Does Travel Make You “Liberal"? - Robert Reid/Transitions Abroad

Of the dozen types of cognitive biases — e.g. “confirmation bias” is the tendency to agree with people who agree with us — there’s one bias that strikes me as potentially useful.

“Observational selection bias” occurs when we experience something new, then start noticing it more often, thus fooling ourselves into thinking the frequency has grown. (This happened to me when I bought a blue Honda Fit last year, now notice them constantly.)

Taken another way, this can become a “positive travel bias.”

When we travel and experience people and cultures different to us, they become familiar and real. When news headlines or blanket politics smear otherwise far-away issues, we increasingly recognize the individual affected. So when political leaders smear all Latin American immigrants as “murderers and rapists,” or even when a traveler calls an innocent local a “bad person,” we recognize it to be unfair, untrue, unjust.

Travel teaches us this once we've left beach resorts or hostel lounges or tour buses — and befriend locals on their own terms we return to our homes better able to put ourselves in others’ shoes. (Or, in the case of the Masai in Kenya, into their sandals made from old motorcycle tires.) We even start to see their shoes as alternate versions of our own.

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