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Global Literacy: A Definition

People come up with all kinds of amazing ways to explain our world. One could say that we are, as a planet, globally dynamic, globally diverse, or globally connected. But what does it mean to have the knowledge and understanding of these powerful concepts? Well, the answer lies in global literacy. We, as modern consumers of information, do an incredible job of taking in the information of others. We listen to experts who spout statistics and infographics. Then, we rely on others to dig in and make it easy for us to trust second hand information. And, while there are many experts I trust (I’m talking to you Rick, Samantha, Christine, Beth and more) there are others that have an agenda. They often present information that isn’t always the whole story.

First Hand Understanding

Did I say that nicely enough? Isn’t it our job as responsible citizens on Earth to have a first hand understanding of the way our world works? Or, do we always accept the similarities and differences that come with the mindless 24/7 news cycle? Are we really taking the time to understand others and recognize the small differences and much larger similarities between us and a person on the other side of the world? Global literacy allows us to answer these questions with a resounding yes!

Global literacy expands our horizons through reading, travel, and reflection.
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

It is a reality that our world is interconnected on so many levels. We have the luxury of immediacy no matter where we are. From the Shibuya Scramble to Pategonia, we can reach out to anyone digitally at any given time. As with any luxury, we must balance our riches with responsibility. In this very small world, don’t we need to ensure that we do everything possible to know about our neighbors? Don’t we have a responsibility to ensure the next generation has this critical skill? The simple answer is yes, we do. 

Global Literacy in Practice…

Literacy comes in all forms. A person is considered literate when they read, of course, but how about when you are communicating or when you are processing information? Does that fall under the umbrella of literacy? I think so. Moreover, I think that travel is the key resource to unlocking the full potential of literacy. Travel allows us to be literate in perspective, empathy, understanding, and identity in one full sweep. I would even go as far as saying that travel is the very thing that allows us to be even more patriotic about where we ourselves live. 

Every time I set out on an adventure, I’m excited about what I will learn. I am interested in what I didn’t realize as my own preconceived notions about a culture or community. I wonder what I can learn and confirm as I travel to places I’ve never been or retrace my steps in places that I’ve loved in the past. I’m intrigued by the idea that the more I travel, the more I understand the people around me, the more I see the patterns that are repeating themselves all over the world. Just as important, I realize what is unique and special about where I come from and that makes me a better, more qualified ambassador for my own culture. I become globally literate.

Practice Makes Progress…

Whether we are nine or sixty-nine, practicing the skill of global literacy by reading, researching, planning, traveling, reflecting, and repeating may be the very habit we need to practice most in order to be successful in this shrinking world. It may be the most valuable investment we make in ourselves and in our kids. It may be the thing that we don’t think of as a luxury but rather a necessity. So, here’s my question: Where to next? 

Will you dip your toe in the travel water and explore something familiar like Washington, D.C. or London? Do you extend your understanding of the great patterns of nature by visiting a National Park? Or, watching the migration on the Serengeti? Will you refine your understanding of our planet’s fragility by going to Venice where the water rises? Or embark on a trip to Antarctica where the icebergs are shrinking? After all, whether you travel two towns away or two continents away, you are increasing your global literacy and sharing it with others. Now, isn’t that a satisfying thought?

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