Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. – Mark Twain
The more we travel, the more I find the above quote to be true. People everywhere in the world have the same basic needs as we do here in the US (food, water, shelter) and all humans want love and want to give their children a better life. This is true no matter the color of their skin or what country they call home. One striking difference between the US and countries in Europe is how the government addresses the needs of their citizens. For example, the Netherlands recognizes marijuana as a soft drug and doesn’t toss users in jail and make a profit off them like we do here. Healthcare and education are a top priority throughout Europe and people don’t have to go into massive debt to obtain either. While chatting with locals in Amsterdam, we heard first-hand how they have benefited from a government that actually works for its people. Take squatting for example. Several long-time residents told us how they had moved into abandoned buildings in not-so-desirable parts of the city and made them into living spaces. Rather than forcing them out, the city converted the spaces into apartments and made them rent-controlled social housing. It was a win for the squatters as they could stay and a win for the city as it attracted more residents to the area. Now these vibrant neighborhoods are highly sought after with homes fetching top dollar.
Another striking difference is the attitude towards climate change and protecting our people and planet from harmful chemicals and gases. Seeing the many arrays of wind turbines as we flew across the North Sea reminded me how far the US lags behind the rest of the world in the use of clean renewable energy. Solar and wind power are much more prevalent in Europe, cars are smaller, less polluting, and more efficient, and public transportation is excellent. High-speed trains connect major cities throughout Europe and regional trains connect smaller cities to the main hubs. Huge amounts have been invested in infrastructure making Europe more accessible for both travelers and its citizens. We can learn so much from leaving our own little neck of the woods and really seeing how other parts of the world live.