there; and we sat on a boat to Albania for a day trip with a couple from upstate New York, all of us eager to experience a country we would not likely experience otherwise.


We are living through a period of great challenge in our world, with generalizations and over-judgment on populations based on headlines or too-little real information. But, interacting with and observing other travelers, I noticed that the experiences we share traveling can be great equalizers. There were no political arguments about right or left. There were no discussions on cultural views, or who had the ‘better’ approach to living. No religious segregation - we all appreciated ancient churches and synagogues on this trip. Everyone I noticed was just enjoying their vacations; we were all curious about the experiences of the people we were meeting; all excited about eating different food from our everyday lives. Everyone was just enjoying the experiences we were sharing as a global community (or in the case of the Underground, NOT quite enjoying, but going along for the ride with one another anyway).


There is something quite peaceful about this observation. We are all just humans BEING in the world.


It doesn’t matter where it is you travel. Take the time to notice how sharing an experience with a stranger can create connections that bind us forever. And what can be more powerful than that?


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