The following is an entrie for a student essay scholarship program offered to college bound seniors the spring of 2009 by ITG Elite. The theme was “How Can Travel Promote Peace and Build Bridges Between People and their Nations.” This program was hosted by International Travel Group and the winning essay received a check to help with college expenses.
“Travel Changes Everything”
By Jonathan Kaicher
In a time when man is moving much faster than ever before, no one seems to be taking time to slow down and think things over. Without a chance for negotiation, Lebanon and Israel go to war. Without a thought of consequences, the United States invades Iraq. It seems like in this era of fast cars, jet planes, and bullet trains, deliberation has become second to action, and hope for world peace is becoming weaker.
I have traveled to more than ten countries in my short eighteen years of life. I have experienced cultures, languages, and ideals very different from those of the United States. From language differences in France, to culinary differences in Costa Rica, to customs differences in Bermuda, I have been emerged in worlds that are beyond my imagination. I have traveled to these countries with the intention of vacation, yet I always seem to leave a little wiser, with more understanding of what other cultures are like. Travel brings people from opposite sides of the globe together, so each may understand the other. Understanding one another is the key to achieving peace.
The United States of America does not have the best reputation. Some other countries call us rude, arrogant, and dominating; they say we are belittling smaller, weaker nations. I want to do everything I can to change this reputation. When I travel to new places, I act as if I am an ambassador of my country. Each place I go I try to be as respectful as humanly possible. I want to show other people that not all Americans are what they are perceived to be. When I went to Costa Rica I was amazed at the situation of the people. I saw poverty on levels unimaginable in the States. I saw a young man my age missing school so he could help his family make ends meet. To them, I was just a tourist, exploiting the beauty of their country. However, I wanted more out of the experience. Every opportunity I had to help someone, I did. In the morning I helped the maid clean the apartment, not because she needed it, but because I am capable of doing it. I saw children on the beach and I shared my beach toys. I helped a man collect fruit that had spilled from his basket. I wanted them to see that I represent a great people. Maybe my hopes are useless; but maybe, just maybe, they will remember me, and next time they think of this country, they will remember the courtesy I tried to show them. Traveling brings tolerance through understanding each other’s cultures and beliefs. The world is a very diverse place and by emerging yourself in other cultures, you can build tolerance and cooperation with peoples of different nations.
I often find myself pondering why many people have a profound stubbornness and do not wish to emerge themselves in other cultures. If many of these people did so, they might find themselves tolerating other styles of life, and world peace would be that much closer to achievable. I am going to be in the Army in four years, stationed in an exotic land with customs very different than my own. As I serve my country, I wish to keep up my roles as an ambassador; when people ask me what they can do in return for my service, I only wish for these few to see what I saw and experience other places. Instead of showing hatred forwards foreigners, show understanding and cooperation. Diplomacy is the key to success of world peace. I am not entering service for my hatred of others, I am entering so that I can help those oppressed by the evil of this planet, so others may see there are some benevolent people left on Earth.
Travel to foreign nations has changed the way I see the world. I can look past the blinds and see through the walls of differences that seem to be built between our societies. Until one experiences other cultures for his or herself, one cannot truly see that the world is a vast and ever changing place, and the key to its success is found in its differences and the tolerance shared between intelligent life forms.
About the Author
Jonathan Kaicher graduated the United States Military Academy in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Life Sciences. Following graduation, he commissioned as an Infantry Officer and served with 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry in 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Divison, Schofield Barracks, HI. His duty positions included Rifle Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, Battalion Logistics Officer, and Assistant Battalion Operations Officer. While stationed in Hawaii, he deployed in support of joint training operations in Thailand, South Korea, and the Philippines. Following promotion to Captain, Jonathan moved to Fort Benning, GA where he attended the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course. His current assignment is 8th Army, Camp Humphrey, South Korea. Next year he will transition to 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, NC. He will serve on brigade staff until transitioning to command of a Rifle Company of paratroopers in the famed “Devils in Baggy Pants.”
Jonathan is a graduate of the United States Army Ranger School, Airborne School, and Air Assault School. Jonathan’s awards include the Expert Infantryman Badge, two Army Commendation Medals, Army Achievement Medal, Global War on Terror Service Ribbon, Korea Defense Service Ribbon, and Overseas Service Ribbon.