How Cruising Changed Us II: World Citizens

      One of the most important lessons of our journey was learning that we are, as Socrates put it, “citizen(s) of the world.”

    The people we met made it a lesson easily worn. Residents of other lands are no longer anonymous. Once we began to consider our actions' consequences to a friend, we thought about the world differently.
 
    Sixteen-year-old Australian circumnavigator Jessica Watson, 2000 miles from Cape Town, blogged, “Along with the flying fish I've been seeing quite a bit of plastic and rubbish floating past recently, it looks so out of place and ugly drifting by on the swell. So I've resolved to put a lot more effort into refusing plastic bags and using less plastic when I get home.”
 
    Her voyage is already changing her, even though she hasn't been in the company of another human being for nearly four months. She has slowed down enough to see the effect of our consumption habits on a remote ocean. That plastic may end up fouling the rudder of another boat, stranding it, or in the stomach of a sea creature, affecting the sustenance of countless villagers who live off the ocean.
 
    Whatever its fate, it won't go away.
 
    You don't have to travel by sailboat to learn about connectedness. Well-traveled people can't help but be changed by their experiences, living the reality that we all inhabit the same planet. We really are brothers and sisters and it's time for our family to pull together.
 
    That doesn't only mean living greener. It means not taking more than our share. It means considering a family member's long-term well-being, not simply helping him out when he has an accident.
 
    Previously conservative travel maven Rick Steves courageously wrote this about Haiti in World Hum, "I'm inspired by the outpouring of goodwill. It's good and necessary and motivated by love. But at the same time, I'm troubled that no one seems to be asking why Haiti is so wretchedly poor to begin with --so poor that even their presidential palace can be toppled by an earthquake. As soon as the passion of this moment fades, the U.S. government will continue contributing to repressive trade policies that keep places like Haiti impoverished."

    When he spoke about "Travel As A Political Act" at our Bellingham church two weeks ago, I heard him say the same thing, to much applause. It made me proud of my community.
 
    Once we move past denial that our actions hurt others, our own consciences, gifts and passions can lead us to our next steps.
 
    No nation is an island, especially when our shared tide is rising.