For a long time I’ve wanted to articulate the reasons why I believe that travel is important and what really drives me to build what we are building.
There are a lot of big problems in the world. So why work on an apparently trivial problem as to help people travel more and for less? Isn’t this a #firstworldproblem? Isn’t travel a luxury of spoiled societies? I don’t think so and I will try to explain why.
In my opinion the biggest problems that humanity faces today can be summarized in these categories:
- Environment: Environmental risks that threaten human life (Climate change, clean sustainable energy, water sustainability, overpopulation, bio-equilibrium, etc.)
- Inequality: Lack of access to the benefits of technological advancement to a big portion of the human population (Extreme poverty in both poor and rich countries, hunger, curable diseases, lack of access to basic education, housing precariousness, etc.)
- Security: Lack of security and peace (Armed conflicts in the world, risks of nuclear war, terrorism, lack of respect to human rights, religious intolerance, etc.)
- Human development: Enablers and blockers to human development (Education, health-care, government, innovation, media, happiness, etc.)
Now, it turns out that most of these problems are quite interrelated. For example: as long as we don’t develop and deploy sustainable sources of energy to satisfy the energy needs of the world, it’s likely that armed conflicts and/or abusive governments will continue in the regions of the world with reserves of fossil energy. Which increases the chances of terrorism. Further more, as long as the economics of energy continue favoring armed conflicts, it is likely that more spending will go to defense/military than to research or education that could positively impact health-care and inequality. And on and on. It is difficult to get to the root-reason of all the problems because they are all very interconnected. While it is difficult to get to the root-problem, it is perhaps easier to think what it would be a root-solution that would branch into more and more solutions.
After thinking about it for a while I came to the conclusion that this root solution might be unity.
The day that we can finally recognize at a global level that humanity is one single family and that we are together on this, we will be able to face all the big challenges of the world and start working together on all the solutions. Can you imagine what we could accomplish if all the governments of the world had one unified agenda, instead of country-specific agendas? Can you imagine what we could accomplish if we put all our resources, technology and talent into education, research and technology innovation with the goal of solving the grand global problems?
Yes, I am also a believer on the driving force of competition. I do think that the competitive spirit of humans drives innovation in situations of competition. But I think that “coompetition” (cooperation + competition) has proven possible. We can still compete, while all being in the same page on the big problems to get solved together. X-Prize and similar initiatives are great examples of healthy competition as driver of world-changing innovation.
I recognize that we have made tremendous progress on building unity in the world. We have never before in history of humanity been so peaceful and cooperative between nations. Organizations that we take for granted today such as United Nations and the World Economic Forum only have a couple of decades of existence and would have been unimagined not long ago in human history. The general spirit of tolerance and fraternity that we observe today when it comes to race, religion, gender, sexual orientations is not seen before in human history and only one generation ago was far from where is now. The “Y generation” is more open and global than any previous generation.
But there is still a lot more to do in this front. Still the global forums are polluted with special agendas and don’t include many important countries in the dialogue. Still intolerance, bigotry and egoism influence the behaviors and decisions of our leaders and our populations at large, in every country of the world. We are close to a ‘critical mass of unity’ that would allow us to really take on the grand challenges, but are not there yet. Therefore I believe that we must continue re-shaping the culture and the values of the new generations in order to achieve such unity.
So what about travel?
In the book “The Innocents Abroad” Mark Twain put it in a beautiful way: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Even with all the advancements of communication technologies that allow us to connect and ‘travel without traveling’ (google, skype, facebook, etc) I think that the words of Mr. Twain remain true. I firmly believe that when we travel, especially when we are young and forming our values, and especially when we travel in a genuine and independent way, a unique sense of awareness arises about the unity of humanity. It becomes so clear that we are one single family when we connect with others that are different than us, but essentially the same. When we travel we open our minds and our hearts. We can see with more perspective the global challenges that we face. We become better citizens of the world and better leaders of tomorrow.
Education and media are strong shapers of values and culture and we definitely must work on these areas too. But making it easy for people to travel has proven to be a very effective way to create new generations of global minded individuals.
We are a family a 7 billion humans as of today and only 160 million get to travel at a young age (which is already an amazing record number!). If we are able to make it easier and more accessible for more young people to travel I believe that we can contribute to increase unity in the world. And I believe that once we achieve the ‘critical mass of unity’ as a consequence we will start really solving the grand problems and building an amazing future for humanity.
So, that’s why I believe that travel is a driver of global change and it should be in the agendas of governments worldwide. That’s why I think that the travel industry is important and that it needs more innovation. That’s why we started our company and why we go to work with passion every day.