I believe travelling can contribute to world peace.
I grew up in a Han Chinese family in Central China and had always wanted to visit Tibet, fascinated by the culture, religion, yaks, and Tibetan people. Finally in May 1999, I found myself in a Toyota Land Cruiser with three fellow travelers. Our driver Luo-Sang was a well-educated Tibetan who also speaks Chinese.
For two weeks, we were just like everyone else: visiting temples and driving by gorgeous snow mountains and nomadic Tibetan. The last night before returning to Lhasa, we stopped in a small town for dinner. From the only TV in the restaurant, we learned that NATO just bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and killed three journalists on the spot. The whole country was outrageous and people demonstrated outside US Embassy in Beijing, after NATO explained that such a precise bombing was actually “an accident caused by an outdated map provided by CIA”.
So we talked about this furiously over the dinner table, when suddenly the Tibetan driver Luo-Sang commented “Well, I believe you Han Chinese deserved it”. For a moment, I simply can’t believe this would be from him as I had thought we had been good friends during the trip.
To explain what he meant, Luo-Sang went on to tell us many sad and horrible stories about the conflicts between Han Chinese and Tibetan, mostly unheard of, especially for Chinese outside Tibet. He told us those stories because he believed we had been friends, and even he didn’t explicitly say it, he definitely hoped that we could share the perspectives from Tibetan once we were back. Although I would probably never agree with Luo-Sang that those stories would justify the bombing in Belgrade, I did see where he was from and realized that I would never even know his perspectives if I didn’t visit Tibet.
In a strange way, the tragic bombing in Belgrade forced me to think harder beyond the sources that I normally form my perspectives – that is, from TV news, newspapers, magazines or websites – or, mass media. Most of the time, I simply consume whatever the mass media has prepared for us easily and conveniently, without pausing a nano-second to ponder. And I considered myself pretty well-educated and informed.
Finally I realized that actually I can travel to the places and talk to real people. All I need to do is turn off the TV or my laptop, hop on a plane, or a bus, and open my ears and heart.
Coming back, I found myself transformed from an enthusiastic tourist to a devoted traveler. In my trips, I still like scenic places and finest restaurants, but I am equally passionate about exchanging perspectives with local people about their hometowns, or home countries.
Perhaps, in this process of travelling to the places and listening to local people there, I will not only find my own voices, but also, promote some world peace at large.
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