Open your mind: make travel a goal for 2017

Travelling opens your mind: so says the editor in this week's Ponoka News editorial.

If there’s one thing you do in 2017, make travel the priority.

Save your dollars or even consider taking on extra work to make it happen. There is something eye-opening about travelling internationally that makes one realize just how diverse the world really is.

I was lucky enough to take my family on an epic trip to South Africa and I am grateful for the experience. It showed my children there is much more out there than just little old Alberta. Even more lucky was the chance to see a small part of the country and its diverse population.

Seeing the large international airports was an experience on its own. We saw Frankfurt, Germany and Johannesburg, South Africa airports where thousands of people travel daily.

It takes these types of trips to realize that there is so much more going on in the world. It’s almost as if a veil is removed where one can take in the amazing experience that is our Earth.

For some, the experience may be different, but for me, travelling all the way across the globe made me realize that there is so much diversity in the world. Hopefully seeing this will help a person realize the importance of working with other countries and how globalization is vital to our survival.

We live in tumultuous times with world leaders (I’m talking about ones in the so-called free world here) pushing for less co-operation and more separation from their neighbours. All this in the name of protection of values of the past. People are eating it up like hotcakes.

Maybe the fact that I was born in Africa changed my overall perspective and allowed me to be more open to ideas of globalization, but the truth is these changes are going to happen with or without us. We can either be left behind, standing firm in our “pure” ideals or we can embrace the change.

Another benefit to travelling is also seeing what challenges people in other countries face. For instance did you know that there is no minimum wage in South Africa?

Indeed, legislators are in the midst of a proposal to create a national minimum wage of R3,500 (Rand); that’s close to $350 Canadian per month, a far cry from what we have. One can easily imagine what the critics against that proposal say: employers may not be able to afford the higher wages and people may be out of a job.

Albertans have heard a similar argument recently with the current government’s changes of the minimum wage, albeit the amount is quite a bit different than what South Africans face and Alberta is in tough economic times, and yet businesses make the same points against it. Funny how that works.

What’s even more interesting to that argument is in the personal income tax. A South African resident only pays tax on an income of R75,000 (about $7,500 Canadian). Minimum wage doesn’t even get close to being eligible for taxation.

There may not be much we can do to change the issues faced in South Africa, or for any country we visit for that matter, but knowing is half the battle to realizing we are part of a larger community.

Before you decide that the glory days of the past are the only days worth fighting for, take a few weeks, travel, and see for yourself that there is much more to being a good neighbour than just being friendly with people on your street.