My very first trip outside of the United States was to London about two years ago. I went to a community college, and a big group of us went for a month in the summer. I was in awe of the beauty and the culture. As an English major, I was overwhelmed by the amount of landmarks and resources that surrounded me involving my studies. I wanted to soak it all up.
Today, I sit in my room looking up statistics about Brexit.
An article in The Independent has the subtitle, “The United Kingdom is a country divided, and may not be a country for long.”
An NBC article is titled, “How Baby Boomers Defeated Millennials in Historic Vote.”
According to The Telegraph the vote to leave only won by 3.8%, with Scotland and Northern Ireland’s majority voting to remain in the EU.
I do not, have not, and—most likely—will not live in the United Kingdom. I cannot tell you how to vote, how to live, or how to run your country. But what I can do is say, “Look at us.” Look at the United States as we have politicians promising walls to keep people out. Look at the history books and see how countries that have isolated themselves tend to fare. Being alone in this world of 7 billion people is not admirable.
We are now a world of connection. We pride ourselves on being “Citizens of the World.”
In order to maintain our universality, we must remain. Remain connected. Remain merciful. Remain knowledgeable.
I look back on my time in London.
I come from a small town. Maybe four or five people that graduated in my high school class were not Caucasian. Diversity was a word that I heard about, that I craved, but not something that was prevalent in my area of the woods.
I remember going into the parts of town close to the University and noticing that not everyone looked the same, wore the same clothes, etc. I couldn’t wait to explore the world, to get out of my bubble. So, when I finally made it to London, I felt the impact of a global economy and of immigration for the first time.
I think I ate traditional English food twice during the month I was there. I went to a conveyer-belt sushi place, an authentic Italian pizza joint, a Turkish deli, and so many more diverse places. I spoke to the owners who had moved from all the corners of the world. I went to outdoor markets and tasted food I had never heard of.
And I felt connected.
I never want to lose that feeling of global togetherness.
I do not crave isolation. I do not want walls. I do not want to leave.
I want openness, understanding, diversity. Not just as buzz words, but as something that we can all experience.
I want to one day be eighty years old and have my kids and grandkids groan as I tell the same story I have told a million times of the day that I met a man from South Africa studying American history at a university in London.
I want to forever cherish the memory of the day that I finally found a Turkish market in my hometown where I could eat the food I had been craving for a year, and the owner offered to teach me his language so that I could go to Turkey one day.
I have a tattoo on my upper thigh that says, “Wanderlust.” I got it right before I left for London because I wanted to remind myself that—no matter how old I am, how much money I have in the bank, or what people are saying about the dangers of travel—when I go out in the world, when I speak to strangers, when I explore beyond my comfort zone I feel alive.