Breaking Down Barriers

A story of how traveling brings you closer to strangers.

As an avid traveler, sharing my experiences and stories is so exciting to me!  The ultimate story experience is when you can connect with someone from that country and build a relationship because you understand their culture and have seen their country.

In this edition of the Peace Stamps newsletter, I want to share with you an interaction that really resonated with me.  At the end of August, I took a cruise to hit four Caribbean island countries, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda, Saint Lucia, and Barbados.  My father was lucky enough to join me on this cruise! On the cruise ship, my father and I sat with two couples at dinner.  One of the couples lived in California and were Vietnamese.  Over the next seven days, we spent a lot of time talking at dinner and getting to know each other.  My love of traveling became a topic of discussion one evening and through our discussion the most amazing thing happened!

The couple opened up to me and the dinner table about how they immigrated to the United States.  It is an amazing story about how they escaped from communist Vietnam and lived on a remote island in Indonesia for an extended period of time!  They had to live off of canned food and had no electricity.  The only belongings to their name were what they could fit in a backpack!  They also shared their experiences after they immigrated into the United States and about how hard it was for them to assimilate.  People would make fun of their accents and inability to speak English.  I was really touched by how they opened up about their experiences and I don't believe this would have happened had I not been to Vietnam and started talking about their culture with them.

I realize that not everyone has the means to travel the world, but it is experiences like this that make me truly believe that if people put in an effort to understand other cultures, we would be heading in the right direction towards a peaceful world!

The Foundation of World Peace

As many of you know, the mission of Peace Stamps is to promote cultural empathy by making a positive difference through your travels.  We pursue volunteer projects in every country we visit in order to immerse ourselves in the culture, make an impact on the community, and gain cultural empathy.

So what is cultural empathy?  Cultural empathy is the capacity, within a person, to appreciate the feelings, thoughts and behavior of individuals from different cultural backgrounds.  One does not have to agree with the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of different cultures, but it is important to learn to accept different cultures, as long as they do not cause harm.  

At Peace Stamps, we believe that cultural empathy is the foundation of World Peace.  Many of the worlds’ issues stem from an empathy deficit.  In addition, many of the worlds’ issues stem from the forcing of one’s own culture on others.  World Peace requires a balance of cultural empathy and peacefully educating others of one’s own culture.

Peace Stamps chooses volunteering to gain cultural empathy, as well as positively promote one’s own culture.  When volunteering, we get to experience areas that are off the beaten path where there is greater potential for authentic cultural immersion.  Just remember it is important to be aware of your surroundings.  We find cultural immersion to be the simplest way of gaining an understanding of a culture and cultural empathy.  In addition, many people around the world often do not have the chance to interact with people from different cultures and countries.  Making a positive difference in their lives not only improves their lives, but creates a positive association with one’s country of origin.  This may be the only time they interact with someone from a different country and now they have a positive opinion of the country. 

In conclusion, we believe that if people give one day of their vacation to volunteer in a different country, the world would be heading in the right direction towards WORLD PEACE.