tourism

Observations about my Globalism

Each of us prides ourselves on our worldliness. We have traveled a bit and met and know people from around the globe. But few of us are truly global in our thinking and our understanding. I certainly am not. The truth is we cling to our nationalistic perspectives. It is human nature to see others through the lens of our home cultures. 

Network intelligence 2
Courtesy of Start-Up You

 

I get sensitized to this collision of perspectives when I travel. I see the "ugly Americans" who loudly and indifferently run roughshod over their hosts. I also cringe when I see the giant influx of Asian tourists who seem oblivious to the world around them. 

For I can be mistaken for either of these groups! Not good.

You have undoubtedly heard about the promulgations from the Chinese government to encourage their citizens who travel to be more polite and respectful. Can you imagine if the US government did this? The videos would become a reality show instead of a teaching moment. But I digress....

Chinese tourism alone accounted for 83 million trips abroad and spending of a dizzying $102 billion up 10000% in 12 years! So before we criticize the Chinese, they are our customers.

So the opportunities and challenges from the increased globalization is seen on both sides. The hosts and the visitors have so much to learn about each other. Both sides have to be more sensitive to their in-sensitivities.

As a funny aside--we visited Scotland, my wife Sarah and I were buying gifts for family and friends. We decided on Scottish wool scarves. Sarah asked the saleswoman where the scarves were made. She said, "If it just says "Made in Scotland" then it is made in China. (Huh?) But if it has a brand label it is probably made in Scotland." She showed us the pricier scarves and whispered, "These are made in Scotland, but they are exactly the same as the Chinese made."

My trip abroad was centered around a couple of speeches I delivered at an international conference of universities held in the UK where representatives from 28 countries and 6 continents attended (no attendees from Antarctica:)! Making sure that my presentation was scrubbed for Americanisms, US references, nationalism was so so much harder than I thought. But it was a mind expanding exercise to question words, examples, jokes, images that would literally translate to a global audience. 

I had mind altering conversations about philanthropy and education with people from South Africa, Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Greece and Australia. 

For example, I asked one of the attendees about the "diversity" of the conference. She asked me what I meant. I noticed how ethnically un-diverse the audience looked to me. She pushed back hard. "That is such a US perspective!" We don't think about that type of diversity. We never think about that. We think about nationalities but not ethnicities."  Whoa

Everyone I met was so knowledgeable about the US, our politics, culture, and issues. They were all multi-lingual multi-cultural and multi-talented people who seemed to traverse these differences with ease. While I struggled with one language and the ability to remember the location of some of the countries.  Talk about a competitiveness complex.

It is always humbling to realize how much I don't know. Without this exposure my view of the world, my globalism, remains myopic and limited. 

Yet the whole world faces change and the challenges of addressing that change with agility. That is what we have in common. The issues of career pathing, networking, mentoring, and fulfilling dreams are a very similar human condition around the rock. 

I was grateful to have my mind and my network expanded. It taught me how much more I need to stalk global experiences at home and abroad. To strengthen my globalism muscles I need to engage and confront my limited perspective more often. 

I learn over and over again. That our networks define us. That the people and ideas that you encounter change you. And by talking to people with the same perspective will always limit you. That there is a global networked brain that we all have access to, but few of us are connected to. The world is literally passing us by. We are only using a small part of our brain.  That I have to read more, listen and understand context, and worldview more, to communicate and operate globally. I need to continue to expand my global networked intelligence. How about you?

Thanks for reading. John

 


Life Lessons from NOLA

Had the great pleasure of spending the last week in New Orleans. It is a special place that continues to struggle post-Katrina and from the more recent damage from Isaac. Yet her spirit is strong. The people of New Orleans are resilient, even though many of the physical structures around them are vacant and abandoned. I was both disturbed and inspired by what I saw and experienced. Here are 4 of the lessons I got from this recovering grand dame:

1.Love Thy Neighbor: Especially during elections, we become more cynical about politics and politicians. The value of public service has steadily dropped and few people pursue it. But we know that we need strong, smart, and reality based leadership. We need people who lead with words and actions. I was fortunate to hear the mayor of NOLA, Matt Landrieu, speak about his city. He talked frankly about his top issues: crime. But specifically the homicide rate of young black men, which is 10x their % of the population. He told graphic stories of the unintended consequences of these deaths on the families, neighborhood, economy and community. His big message was, "Until we have as much empathy for the perpetrators of the crime as we do the victims, we will make no progress." Not exactly a political statement! He challenged the audience to think about how we as a society failed the criminal youth. How the family failed to nurture, the schools failed to teach, the churches failed to morally guide. How we all have to assume responsibility for that "criminal". In a world of "personal responsibility" gone mad, where we should  just be responsible for ourselves and our family. But we know in our hearts, that will never be enough. We have to pursue our humanistic instincts to help one another, to take responsibility for one another--only then can we advance our ideals for our community. We know our destinies are tied to one another. 

Preservation
Photo I took of Preservation Hall

 We must have the ability to understand the suffering of both sides.  Thich Nhat Hanh

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to one another. Mother Teresa 

2. Music is the greatest soul food: A friend took me to the Preservation Hall to experience the birthplace of jazz. One of my top life experiences of all time! Crowded in this tiny storefront shop that serves as their theatre, we were treated to the gritty and beautiful sounds of Amazing Grace, What a Wonderful World, When the Saints Go Marching In, and other classics. The building just like the faces of the musicians expressed great history and great humility. Their music and their voices tattooed my soul with their passion. 

