For our first cruise to the Western Caribbean, I decided that I wanted to do a little research in order to get the most out of the places we were going to see. Wow! As much as I love history, reading online novels about Jamaica, etc. was more than my A.D.D. brain wanted to do. I pretty much gave up the project and decided to just trust the tour guides (which is a subject for another post…).
On the cruise however, we met an older, wonderful little couple with whom we shared a lot of laughs. They were from a small (and clearly sheltered) town in the south of Great Britain. When we shared that we were from Colorado, our new friends got very excited. They were fascinated that we ‘out there in the Wild Wild West’ didn’t have cars and still rode horses! They also seriously challenged us on the wisdom of carrying pistols, and had so many questions about how things worked with everyone carrying around firearms. After a good many laughs (and embellished stories) we finally became convinced that they weren’t actually joking and that we needed to (albeit reluctantly) set the record straight. After that, I did commit to actually doing research for our future trips and to make sure that we were experiencing things with facts, understanding and wisdom.
After some personal contemplation I’d like to share two examples of having my opinions-without-much-knowledge challenged:
A Civil War museum in Little Rock, AR takes the visitor through a series of paintings, letters, photos and writings detailing the war from both the Confederate and Union viewpoints. Upon exiting, the visitor is asked to vote on whether or not the war was justified. I did hold on to my belief that, at the end of the day, slavery could not be tolerated, but boy did I get a new ‘big picture’ view of the War Between the States! It helped me be so much more objective and educated!
Likewise, at Fort Smith in Arkansas we learned about the Indian Removal Act which I had always been rather judgmental about. However, after really understanding what choices there were available to the young government, I laid down my strong opinions and learned that it is always a mistake to view 19th (or 18th or 17th…) century decisions through 20th eyes, culture, and circumstances.
Travel has indeed been the greatest of teachers for both Eddie and I and is indeed fatal to prejudice and judgmental attitudes.