Travel Advisory

Back in June The New Yorker magazine published a weekend essay by Agnes Callard titled “The Case Against Travel,” tagline: “It turns us into the worst version of ourselves while convincing us that we’re at our best.” 

It’s a well-founded critique.  Citing a classic definition of a tourist as “a temporarily leisured person who voluntarily visits a place away from home for the purpose of experiencing a change,” Callard goes on to argue that, as tourism is currently practiced, it’s the host culture that ends up being changed by the visitors who have little interest in their own change.  She continues: “The single most important fact about tourism is this: we already know what we will be like when we return.” 

Fair enough.

But this week I’m thankful for those for whom travel has widened their hearts.  I’m thinking especially of stories from Israel and Palestine.  I’m thinking of my own travels there in November, 2015 through a Mennonite Church USA “Come and See” learning tour.  I remember I had one notable reservation in going: I wasn’t sure I was ready to be responsible for what I was going to see.

The US State Department issues travel advisories for areas that put one’s safety at risk.  Maybe we should ponder a travel advisory every time we venture out into the world, be it across town or overseas.  Warning: You are in danger of being changed.  Risks include disorientation, anger at injustice, increased compassion, and a summons beyond your current contentedness.  Proceed with caution, but, by God, do proceed.