How Travel Connects and Binds Us Together

Jennifer DeSimone
January 16, 2024

Last week, at the Goa Lowah Temple in Bali, a beautiful thing happened. One of our travelers had stayed behind and as our group exited, she ran up to us and said she had the coolest story to share. Within moments, we were introduced to Leila and her family, tourists from Jakarta. Within seconds we were taking photos and hugging each other just like friends do.  We instantly became connected and bounded.  

We were Asian, Latino, and Caucasian. Jewish, Catholic, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and non-practicing. None of that mattered because we were people first. 

It was if we had been long-time friends just reunited.

Love Over Hate

I reflect on that moment with tears in my eyes. In the weeks and days leading up to that day, the news had continued to break my heart. First came the news of the bombing at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport in Turkey. Within days, the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Most recent, the attack in Nice, France. And yet here we were, a hodge-podge of beliefs and background, without a care in the world as to what we were. 

On my travels, I am constantly reminded that messages of love always outweigh messages of hate. This is why I travel. I learn more about connectedness and empathy. I become kinder. I see time and time again that we are not actually that different and that each person seeks out similar things in their lives: to be connected to others, have dignified work, and provide a better life for their children.

Learning local dance and music customs in Bali

Finding Harmony

In Bali, I learned about the Hindu concept of Tri Hita Karana, meaning to keep the harmony and balance between human to God, human-to-human, and human to environment. The concept is simple in theory and can easily be applied to any lifestyle. Yet, as a human race we continue to struggle to incorporate this practice in our daily encounters.

Harmony. Peace. Connectedness. Empathy. Rules to live by. Lessons I have learned while traveling.

Sitting on the floor in a home in Ethiopia drinking bunna (coffee) taught me about the beauty of sharing in the simple pleasures of life. Walking among elephants in Kenya humbled me and taught me to be one with the Earth. And standing in the middle of a Hindu temple in Bali taught me that mindfulness is universal no matter what God you pray to. 

Drinking bunna in Ethiopia with friends

Connecting with Empathy

As the news continues to spit out ugly rhetoric and fear tactics, I encourage each of us to seek out empathy, to lead with love. In our daily lives, be gentle. If you can, travel. Don’t let fear hold you back. Learn from the locals. Share stories. Laugh and cry together. Allow yourself to be impacted by different views. Bring home your lessons of love and connectedness. Share the beauty of the world with others. In doing so many we can inspire others and together we change the world.

Caught in a rainstorm earlier this week, I walked the halls of the Singapore School of the Arts and looked at artwork done by the students. One piece struck me. It was two busts, one of a black man and one of a white woman, their bases connected in the middle. The caption spoke about racism and the hope that their art “will help lift the veil that blinds others to the plight of the marginalized.”

Visiting beautiful places with local guides makes for better experiences

Maybe, just maybe, we are lifting that veil every time we travel, every time we interact with people who, in my opinion, are not that much different from ourselves.

Continue to be kind to yourself, and to one another.

Jennifer DeSimone
Currently based in Austin, Jennifer is the Chief of Community for U30X. She has a passion for creating connections, community, and opportunities for more empathy. In her spare time you can find her on her yoga mat, whipping up something yummy in the kitchen, or reading a good book.


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