What does it mean to be a Global Citizen? Is it just about living in different places, exploring unfamiliar cultures? In an effort to understand the concept and how we may differ in defining it, I’ve asked for input from journalists and Reiki Masters, expats, veterans, an octogenarian and even a middle-schooler. Their answers may surprise you.
I’ve long held a belief in travel as a catalyst for transformation. But, often wonder if travel alone is what imbues one with a sense of contentedness. What I found in researching this piece is that travel is not necessarily the common thread, it may be something deeper.
The following are unedited quotes given by a wide range of people, of varying ages with a tapestry of backgrounds and life experience. Some have never traveled beyond the borders of the United States, while others are global nomads. Is there a commonality in how they’ve responded to the question, “What does it mean to be a Global Citizen?”
What Does It Mean To Be A Global Citizen?
“When you become a global citizen, you stop seeing people’s race and color, your home is where you are currently located, your interest in people’s culture and background is genuine and you sort of want to be a part of their experience. You stop judging people. Instead of judging, you ask such questions as “why they do things differently, why they eat different food, and wear different clothes, and behave differently in some situations.” As a citizen of the world, you look for similarities instead of differences, or try to tear down the borders instead of building them up; and then, at the end of it all, you realize how alike we all really are.”
~ Svetlana G. (International businesswoman who has lived in Russia, Germany, Peru, Ukraine, and the US. Speaker of four languages, currently working on her fifth)
“My dad joined the military when I was 7, and it was the most important decision he ever made for our family. While the military generally skews conservative, it opened us up to experiencing people, places, religions, food, music, etc. we would never have had we stayed in Arkansas, where both my parents were born and raised.
All that to say, being a global citizen isn’t just a progressive/liberal mindset. I’m extremely liberal now but grew up rather conservatively. Being a global citizen, at the very least, means being aware that there are other people, countries, religions, other than your own. Of course, a more progressive mindset takes it a step further, considering how the actions of our government and our own actions impact others. That is also the difference between being a global citizen and a GOOD global citizen.”
~ Brent A. (Graphic Designer, advocate, author, blogger, husband and father)
“I’ve tried to teach my four kids that because they’re had access to great opportunity in the US doesn’t mean they’re entitled to success. And it certainly doesn’t mean that people who have had less opportunities are less worthy of succeeding. As the great Barry Switzer said, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” I try to instill a sense of gratitude, responsibility, and respect for all cultures.”
~ Lindsay M. (Mom, DIYer, advocate, author, and wife of a musician)
“A Global Citizen to me is someone who does not feel the boundaries of certain areas and has the sense of responsibility to be wary and cautious of the land and world around them. They know what needs to be done to take care of this world and they act upon it.”
~ Tyler B. W. (Surfer, rapper, dog-dad, husband, and currently serving United States Marine)
“Having respect and compassion for people of different cultures within our borders and beyond. Recognizing that we are all of the same world and taking care of that earth and its occupants together.”
~ Julie C. (Journalist, travel expert, wife, mother and Doxie lover)
“Global Citizenship means, connection. I have been blessed to travel and live in other countries, this has allowed me to experience different cultures and traditions. I choose to believe that we are connected to each other by and invisible thread that I call God/Spirit. We all share the same responsibility of nurturing and protecting the land/sea/air for future generations. I have found although our traditions and cultures differ our consequences to this planet has an overall impact on the rest of us.”
~ Carolyn G. (Seeker, singer, mother, wife, former British expat now U.S. Citizen)
“Being in touch with the rest of the world and having concern/interest in all of our Human race brothers and sisters. None of us had a choice as to which country we would belong to when we were born.”
~ Robin R. (Manufacturing Executive, father, husband, mountain biker and veteran)
“Global citizens feel at home in multiple locations as they roam the world, and feel the sense of belonging to others despite their cultural, racial, societal or economic or other differences. They thrive on learning new things and appreciate local cultures. At the same time – their own roots can weaken and their own cultural habits diminish as they learn and adapt to other cultures. At best global citizenship is when you teach your own culture to others as well learn from others.”
~ Katja P. (Author, Editor, expat, mother, influencer, photographer, entrepreneur, global nomad)
“Sending aid to victims of the Mexican earthquake the same as you do the victims of Harvey or Irma. Feeling empathy towards the Palestinians and the various African people starving due to drought and war. Recognizing and celebrating the connectedness of all people from wherever they originate. And whatever your beliefs are about your creator and whatever the person on the exact opposite side of the planet (or city or state or country) believes about the creator, it is the same being. Remember that in dealing with your brothers and sisters from across the globe. And maybe someday from across the galaxy.”
~ Kevin H. (Financial planner, singer and husband)
“It means we are all on this big rock (Earth) together and we are all connected in some way even if it is only by the internet. It means knowing that we may not all agree but we will need each other at some point. Our differences can slip away over the common ground of a basic need of survival or compassion for one another. The only place that I have traveled out of the USA mainland is to Vieques, Puerto Rico. Having seen the beauty of the island and of the people, I am extremely concerned about the recent hurricanes they have been sustaining. How will this impact their way of life and the island. I am more connected having actually been there because I have first-hand knowledge of the kindness of the people who live there.
It is important not to be or become desensitized to others around the world because when we do, we become desensitized to our basic humanity.”
~ Beth F (Nurse, homeopathic wellness expert, Reiki Master)
“It means one who is dedicated to stewardship of our planet while seeking education for them self and others through kindness and compassion.”
~ Sarah Jane C. (gardener, reader, enjoying life at 81 years young)
“It is when you care about people because they are people and the earth because we share it.”
~ Emily D. (11-year-old traveler, lover of dance and her French Bulldog)
I came away from this little experiment in social consciousness with an unexpectedly profound revelation and more questions. With such a diverse group it seemed logical that the responses would have a wide range. Yet, they really don’t.
We seem to have an innate understanding of our own connection to one another and to our planet. Whether we’ve seen much of the world or rarely ventured beyond our hometown, we feel a sense of community in our shared humanity. But do we foster that connection, act on it, practice the understanding we have? If we don’t, why not?
In a time where so many forces seek to polarize or isolate, I see hope in our understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. With that said, I also wonder how we turn that knowledge into action. How do we move beyond answering the question and becoming true global citizens through action?
This week I’m in New York city attending my second travel bloggers summit on study abroad and global citizenship. It is my hope to find ways – both big and small – that can help us all take meaningful action on behalf of each other.
If you’d like to take part, follow along on social media using #StudyAbroadBecause