. How travel can change the world : Budget Travel Adventures

How travel can change the world

Sumak Kawsay Yachay Salasaca Ecuador Charyn Pfeuffer

Sumak Kawsay Yachay – Salasaca, Ecuador (Photo by Charyn Pfeuffer)

Many people are waking up to the news that Osama bin Laden is dead.  For many in the US, it’s a psychological turning point as many are rejoicing over his death.  Others aren’t comfortable celebrating the death of anyone – even someone as evil as bin Laden.  Yet the impact of this is felt around the world.

The death of bin Laden brought back the memories of 9/11 and the thousands that died that day.  Many Americans, as well as others around the world, are rejoicing because justice has been served for those who died that day.  For others, bin Laden’s death makes September 11 and the tragedy of that day fresh again.  And there is sadness and mourning.  Regardless of how people react or even if you agree with those reactions, this event has definitely had an impact.

The psychological and financial impacts of bin Laden’s death

Beyond the various emotional reactions, there are psychological and financial reactions to this.  As it was with 9/11, America is united again today.  Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, religious, non-religious, conservatives, and liberals – people are celebrating together.  People’s spirits are high and for at least one day, the economic troubles of this country are forgotten.

Regardless of your opinions on the military, this has to buoy their confidence today with a sense of “mission accomplished.”  All of those Americans who died in Afghanistan and Iraq can’t be brought back but relief, joy, and gratitude are extended to those who have served in the military and died in this mission.

Today, the financial markets have gone up and the value of the US dollar was boosted to start the day as the news of bin Laden’s death circulated.  What impact will this have long term on the economy as businesses seek to rebound?  What effect will this have in the Middle East – from a financial and peace perspective?  That’s yet to be seen.

Regardless of what is to come, America seems to be united once again and many Americans will remember where they were when they heard “Osama bin Laden is dead”.  As one person mentioned to me, this may be the biggest death of an enemy since Hitler.  Ironically, it was announced on this same day – May 1, 1945 – that Hitler had died as well.

The political effect of Osama bin Laden’s death

Undoubtedly, the political aspect of bin Laden’s death can’t be ignored.  However, today isn’t the day to focus on that.  Many people praise Obama for finally getting Osama.  Regardless of your political leanings, this is a day where many Americans are unified once again.

Don’t try and talk about politics to those gathered in New York City today around the site of the World Trade Center who remember those who died and what it was like on September 11.  Around the country, people gathered and celebrated.  Whether it is right to celebrate death is debatable.  To debate whether this has unified the country today is not.

Last night, I didn’t want to hear about re-election bids or Bush or political victories.  The first thing Obama did last night before he gave his speech was call Presidents Bush and Clinton to let them know.  Bush issued a statement congratulating the military and the intelligence community.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other Congressman praised the efforts.  Today, even politicians are united.

Travel can change the world

travel can change the world Sacramento March for BabiesI hate politics.  I really do.  I don’t care what party it is.  I’m not an anarchist (as it was suggested last night in a discussion on this) but I don’t believe that politicians are altruistic in their motives.  Politicians want to benefit themselves and enjoy the money and power.  It’s always a battle to win a victory over the other side – and often at the expense of the people for which they are governing.

Many years ago, serving your country in government was an honor and a sacrifice – not a career to pad your wallet and boost your ego.  I don’t believe the government has my best interest at heart.

Look around the world – most wars are started by governments and we are taught to hate people in another country we don’t even know.  Today, the US and Iran are rivals.  As a result, many Americans may hate the people of Iran – people they have never met or know anything about.  Sadly, many people may not recognize that we may have more in common than we think and we don’t need to hate each other just because our governments are in conflict (read more about the Iranian people in Rick Steves visit to Iran).

Politics won’t change the world.  People do – one person at a time.  Two thousand years ago, Jesus started a revolution based on love – not politics, government, or war.  Mother Teresa gave her life to help and serve people that were “unlovable”.  And ever year, people travel the world and reach out to others in an attempt to break down cultural barriers and walls.

