Why Travelling Makes the World a Better Place

thailand bay and island - the instatripper - jan willem plug

Did you know that while there are taxes on diesel, petrol, oil and gas, the fuel that airplanes use (kerosene) is free from taxes all over the world? Surprising, right? Well, it’s not a mistake. The governments of the world did not forgot to introduce a kerosene tax, but deliberately decided not to impose it. Why? Because travelling makes the world a better place.

The tax exemption on kerosene dates back to 1944, when participants of the Chicago Convention agreed to promote international civil aviation and not tax fuel for airplanes. Governments decided that it was a good idea to promote international travel. The argument was that international travel would increase trust, friendship and understanding between the peoples of the world. In short: travelling makes the world a better place. Despite new opinions on taxing kerosene as part of the global fight against climate change – a goal that cannot be overrated – the initial argument for world peace still stands.

Kerosene is tax-free to make the world a better place
Airplane fuel is tax-free to make the world a better place

Of course, airplanes pollute our environment. Airplanes cause CO2 emissions just like any other conventional fuel. And of course that is not a good thing. I am all in favour of promoting train travel and I hope governments will invest in faster trains everywhere in the world so that travelling through many countries will become easier and maybe even cheaper than flying. Additionally, the airline industry should also invest in alternative options for airplane fuel. But there is an important reason why flying is still a good thing.

The World is Getting Better

Just like the world governments expected in 1944, international travel really did make the world a better place. Empathy between people on our planet and understanding of the many cultures we have has increased enormously thanks to international travel. Despite all the negative news we all hear every day it is a historical and statistical fact that there have never been fewer wars, fewer war casualties and fewer murders than ever before in human history. And those numbers have been decreasing for 70 years in a row.

The World Values Survey surveys norms and values of people all over the world since 1981 and clearly shows that progressive norms and values are winning. In the United States, the number of people that did not want to live next to someone from another colour decreased from 50 per cent in 1960 to 6 per cent nowadays. In 1985, only 55 per cent of the population said interracial marriage was a good thing. Today, it is 90 per cent. Surveys in Asia, South America and the Middle East show the same kind of numbers. The world is slowly becoming less racist, less misogynous and less homo phobic. Having said that, the numbers also show that there is still a huge amount of work to be done, obviously. But my point is, there is some really good news about the world we live in.

Travelling makes the world a better place because it increases tolerance
People’s tolerance of others has been increasing for many years

What Makes The World Better

Is all this improvement caused by all of us flying more frequently? Of course not. Psychologist Steven Pinker studied this subject and concluded that there are three reasons for the unprecedented decrease in wars, murders and violence and changing norms and values since the last world war. (1) The ability to read and write, (2) globalisation and (3) international travel.

Books, newspapers, and the internet greatly contribute to making people conscious of the problems that people in other countries have, and contribute to increased empathy and understanding. The same counts for globalisation. It has brought the world together and we all understand that we need each other and need international coordinated policies to make the world a better place. It has also increased our understanding of the suffering millions of people go through in many places in the world.

Travelling Makes the World Better

The third and last reason – actually getting to know other cultures and people by travelling the world – works because it literally enables us to walk in other people’s shoes. Travelling makes the world a better place because it gets us out of our comfort zone. Understanding other people’s circumstances increases empathy for all the people that are part of that culture or social group. For example, it makes you understand why some people decide to leave their country to look for more freedom or better economic opportunities. It also helps you understand why cultures and behaviour differs from place to place.

Buddhist temple
Travelling increases understanding of different cultures

In the past, people used to feel empathy only for their own family, friends or tribe. Later, the circle starting encompassing their own village or city and country. And eventually, it starts encompassing people from all over the world. That people of all social classes are able to fly nowadays is something that needs to be celebrated. It has turned out to be an effective tool against fear of strangers, against discrimination, against racism, etc.

Travelling also increases mutual trust. Psychologist Adam Galinsky proved that when people find out that members of other cultures actually have the same values and goals as they have it increases their trust in humanity as a whole. People everywhere want to have a happy family life and promote love for each other. Interestingly, this positive affect of travelling applies even at a young age. Children who travel, learn about other social and economic circumstances and learn that their view of the world is not the only correct one.

Globe with faces
Most people just want the same things you want

Connections Make the World a Better Place

Of course, all these positive effects of international travel do not apply to all-inclusive resorts where people sit at the pool and never leave their hotel. You will have to get out of your comfort zone, eat in a local restaurant and really connect to people. Ask them questions. What do they do in life, how do they live, how are their families? This is part of getting to know one another and I can tell you from experience that meeting locals is one of the most rewarding benefits of travelling.

I often remember the people that I get to know a lot better than places I visit or accommodation I stay in. At the end of the day, it is the people and new friends that really make the difference. It is one of the things I love about travelling. And I think it’s great that travelling really does make the world a better place.

Mont Saint Michel - the instatripper - Jan Willem Plug
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