I have a dream.
I haven’t shared it much. It’s pretty big and audacious. Embarrassing, even. So I’ve mostly kept it to myself, lest I fall short and look foolish.
But I’m feeling a sense of urgency that I’ve never felt before. If I’m gonna do this thing, I better start now. I better get it out there.
I’ve always been challenged by Marianne Williamson’s quote, which I am personalizing here:
“My deepest fear is not that I am inadequate. My deepest fear is that I am powerful beyond measure. It is my light, not my darkness that most frightens me. I ask myself, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who am I not to be? I am a child of God. My playing small does not serve the world.”
Within the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a number of synergistic experiences that are pushing me, prodding me – whacking me alongside the head to find the courage to go public with this grandiose dream of mine. My reactions – and the questions they raised – added clarity and fortitude. Like pieces of kindling feeding the fire in my belly. I’m taking a risk to try to articulate it all in this blog posting. Maybe it’ll make sense to you, the reader. I sincerely hope so.
- In Charleston, SC last week, I attended a business conference for authors about how to market and position oneself as an “authority” in your field of endeavor. I am not-quite-an-author, but I am writing a memoir. It will be published. The goal of my book? To inspire (and challenge) Americans to travel beyond their comfortable, insulated, isolated bubble — to go someplace “foreign” in order to learn, connect and come home with greater appreciation and empathy for people in the developing world.
- One of the principal speakers at this event was a guy who reminded me of a teacher I had in a salesmanship class in college who was sexist, pompous and self-righteous. However, with an open mind (and clenched jaw), I listened because his ideas and opinions are highly valued by people I respect and admire. One significant take-away for me (as one who yearns to be popular) is to take a stand for what I believe – knowing that some people will disapprove or take offense. “Those people,” he explained, “Are not your tribe. Don’t concern yourself with them. They don’t matter.”
- On a balmy Wednesday evening in Charleston, I walked down Calhoun Street, past the Mother Emanuel AME Church where nine people were murdered in cold blood during a prayer service by a white supremacist. And I wondered, “How could anyone harbor so much hate?”
- Two nights later, during a layover at Charlotte Airport, I saw the chilling TV coverage of the cold-blooded murders in Paris by Islamic supremacists. Once again I wondered, “How could anyone harbor so much hate?”
- Over the weekend, I noted the Facebook tributes, the non-stop media sensationalism and our collective horror over the killings in Paris. Justified, for sure, but why was there no coverage or outrage about ISIS killings and carnage in Beirut, Baghdad, Ankara or Nairobi . . . or any of the other places that are more “foreign” to Americans?
- And why, I wondered, do we react with such fervor and furor over the killing of 100+ people in Paris, when there are about that many deaths in this country from gun violence every single day?
- On Sunday night I saw Suffragette, a film about the British women’s rights movement of the early 20th century. The lead character is a young woman who is reluctantly drawn into the movement, courageously risking everything for a cause she believes in. And I wondered, “Would I have had such courage back then? Do I have such courage now?”
- Since the terror in Paris, Americans are taking sides on the Syrian immigration issue. I’m furious, though not surprised, at how vitriolic is the rhetoric by those who shout, “Keep ’em out!” “How could anyone be so heartless?” And I wonder, “Have they ever traveled out of this country?” I’m guessing not.
- I’m embarrassed at Americans’ collective ignorance about Islam. And I realized, to my dismay, that I don’t have a personal relationship with any Muslims in this country. I have resolved to change this and learn more about their culture and customs.
- I wonder, “When and where will it happen next? How will my business be affected? How will the livelihoods of my industry friends be impacted by the fear and paranoia that paralyze Americans every time ‘stuff happens’?”
I’m feeling all jumbled up and messy. I’m feeling frantic and desperate to do more, to do something, to make a bigger impact – to play a bigger game . . .
There’s a battle raging inside me. One moment I’m feeling courageous and fearless and ready to change the world. And then another voice chimes in – timid, but equally powerful: “But I’m just one person. How can one person make a significant difference? How could I – a small-town girl with modest ambitions – make much of a difference?”
And how can I possibly do anything to alter American myopia and intolerance that is a logical consequence of:
- our geography – with limited physical connection to “foreign” countries
- our size and diversity – with many options within our own geographic boundaries
- our media – with their narrow coverage of global events that perpetuates fear and distrust
- our language – which is so widely spoken that we need not learn another
- our economic and military power – which fosters a belief in our supremacy, our “exceptionalism”
How can I turn that ship around? Will people listen? Will they get pissed if I challenge their assumptions and their prejudice? If I build it, will they come?
And in the next moment, I feel emboldened – like the character in the Suffragette movie – to use my talents to influence and create change. What I CAN do is offer more opportunities for Americans to connect and learn about people that they assume are different. I can spread my gospel. I can finish my book. I can make speeches. I can risk being unpopular. I CAN do this!
My customers tell me that I’m already doing it. They remind me that I’ve created opportunities and travel experiences that have enriched and changed their lives.
Rick Steves, in a book I wish I had written, Travel as a Political Act, writes, “Travel connects people with people. It helps us fit more comfortably and compatibly into a shrinking world, and it inspires creative new solutions to persistent problems facing our nation. We can’t understand our world without experiencing it.”
My mission is – and always has been – to design and deliver extraordinary travel experiences to educate, enlighten, embolden and “wow” people! But no more playing small. This is no time for timidity. I want to serve the world in a significant way. I intend to achieve my big, hairy, audacious dream of lifting consciousness and creating peace on our planet – one traveler at a time.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. What’s your reaction?
Agree? Respectfully disagree? (If so, please be gentle . . . thank you.)