It’s people like Charyn Pfeuffer, Shannon O’Donnell, and Kent and Caanan that seek to make a difference in the world as they volunteer through travel.  It’s people like you who seek to volunteer where you live (check out my walk in the March for Babies this weekend) or embrace a culture so different than your own when you travel.  It’s about connecting with locals and building relationships that make the best travel memories.

It’s why I focus on giving back through travel and how the stories of Charyn, Shannon, and Kent and Caanan will be shared to inspire and encourage.  The government can give people handouts but they can’t give a hug.  The government can declare war but it can’t replace the warmth of the human touch.

Those who expect peace to come through government and politics have a false hope and will wait the rest of their lives.  Hope, change, and peace comes one person at a time through love.  What an opportunity we have to do this with people of all races, color, religion, and culture through travel.

Today, we remember bin Laden’s death.  Yet people all over the world loving one another in spite of our differences can make a far greater impact than all of the evil this man did.  Travel can change the world – one person at a time.

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Filed Under: Traveling ThoughtsVolunteer Travel


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  1. Very well-written article, Jeremy!

  2. Very thoughtful post. Really liked what you said about not rejoicing in death. One person’s hero is anther’s demon.

  3. Thanks for saying this Jeremy. When I heard the news last night I really didn’t know how to feel and I still don’t. I guess I don’t know how to feel because I really am not sure what it really means. Looks like we can close a chapter of 9/11 but where will this lead? I know for sure I didn’t feel like rejoicing.

  4. Amanda says:

    Very nicely done, Jeremy.

    While watching Obama’s speech last night (as I was scrambling to re-do the entire newspaper I was putting together), I did find myself thinking, “Well, this will certainly help with his re-election bid.” But that was such a fleeting thought.

    What really struck me were the crowds gathered around the White House and in New York City, unified and happy and celebrating jutice finally being served. Whatever your opinion on bin Laden being dead, you can’t deny that this will unify the country much like 9/11 did – just with a markedly different mood.

  5. Andrea says:

    Excellent post, Jeremy. I share your views on politicians and governments – in general I think they have way too much reach into people’s lives. I don’t feel that the world is any “safer” with Bin Laden dead. He became a symbol for something else long ago. This will be just a temporary distraction from the bigger problems facing the US right right now.

  6. Ted Nelson says:

    George W. Bush said it best (actually you said it better in this article) when he said today is a great day for America.

  7. Nancie says:

    Watching CNN last night I was of mixed emotions. Celebrating the death of someone is not really part of our cultural make-up. However, he was an evil man and at the end of the day his death is justified. I agree that this is a turning point for America and the world.

  8. jade says:

    Really great post- and you were so fast to write it ! ha! I remember where I was after 9/11 and how it affected my studying abroad in London. There is much more to be done to help end such violence, but hopefully this is a turning point.

  9. Fantastic Post! But celebrating a death of someone is really uncomfortable.

  10. Raymond says:

    I have to say, I am quite comfortable in celebrating the death of this monster. While I’m certainly no politico, with a sagging economy, dismal dollar, and so much else wrong at the helm of a so-so Osama, America needed a boost. They got it in spades yesterday. Will it change anything in the long term? That remains to be seen.

  11. You hate politics, but you have written this like a real pro – you could become a political reporter in your spare time!! Truly! I love also the humanity and passion that comes out of it. Top work!

  12. Love this post Jeremy. I think you wrote it perfectly and said exactly what I am thinking.
    This why I love travel so much. It is because of it we get to know and understand all people of the world, and this makes us want to be united rather than divided, as we learn that ultimately we are all the same. we can get along and love each other despite oour differences.

    I hate politics as well and I don’t feel politicans serve world peace in any way, or at best minimal. Except for Nelson Mandela.

    I feel weird celebrating Osama’s death, because it goes against what I believe and I don’t believe in war either. But at the same time I do think he was a monster and the world is better off without him. I only wish that this would end the whole damn fighting nonesense and we could all just get along. I am afraid for what might happen next. Revenge is a vicious cycle.

