Why Do We Travel?

*gratitude the UU College of Social Justice for their learning resources.

Facilitator Preparation: This lesson is designed to invite youth and parents to think deeply about traveling through an immersion journey experience. Spending time having the participants sit with concepts such as sympathy, empathy, and proximity, and find their own reasons why this journey is important, will help them begin to understand both healthy and unhealthy reasons for traveling.

Chalice Lighting – 

Let the light of this chalice

Show us how to do more good than harm

To the world we live in.

Let the light of this chalice

Show us how to help and not hurt

All the people we know and don’t know.

Let the light of this chalice

Show us how to do our share

To make the world a better place for all.

Sympathy versus Empathy

When we travel to new places to learn about and experience new cultures (yes, even within the U.S.), it’s extremely important that we go into those situations with an open mind and an open heart.

Briefly ask if the group can describe the difference between empathy and sympathy.

Video 1: Brene Brown on Empathy, The RSA: http://bit.ly/1btB5XC [2:53 minutes]

Ask for thoughts/ more examples of how people have empathy and how people sympathize with others.

Video 2: Listen to Daniela Papi at TEDxOxbridge talk about lessons she learned after traveling to Cambodia to teach Cambodian children about issues she and her friends knew very little about. She explains the dangers of encouraging volunteer travel without first gaining some knowledge about the culture, and then how travelers can maximize their contributions to a community or organization both during and after their experience.

Video: What’s Wrong with Volunteer Travel: http://bit.ly/2Agasu6 [end at 6:47 minutes]

Note: While this TEDx talk focuses on international volunteering, lessons can be applied to traveling

to different communities and cultures within the U.S.

Discussion questions for Small groups:

  • Daniela reflected that she and her friends traveled to Cambodia to open a school and fundraise for the community, but failed to first engage in learning about and from the Cambodian community? Why is that important?
  • Is there anything Daniela said that surprised you? 
  • What do you think of her description of the orphanage tourism sector?

Importance of “Proximity”

When Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), was a law student at the age of 22, he had an experience with a death row inmate that changed the trajectory of his career.

Watch How A Visit to Death Row Turned This Man Into a Crusader for Justice: https://youtu.be/gOKyzpQOd6s [2:38 minutes]

From eji.org: The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.

Discussion questions for Whole Group:

  • Based on Bryan’s story, why was it important for him to get proximate? What did he experience during his visit to death row?
  • Why is it important to you to get proximate in this journey to West Virginia?

Closing Reading

Tricia Rose’s Pledge Before Hard Conversations: 

[Call and response]

I [state your name],

Am not personally responsible for racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, or any other vast form of group- based discrimination, even though I very likely benefit from it. Therefore, I should not feel guilty. I might feel sadness, empathy, outrage, but guilt won’t change anything for the better. And besides, it only focuses on me.

I did not choose the body, sexual orientation, race, or class position, or how I came into this world. What I can choose is how I want to behave, and whether or not I want to meaningfully contribute to creating a just society in light of all I am learning.

I can determine how I want to live in this world and what kind of alliances I want to make. So what I do from this day forward defines who I am, and for that I am responsible.