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. Plato

3.  Taxicab to Friendship:  Cab drivers are always a source of great knowledge and insight. Few people see as much as they do. I always talk to cab drivers. And if I listen carefully I learn things about them, the world and myself. My experience in NOLA may have been the most interesting to date. I took a couple of colleagues to go see Candy Chang's Before I Die exhibit. Candy installed a giant blackboard on an abandoned building to allow people to fill in the blank after "Before I Die______. These exhibits are now displayed around the world. Anyway, I wanted to see where it all started. Long story short we got lost (my fault) and then discovered that the abandoned building was refurbished and Candy's work was gone. Through this adventure we got to know Haten, a Tunisian cab driver/entrepreneur who has lived in NOLA for 16 years. We learned much about the city and about his story of struggle and joy. We learned about his family, his education and his career. Haten is an optimist and humanist. As an immigrant he is still pursuing the American dream despite many setbacks and his stint as a cab driver will be "temporary". In all of the commotion of our adventure , I left my iPad in the seat pocket of his taxi. Haten returned it to me! As I thanked him, he smiled and asked, "When do you leave for the airport? May I take you?" Always the entrepreneur! Haten picked me up at the hotel and noticed a couple of women waiting for a taxi and asked me if they could go with us. They jumped in his cab and off we went. Haten and I picked up our conversation where we left off. And when he dropped me off, he said, "Please call me next time you are in New Orleans and call me and let me know how you are doing." The two women, turned to me and said almost in unison, "How do you know that guy?!" I said, "Oh, we are friends."

Good things happen when you meet strangers. Yo Yo Ma

4. Mentors are everywhere: I got the chance to meet Leah Chase who has run the Dooky Chase restaurant for 66 years! Leah, the Queen of Creole, has fed every US President since the 60's, Martin Luther King and a host of other dignitaries. While she is a world reknown chef she is a philosopher, civil rights advocate, philanthropist and a truth teller too. She told us that "if you pay attention, everyone becomes your mentor." And in those precious moments with her, we paid attention and we were served up a delicious platter full of Chase mentoring! 

I look forward to my return to NOLA.

Thanks for reading. John


A Tourist in Latin America

Special thanks to Helpguide.org for using portions of my blogs to create articles about networking, job search and resumes. Helpguide is one of the world's leading sites to empower you and to assist you in surmounting the challenges of life. A great resource for the entire family. 

First of all it's nice to be back home after traversing South America for last 14 days. Went through Peru and saw the remarkable Machu Picchu. (one of my "bucket list" items) Then went to see Chile and my oldest daughter who is studying down there. Like any trip out of your neighborhood and country, you see and experience things that force you to examine your values and your own worldview. Hard not to have your ethnocentrism tested when you are a tourist. Traveling can be a trip into introspection and self evaluation.

Standing at the foot of the great redwoods, the edge of the Grand Canyon, traversing the Great Wall, or ascending the Eiffel Tower, stunning natural or man-made phenomena give us pause to consider our significance and insignificance. How vapid our lives can seem when we are so focused on the accumulation of material goods that never will be enough. What am I doing here? What will my contribution be? Out of the box travel can be a type of mentoring. You are forced into reflection by shared experiences, by what you see and what you think. That's the way it works. Your experiences create thoughts and those thoughts have emotional content and if you pay attention, they can shift your perspective and your future plans and actions. That's powerful mentoring! 

I had two modest goals for this trip:DSC03483

  1. To get my teenage kids out of their little electronic cocoons and be inspired by reality, without technology. 
  2. To see and experience a little of different cultures, to understand and appreciate our commonalities and differences
I realize that as a tourist you most often see a highly skewed part of that world. Your view is warped by the magnetic economic forces between the tourists and tourism. Yet, if you venture off the path and explore a bit, you will see more reality and more truth. I could easily argue that most of us are de-sensitized to the special qualities of our own home towns and neighborhoods, which in turn excite tourists. We do not stray from our routines and similar to tourists we see and know only a limited view of our worlds. As a visiting tourist you have fresh eyes and you can ask questions that often stump the locals. Putting on the tourist hat even when we are home could yield many benefits. 

That disorienting feeling when you have little competence in the language or where things are definitive parts of being a tourist. However, there is an overwhelming tendency to seek comfort in things we know and trust. In the extreme, when abroad, we stay at the Hilton hotels, get coffee at Starbucks, and never try to utter a word other than English. All of the trappings of the ugly American. When I travel I awkwardly try to converse and understand what I see, eat, and experience. That was my focus this time too. My kids would say, Dad you are still ugly! All of us tried to resist our less adventuresome impulses, try new things, and show respect for the new cultures.
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Without getting off on a giant historical and anthropological tangent, the Incans have always impressed me with their accomplishments. But ascending to the top of Machu Picchu brought my admiration to pure awe. The innovative technology, the sheer devotion to precision, the respect for nature, and the focus over a long time horizon. Not fully understanding the hierarchical systems and the means by which "incentives and motivations" were sustained, the results are stunning. No surprise why this is one of the seven modern Wonders of the World. Our guide Fabricio kept urging us to see beyond the images. Imagine what effort and work it took to accomplish these feats. Think about the journey rather than the destination. What sets Machu Picchu apart from many other extraordinary wonders, is the treacherous location of this complex agricultural and urban development. It sits atop of a 8000 ft mountain.

In the end, we return to the beginning and we are different. (apologies to TS Eliot) We accomplished our goals. We have traveled far and our experiences have altered our perspectives. We have an appreciation for Peru and Chile, that heretofore did not exist. We have a greater appreciation for what we have. Our respect for the Incans and the inspiration of Machu Picchu will not fade. But will the mentoring we received from our travels last? Will it make a difference in how we act or what we do with our lives? That's up to us to maintain that slightly uncomfortable, curious, and experimental tourist frame of mind. Our journey continues. 

Thanks for traveling along with me. John