I have spoken before about how travelling is a good way to escape Shouldland. Travelers explore the unknown. They go into strange countries, accidentally violate social and cultural norms, get lost in strange cities, and make errors in language translations.
They deliberately open themselves up to making errors. The farther they venture, the more they set themselves up for confusion, surprise, and the contravention of their beliefs.
It is great getting lost navigating the public transport system in Beijing. It is fantastic making cultural faux pas when eating in Kolkata. It is awesome mispronouncing words in rural towns in France where English is not spoken. These are all massive opportunities for growth.
Travelling, if only for a few weeks, within another culture is a great time to see how people behave according to the habits, practices, beliefs and tensions that regulate and guide human life. Culture educates the emotions. Culture contains implicit and often unnoticed messages about how to feel, how to respond, how to discern meaning.
It is a time to reflect on your own culture, and how it shapes your beliefs, attitudes and behaviours, not always for the better.
I have just spent a couple of weeks in the Northern Territory, in central and northern Australia. Indigenous (Aboriginal) Australia has a strong culture with rich traditions and practices. As with many cultures, there are unwritten rules about how to live your life: who you can marry, what you can eat, gender roles etc.
Culture and the associated unwritten rules were great ways in the past to teach people how to live a moral life, and they still play a role in this for many people. However, for those of us who do not need ‘instructions’ on how to be a good person and lead a positive life, culture can often just get in our way.
Escaping Shouldland is partly about resisting our own culture. Travelling to places very different to our own is an important element of this.
Travelling is like being a kid again. We experience the world as new, and remember that the best way to learn about it is to play in it. So go play!!