Friday 7 Jul, 2017

From Tourist to Traveler: A Journey to Global Citizenship

This article is from one of EF’s Global Leadership Summit interns, Julia Himmelberger, following her experience at our last Summit this past March in Lima, Peru. The Summit Internship Program gives high school students a chance to deepen their experience at EF Summits by gaining valuable real-life skills through public speaking, journalism, social media, and photography.

It is so easy to go through life as a tourist- observing moments, places, or people from a distance without delving deeper. We constantly ask, “How are you?” but never follow up with specific questions. When faced with uncertainty, we’re often content with a simple response. When listening to the news, we absorb information without questioning its source or fully understanding both sides of the situation.

People in today’s society are too comfortable living on the surface, like tourists. We, myself included, like to stick with what is comfortable instead of branching out to discover new ideas, places, or people.  At EF Leadership Summits, students from all over the world come together to discuss a global topic or issue (this year the topic was global citizenship) and learn what it is like to be travelers.  

In March of 2017, I traveled around the Sacred Valley and Highlands of Peru with EF Tours. The trip ended with a three-day Global Leadership Summit in Lima, where I served as a student intern. Throughout the weekend, students learned about global citizenship by participating in leadership workshops and listening to keynote speakers such as diversity consultant Dr. Derrick Gay, anthropologist Dr. Wade Davis, and three-time U.S. Olympian DeeDee Trotter. In the final days of the conference, students utilized Design Thinking strategies to come up with an invention prototype that would change the world in some way. At the Innovation Village, students pitched their ideas to other students and teachers, and the winning group’s prototype was displayed at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. Through my trip to Peru, I, along with over 350 students from across the globe, grappled with the idea of transforming my mindset from tourist to traveler, becoming a global citizen through the process.

On tour in Peru, we visited local weavers at the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco, a non-profit organization that seeks to preserve the ancient tradition of textile weaving through workshops and the promotion of their art. At the textile center, we learned about their traditions and were able to get involved in the culture by dying the alpaca wool in vibrant colors made from natural ingredients such as berries and roots. We visited a local school to play and talk with the students and even stopped at a park after visiting Machu Picchu to play a spontaneous game of pick-up soccer with a group of local children.

Local weavers at Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco demonstrate the many dyes they use for the alpaca wool.

As a student intern during the Leadership Summit, I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Wade Davis and Dr. Derrick Gay during a press conference. I asked them both what they believed was the difference between a traveler and a tourist. Dr. Wade Davis referenced novelist and world traveler Paul Theroux in stating, “The difference between a traveler and a tourist is a traveler doesn’t know where he’s going, and a tourist can’t remember where he’s been.” While in Peru, I certainly did not know where we would end up next. Every day was an unexpected adventure filled with surprises—and I loved every minute of it. When the Leadership Summit arrived, I was filled with anticipation and excitement. Finally, here I was, in a room with hundreds of other students who felt just as eager as I was to change the world. As the weekend went on, we engaged in Design Thinking and created prototypes related to globalization and global citizenship. We let go of expectations and opened our minds to new experiences, learned about Peru and the world, and stepped out of our comfort zones to try new things and meet new people. 

My Innovation Group and our prototype, Global Connect, an app that connects students to issues around the world and gives them ways they can help out.

In every workshop, innovation session, or keynote speaker address, we were not tourists; we were travelers. At the Summit press conference, keynote speaker Dr. Gay warned that seeing the world from fancy hotels does not make one a traveler, but a tourist. As he noted, to be a traveler, one must venture out into the world with an open mind and curiosity for new cultures and experiences. One must immerse oneself in the language and customs to get a complete understanding of what life is like where one is traveling. While tourists seek comfort abroad by looking for pieces of home through Americanized restaurants or English speakers, travelers desire to expand their horizons and step outside of their comfort zones by experiencing life as locals. During the EF Tour of Peru and Global Leadership Summit, we stayed in small, local hotels, spoke with Peruvians, tasted foods such as alpaca and guinea pig, engaged in local customs and traditions, and jumped into the unknown to learn more about the world. Throughout the experience, I felt that my eyes were opened to new cultures, ideas, and ways of thinking. Thanks to my EF Tour and Leadership Summit, I learned how to be a traveler in all aspects of my life, and I look forward to seeing where my travels will lead me.