Traveling to me is an excellent way to connect with people from around the world. I stay at hostels which offers a good platform to meet people. Interacting with others helps you learn about them and you develop your acumen. A harmless banter, a useless knowledge or even an important topic of discussion expands your view of the world. I did not know Guinness available in other parts of the world is not "Guinness enough" from an Irish man. How about the presence of Christianity in Jordan? You can of course read about it; but the interactive discussions and questions and more discussions with a local is so enriching. I can discuss sushi with a Japanese and then turn around and ask a Mayan descendant what does it mean to an actual descendant now while sharing hazelnut and chocolate cookies made by another hostel inmate from Israel.
The way I have questions for them, I as an Indian face lot of questions. Some of them are stereotypical, most common ones that I have been asked are the same questions wherever I go. First question is always about why am I without an accent? They have met Indians with thick accents! Indians dont know how to converse politely. Indians are generally not considerate. Why am I not like a typical Indian? Are you living out of India? That may explain your un-Indianness. These questions embarrass me and makes me sad. Yeah, what a bad reputation we have built for ourselves? Now apart from explaining why I am without accent, I now have the moral obligation to correct their misunderstandings. How do I tell not all Indians are rude? How do I convey Indians at heart are good but the society has made them run an never ending rat race? Why am I trying to sweep the truth under the carpet? I do get approving and appreciating comments "You are not like the other Indians I know. I thought all were the same." Should I take this as a compliment? I only cringe whenever I hear this and trust me! I have heard this many times in different parts of the world from different people.
The follow up question is always about safety in India. "I've heard that its not safe for girls in India, how bad is it?" or "How do you manage being a woman in India". "Dont you get scared walking on the streets?" "Is it true that you can get robbed and raped?" Imagine this! you are representing your country and someone is asking about the news they hear, how do you cope with it? Should I say - "You know, its not everyday and everywhere such incidents occur." If I try to play down an incident - even one incident, then I am being unfair. Yeah, maybe bad things travel faster in the wind than good ones. But hundred good things cannot make up for one bad incident. It doesn't end there. Those people who've traveled to other places want to visit India very bad. But they are unsure, they are scared. I feel sad as an Indian, perhaps ashamed too. I admit the facts but give them few tips on pockets of India which are gorgeous and are very safe to visit. That is the best I could do for my country.
Travel has taught me to make better judgement, to respect differences and make space for everyone. It has taught me to be inclusive and humble. Travel has taught me how frivolous we all are. It makes me to laugh at empty egos and irrelevant ideologies. Travel has taught me to be human.