The ability to travel for pleasure is a total luxury in life. Like me there are millions of people who enjoy the privilege of going on vacation where they can “escape from it all”. These vacations take us to other parts of the country or world where others do not have the ability to enjoy these types of privileges. Often we simply don’t care or don’t bother to think about it. We’re more concerned with pleasing ourselves on vacation. After all, when your sipping a cocktail poolside your more concerned with getting the rest and relaxation you feel you rightfully deserve. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! Everyone needs a chance to unwind and rest and vacation is the perfect place for it. However, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to step outside of your comfort zone and consider learning about the plight of the people whose country you are visiting. Sometimes in the smallest way, you too can become a humanitarian simply while on vacation. And if you do, I guarantee you will have a deeper connection and appreciation for your own life and family and the world around you.
I always thought a humanitarian was a person who dedicated their lives to feeding the poor, working for the Peace Corp, or getting involved in fighting for the rights of the underprivileged. A humanitarian by definition is a person concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare. So those examples I just mentioned totally fit the definition. But I started to think that there are other simpler efforts a person can do which would make them a humanitarian as well, even if for a short time. I had an experience like this when I traveled to Peru. A friend had set up the entire trip and told us all that we would be visiting a small orphanage in a rural area while on vacation. She asked all of us to bring supplies to give the kids of the orphanage. T-shirts, pencils, markers, toys, anything would be a huge help for these kids. I’ll be honest, originally I wasn’t super thrilled about spending time at an orphanage. Selfishly I thought it would take time away from our travels in Peru. I would soon find out how wrong I was.
Since I was working for Suzuki Motor Corporation, I told my bosses about my trip and asked if there was anything the company could donate for the kids of the orphanage. We had a big box of merchandise in our motorcycle division and my bosses gave me the OK to raid it and take what I like. Inside I found lots of children’s T-shirts, and baseball hats. Perfect! I grabbed as many as I could and packed them into my suitcase bound for Peru.
Our trip was simply phenomenal and towards the end of it, we made good on our promise to visit the orphanage. After learning so much about the people and the culture of Peru, I was actually looking forward to visiting the orphanage now. I don’t know. I guess I felt that I had received so much from the trip already that I wanted to give a little something back. When we arrived, we noticed a huge welcome banner the children had painted for us with all of our names on it. WOW! Then as we filed into their classroom, they all stood up and sang us a beautiful song. Then in English a little boy stood in front of us and thanked us for visiting and welcomed us to his school. It was absolutely endearing and touched each of our hearts! It actually made a few of us tear up a bit. We then brought out our backpacks with supplies in them. I emptied out my bag of Suzuki T-shirts and baseball hats and passed them out to the kids. Others gave markers, toys, and school supplies. One guy in our group even gave a boy his pair of sunglasses. The boy was so happy and wore them the rest of the day. We went outside with the kids holding their hands and played with them. The little girl whose hand I was holding was very affectionate and seemed to want to be hugged. In fact I noticed that each little child buddied up to one of the adults in our group and was also very affectionate wanting their hand to be held or hugged as we sat on the ground in a circle on the grass playing duck-duck-goose. I began to remember all the coddling and physical love I received in my family growing up and realized what these innocent kids were missing in theirs. The material items we gave them were totally appreciated, but the simple affection was more immensely needed. I was totally blown away by the experience. And for that day, it felt incredible to be a humanitarian. Of all the things I did in Peru, it was that experience that changed me the most.
We often travel to countries where the majority of the people of those countries earn below poverty level. Most of the time we think nothing of it because we’re there to escape our own simple problems in life such as stress at work, family obligations, monotony of our daily lives and sometimes even the harsh weather in our hometowns. It’s the “getting away from it all” that shields us sometimes from truly learning about the culture and people who live where we travel to. Often there are tours that include visiting local farms, plantations, churches or museums. These provide great ways for you to break out of the me only attitude and open up your hearts and minds to learn about the people of the land, the history of that country and the generosity of what you might be able to do to help. Historical tours are also really good to help you learn and maybe answer the questions of what do people eat, how do they live, and what opportunities do they have.
So what can you do about it? Sometimes your limited in time when on vacation. What can you really do to give back a little? I think simply learning about people and culture is the first step. Take a historical tour or ask your tour guide questions that will help you get a deeper understanding of the people and culture of the country. Then maybe you could think about other ways to help or give back. I’m not saying you need to run out and join the Peace Corp. But even small things like buying from local vendors to support them or tipping your waiters for good service. A little goes a long way. If your a parent, let your kids learn about how other kids their age live. It might awaken the humanitarian in them. You might even want to donate something to a church, orphanage or medical facility. It takes a bit more planning but imagine just how much better the world would be if everyone gave back just a little.