The “Overview Effect”, and Travel

The Bigger Picture

I’d encourage you to watch the “Overview Effect” below — and think about it in a travel context (I’m assuming you are a traveler if you’re reading this blog in the first place)…

As Jodi Ettenberg says,

That you cannot ignore the happenings in other places, or stick your head in the sand, because it’s too late – you’ve stepped away and looked at the planet in a different light. While far less vivid or spectacular than a space trip, travel does tend to push people to think about the forest through the trees and to constantly pin current observations against past experiences. We all do this, naturally. But I think that the more you see, the more you have to compare ‘against’, which then permanently alters your views of the planet and of its people. The ultimate example of this, of course, is seeing it all from above, an orb glowing in the darkness of space.

I believe Jodi is right. As a fellow traveler who has spent significant amounts of time outside the confines of the United States, it’s too late for me to bury my head in the sand regarding the realities of the world we live in. My views have permanently been altered as a result of the people, places, and things I’ve experienced traveling.

What would happen if every single person on the planet were forced to spend a month in Kenya and a month in China (note there is no specific reason behind choosing those two specific countries as examples)? Or if a 3-4 month stint abroad was required to graduate from college? Or if you got kicked out of the country for 2 months when you graduated high school? At a minimum, what if there was a requirement that every person who seeks to hold a public office has to have spent 3 months out of the country?

Those may sound extreme, particularly coming from someone who believes everyone should be free to make their own decisions in life — but unfortunately many people think meddling in other people’s business is their right – which leads to wars, treaties, loans, and contracts in the name of protecting our national best interests (read: oil prices). If people saw what everyday life consists of for half of the world’s population, maybe they’d stop acting out of self interest and work to improve the greater good, with everyone’s input? Maybe people would stop striving for material possessions and instead focus on relationships and enjoying what they already have?

I know I’m on the extreme of anti-consumerism; I freely admit it. I firmly believe friends and real-world experiences make you happy, not physical possessions. For me, travel was the catalyst for that realization.

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Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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