    I am happy that Obama did what he said he would and got Osama. I hold a lot of anger and hatred towards George Bush as I saw him as someone who was out to destroy the very thing that I learned about the world through my travels. I don’t want to get into it too much. But Bush was a man who made a lot of people around the world hate Americans. As a non-American I can say that, as I know. But as someone who loves America and Americans it made me hate him even more as he did not give a people adn a country I love a good name. Obama is rectifying that and for me that makes me happy. He went after the right person and got him like he said he would and gave closure and vengence to those who suffered so much through the 9/11 and subsequent events.

  13. Great post Jeremy. Definitely something to think about.

  14. Ayngelina says:

    Love the way you approached this. As a Canadian I have an outside perspective and was happy there was closure but felt very uncomfortable with the celebrations.

  15. Laurel says:

    Very reflective post, and I really like the message. In my German class we have students from 10 different countries including one from Iran, who I have great conservations with and have really enjoyed getting to know. This has been my favorite part of the class, meeting students from all over the globe and getting to know them. I agree, travel, and the people you meet change the world and your impressions of people, one at a time.

  16. Suzy says:

    Very true. I always think one of my favorite aspects to travel is the ability to break down stereotypes other cultures have about you and your culture while breaking down stereotypes about the country or place you are visiting. I was a bit annoyed with some of the reactions to bin Laden’s death. When people say it doesn’t matter at all and it won’t change anything I think they are kidding themselves. Symbols are very important in society.

  17. Thought you might like this quote someone just sent me: “”Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain”

  18. I firmly believe if more people traveled (and lived abroad) more, society would treat other with more respect.

  19. Wow! Great post, Jeremy. It’s kinda crazy that Hitler’s death was announced on May 1st also.

    I believe that travel can change the world in a good way. I would never have thought about traveling to a country like Pakistan until I recently met a couple on a plane who were so kind and giving.

  20. Ruth says:


    I really liked this post.

    I totally agree with your opinion about politicians. I also agree with how you view travel as a changing agent. Now that I live in Los Angeles and have traveled to different countries, is when I understand the beauty and uniqueness of every individual not matter its culture or national origin. It is incredible how much you can learn by traveling.

  21. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for all of your comments. This post came as a result of discussions I had on Twitter, the news coverage, and various articles I read about this online. For me, it was too much of a political slant and I didn’t feel like politics or the media should be the ones who have all the influence on our points of view.

    @Michael, thanks for you comments. I can be a bit passionate and blunt sometimes! :)

    @Billie – it’s not that I don’t understand the reactions to his death. Honestly, I felt some satisfaction as well. However, I realize that people processed this in a variety of ways and all are valid.

    @Debbie – Yes, there were quite a lot of mixed reactions to this despite all you saw from the media about people celebrating. I too question what effects this will have on the US and around the world long term.

    @Amanda – Don’t get me wrong – I thought of that as well. There is no doubt there is a political element too this. I am not denying that. I just don’t think politics is anywhere near as important or influential as people think it is. I do agree that despite the varied reactions, it will have a unifying effect on our country. I think that was clearly seen Sunday night.

    @Andrea – I don’t think politicians have a lot of actual influence, just perceived influence. And that is my point. I don’t dismiss finally getting Osama like it doesn’t matter. The morale boost alone could change things. But change doesn’t happen in mass, it happens one person at a time.

    @Ted – I really appreciate how Bush, Obama, and Congressional leaders on both sides have handled it. Sure there is some partisanship but there has been a lot of unity for once.

    @Nancie – Mixed emotions on this are OK. People will deal with this differently. However, there is no doubt this has had a big impact in the US.

    @Jade – Amazing how the ink (or keyboard) flows when you are passionate about something. The inspiration just struck me!

    @Alona – I understand how you feel. Many people don’t like celebrating death. However, people deal with this in different ways but it definitely has an impact on this country.

    @Raymond – I agree. I’ve stated that the President isn’t much more than a figurehead and one of his biggest impacts is on the emotional and psychological side of every day Americans. His direct impact is very minimal in everyday life.

    @John – Please don’t add anything else to my already full schedule! I appreciate the complement but I detest politics and would never want to cover it and secondly I am too busy as it is! :) I’ve heard the comment from Mark Twain and it is spot on!

