He had the world’s best comfy chair and big screen TV but he still didn’t choose just to stay home and watch re-runs. What can we learn about travel from Captain James T. Kirk?
Explorers sometimes go off the edge of the map where it says “here be monsters” or at least visit places not mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide. Captain Kirk was an explorer.
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Now that’s a mission statement. Did it always work out great? No. Did it mean that they had to give up access to great Mexican food and every once and a while have a chicken sandwich and coffee with tribbles all over them? Yes.
Meet the Locals
Captain Kirk had his loyal traveling companions and brought food with him just like mom used to replicate, but the best part of his travels often came from his interaction with the locals. If we travel to learn more about other cultures we can do that more from interacting with people who live there than we can from just hearing about it from a guide or reading about it from a guidebook. Even without a Universal Translator (although the iPhone is getting closer) we can learn enough words of the local language to at least greet people.
Respect Local Cultures and Customs
“We don’t do it that way at home” is a dangerous line. We travel to see places and people that are different but differences can be challenging at times. Captain Kirk had a rule called the Prime Directive (Starfleet’s General Order #1) which said that:
As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture.
It did not mean that they agreed with the rules, the norms or even what that society held sacred. But it meant that they respected the people (beings) enough to treat there customs with respect. I will come into contact with beliefs that I disagree with when I leave home, but treating people with whom I disagree with respect is not unfaithful to my beliefs.
There are no “new worlds” only those new to us.
Leave the Place Better Than You Found It
OK, Captain Kirk interfered all the time. Or let’s say that he volunteered. He pitched in to make the local situation better. Now you may never be called on to settle a war between the Yangs and the Kohms, but you might consider helping out in a local building project or orphanage. Some of the most satisfying travel involves getting involved.
Participate In Local Customs
Why not participate in a local cricket match, baseball game, T’ai Chi class, Tango lesson, cooking class or gladiatorial fight to the death as a way of getting a unique view into local customs. Yes a bull fight or battle with a Gorn may be too bloody for your tastes. A bungie jump may be too high and zorbing maybe… just crazy. But find something you are willing to do an jump in.
Travel with Friends
Let’s face it. Years after your mission or trip ends your best memories may be sitting with a friend you traveled with and swapping the shared memories you made together.
Remember that time you thought you killed me when we went to your home planet and you were trying to spawn. You should have seen the look on your face when I wasn’t dead.
Even days that were not all that funny at the time seem somewhat more humorous from the distance of time. Just decide who gets to sit in the big chair and make decisions or at least how you are going to decide who gets to make decisions.
Granted you may never find yourself in an alternative universe where one of your best friends suddenly has a beard, but travel may require you to be flexible from time to time. You won’t always get your way. You won’t always be comfortable. You will sometimes be tired, jet-lagged or have someone trying to assassinate you. But those are not excuses to be unpleasant. You are an explorer whether your vehicle is a starship, a night train or a chicken bus.
Take advantage of travel opportunities from your Job
Most of us won’t get an all expenses paid mission to travel for 5 years. But we will sometimes get to a conference in a different town or a work trip overseas. See if you can add on a little time to explore on your own or at least a little shore leave. What’s the worse thing that could happen? I once had 2 days in Shanghai as part of a work trip. It wasn’t a strange new world, but it was new to me.