Demystifying The Clash Of Cultures

Nowadays it is customary for avid travelers to compile a "Best Places to Visit" list beforehand.

Weeks before one experiences an unknown place, a virtual tour has already happened. Acquiring knowledge about the climate, food, local language, currency, and so on is now a prerequisite.

"Be well prepared," they'd say. More so if you want to avoid unwelcome surprises.

When I visited Goa last month with wifey and kids, I had already taken a virtual tour of the city and decided upon my daily itinerary - thanks to the numerous travel blogs. I even stuffed my knapsack with all the must-haves.

Can't help but wonder: does the term "explorer" really describe today's traveler or are we mere visitors?

When the likes of Vasco da Gama and Hieun Tsang set sail, they had a vague idea (at times, no idea) about both their journey and final destination.

Vasco da Gama
Guided solely by handmade maps, the North Star, and a non-mechanical compass, these brave men had the heart to venture into uncharted territories and the conviction that they'd find it.

As they progressed from one coast to another, they carried along the taste of that land, its culture, music, language, folklores, and much more. Hence facilitating cultural and culinary mingling. These master navigators maintained every day records of the direction of winds above the sea, the weather, and even the tides.

Detailed travel accounts were later written for the benefit of generations to come.

"Knowledge is best when shared" goes a famous idiom.

Travelogues of famous ancient travelers not only spread interest about an unknown land’s culture and food, they are also responsible for spreading various religious and philosophical beliefs. Buddhism and Christianity, two of the most followed religions, owe their popularity chiefly to the monks and missionaries who traveled in search of the truth and enlightenment.

Travel also facilitated trade. The famous "Silk Route" and "Spice Trade" are a few examples of exchange of goods between two historic civilizations.

The scent of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, pepper, and turmeric brought several enthusiasts to India, many of whom were later responsible for bringing about a change in its socio-economic conditions.

Likewise various traders, pilgrims, monks, and several nomads carried the thread of silk from China to India and then into the Mediterranean, thus opening a channel of long-distance interaction among civilizations.

We have evolved and prospered collectively, thanks to the flow of knowledge through generations and among civilizations, facilitated by travelers and their written accounts.

A technological advancement in one part of the globe soon travels and enriches the lives of people at the other end.

Even to date narratives and travelogues of the common man acquaint us about the events and happenings in the interiors of far-away lands - whether political unrest, fight against crime, or citizens coming together against immoral democracies. These and several other stories travel via the Internet and have an impact on our tomorrow. Needless to say, each of us has benefitted in more than one way from these shared encounters.

[This post is a part of "Beyond Boundaries" at in association with INK 2014.]