    @Caz – Thanks for such a thoughtful post. I really like hearing the perspective of people who aren’t Americans. And it’s good that you have had a lot of time in the States so you do understand the culture here.

    As for politics, I think if people were required to have a passport, it might change the way we all live and think. I see politicians as horribly selfish and self-serving and who are more concerned with winning political battles than doing what is best for people. That is true no matter what party they come from.

    As for Bush and Obama, I have my own personal beliefs on politics even though I don’t really care for them. I don’t fit into one category or party very well but I will leave at it at this – both Obama and Bush and many others (as alluded to in the post) played a part in bringing us to the results on Sunday.

    As for the rest of the comments, I don’t want to make this political. That’s the point of this entire post. I understand people have their positions on certain things and it’s OK for people to express that here. In general, I don’t like the way our culture or country has gone for many years. I think I am old-fashioned at heart. I think I would have enjoyed living in the early 20s or even 50s. Life should be simplified much more than what we have now to enjoy. Travel has taught me that.

    With that said, I appreciate your comments – especially from a former Communist! :)

    @Roy – Thanks for checking it out and appreciate the comment!

    @Ayngelina – While the celebrations were what was seen on TV, many people have wrestled with the result of this. I am sure the world was watching with such a big event like this.

    @Laurel – One of the great eye-opening lessons from travel and culture was that link to the Rick Steves Iran blog. I watched the episodes about that and was surprised to learn things about Iran. The people there don’t hate us as we think. And people have heard people shout “Death to America!” As Rick pointed out, they also shout “Death to traffic!” Puts things in perspective.

    @Suzy – I admit I’ve carried stereotypes when travel. I can be judgmental at times because I am very stubborn and strong-willed in my opinion (you might be able to relate!). However, it is so true that travel does build bridges and destroy the barriers between people and cultures. Yes, this will have an effect. I don’t think anyone knows what it will be yet.

    @Ben – The easiest thing to do is judge without engaging. I know I do it. Sometimes I am right in doing so and sometimes I am not. However, it seems to be true that many of our opinions about other people and cultures in the world are truly ignorant if we’ve never been there to visit, talk to people, or take the time to understand how they view life. It doesn’t mean that we have to agree with each other but understanding and even agreeing to disagree can go a long way.

    @Christy – I’ve met people here from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Bulgaria. Places I never would have even considered are now suddenly very interesting. It’s amazing how meeting just one person from a country can completely change our attitudes towards that country.

    @Ruth – I don’t always agree with everyone I meet but the process of engaging others and traveling does change you in the process. And living here in Sacramento, the politics gets old.

  22. Thank you for the kind words and mention Jeremy – I fall into the category of the conflicted – to “celebrate” the death of another human being, even one with egregious crimes laid at his feet, is hard to swallow.

    I’ll stick to the hugs, and like you, leave the politics elsewhere! :)

    • Jeremy says:

      It’s why I included you in the post – you are one of the ones to give the hugs! :)

      Dealing with the death may be hard to celebrate for some people. Maybe it’s not death itself that people cheer but justice for all those he has killed.

  23. Beautifully written article Jeremy. Well said and I completely agree with you. In the media, we only ever see the bad situations in other countries that have been caused by politics. It’s only when you visit those countries – or meet a person from those countries – that you realise the world is full of fantastic people just living their lives.

    • Jeremy says:

      Putting a face to a country completely changes the way we look at things. It is amazing how much the media and government influence our views on people we don’t even know. Just meeting one person can change everything. It’s what makes travel so great.

  24. Earl says:

    And this is exactly why I find the most reliable sources of information about the state of the world to be other travelers. I’m more confident in the accounts of those who travel overseas with no other motive than to gain a valuable first-hand education than I am in news reports and government statements.

    Had I trusted only the media and government, I would have never traveled to half of the places I’ve visited over the years. And I would have missed out on seeing for myself that the overwhelming majority of people, no matter where they happen to live or what they happen to believe, are good, loving people who want nothing to do with war, violence or hatred.

  25. Well written post @Branham.

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