When you Google Tunisia, you are faced with a pretty grim picture. All the websites use phrases such us “conservative Muslim country, prone to terrorism, and underdeveloped.” I cannot tell you how far that is from the truth, and I think that it has truly shown me just how biased and unrealistic the media can be.
This misinformation in the media is part of the reason that I travel. If I believed everything that the media says, I would have missed out on travelling to some of the most amazing countries that I have ever been to, and in turn, missed out on some of the best experiences of my life. Oftentimes, I’ve felt considerably safer travelling in so-called “dangerous” countries than I have felt in Europe or at home in the US. From Turkey, to Cuba, to Serbia, to Tunisia, I have had the most amazing life experiences in countries that people are genuinely afraid of because of the way that the media demonises them through fear tactics.
When Tunisia appears in the news, it is never about the country’s incredible education system, wonderful hospitality, modern culture and attitude, or quickly developing economy. Even last week, the news that Tunisia was the first Arab country to require gender equality in inheritance never reached American tv screens. Instead, memories of the 2011 revolution remain potent in international memory. In many’s minds, Tunisia remains categorised with the likes of Syria and Iran.
That is the true shame of the media. It re enforces an insular attitude that so many people in world, and especially in America, have. When the world is presented as scary, people close their minds to different cultures, peoples, and ways of life, and they stop seeking to understand the reality of the world. To put it in a cliche way, people only read one page of the book and never look further to understand more.
That is one of the reasons that I have decided to leave the US. While it is wonderful country, the attitude of American Exceptionalism in which the US is taught to be the greatest country in the world, is inherently ignorant. By creating a culture of patriotism in which the US is placed on a pedestal as “the best country in the world” in the minds of American people, we automatically place all other people, countries, and cultures as inferior. This is simply untrue.
Instead, the ideal of American Exceptionalism creates a culture of ignorance. When a culture believes that it is the best, it creates a mindset in which people feel as though they don’t have to learn about the rest of the world. It results in a narrow mindset that never encourages people to experience truly different things or to step out of their comfort zone. When one has that mentality, they stop themselves from growing, and they unintentionally demonise the other as alien and inferior.
While the United States has many amazing things to offer, there are many things that it lacks. Travelling has allowed me to mix cultures together to become a better, more informed, and happier person. I love spending time in the US. I love how cultures fuse together to create innovation, new things and ideas, I love how everyone smiles, and I love the warmth and kindness that I experience from friends and strangers alike. I love the taste of fresh Wisconsin ice cream and the feeling of the sun on my face while driving through the countryside on a summer day. I love the generosity of my small town and the willingness of strangers to come together to always help others.
However, travelling has shown me that kindness is not unique to one country and that other cultures have incredible things to add to life. There is no “best way” to live life, but simply different ways.
I’ve learned to love a slower pace of life. When I’m in the US, I miss the leisurely hours-long stays at coffee shops to catch up with friends that I’ve become accustomed to. I’ve learned to love new foods and new traditions. From squid to spices, the world has billions of new flavours to offer. I’ve learned to love greeting people by kissing them on the cheek, and I’ve learned to communicate without using words, but instead through smiles and gestures.
I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by the strangers that I have met all over the world who are genuinely interested in getting to know me and who treat me like a lifelong friend. I’ve been welcomed into strangers’ homes to be treated like family and allowed to stay for as long as I would like, and I’ve learned to understand the beauty of other languages that is lost in translation. I’ve been awed at the intensity of other countries’ education systems, and I’ve felt wholeheartedly unprepared by the lack of education about the world that I had received through formal education.
Coffee for hours is hands-down my favourite way to “chill”.
The true beauty of travel is that it shows you the best that the world has to offer. Travelling has made me incredibly more empathic, open-minded, and understanding, and in return, I’ve become exponentially happier and more knowledgeable. People around the world really are the same; all people care about those that they love, want to best for their friends and family, and try to make the most of everyday. All people experience joy, sadness, and love, and there is so much more that connects us as people than divides us.
This is what the media forgets, and this is one of the reasons that I am so passionate about sharing my experiences. Travel is not something to be afraid of, but instead, something to be embraced as the best experience for knowledge and growth possible. Travel puts you out of your comfort zone, and for me, that is the true meaning of growth; eventually the uncomfortable becomes the comfortable and this tenacity for growth and challenge encompasses your whole person.
Accepting this challenged was the best decision of my life; since then, I’ve only grown as a person.
The image presented of Tunisia by the Internet and media couldn’t be further from the truth; the country that I have uncovered is incredibly modern, fun, safe, developed, and absolutely beautiful. I’ve meet some of the most incredible people whom I will consider friends for life, enjoyed exquisite food, seen the most beautiful places of my life, and been immersed the best fusion of European, North African, and Middle Eastern culture that I’ve ever encountered. I’ve only been here a few weeks, but I can easily say that I’d be happy to stay for months, if not years.
So I guess that’s why I travel. Travel shows me the true beauty in the world. It makes me a better person, and it keeps life exciting. When you recognise that there is always new things to see, learn, and experience, life can never become boring.
Even though I’m young, I’ve learned a lot through my journey, and if I were to give anyone in the world advice on how to lead a happier, more fulfilled life, I’d suggest to go and explore something new. It doesn’t even have to be far away, but experiencing new things that put you outside of your comfort zone is undoubtably the best way to learn, grow, and make the ordinary extraordinary.