Hilton New York Times Square Hallmark Christmas
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

The True Spirit and Meaning of Travel: What We Can Learn From Christmas 2023

We can all learn a lot...

The year is 2023; and here we go again: after almost two months of what seems to be non-stop advertisements for endless sales and a continuous onslaught of music in celebration of one of the holiest days for Christians around the world, there are people who believe that the true spirit and meaning of Christmas is lost in a vast sea of commercialism, profit, and deepening divisions between people around the world — and I could not help but wonder if a similar sentiment can be analogous to the true spirit and meaning of travel.

The True Spirit and Meaning of Travel: What We Can Learn From Christmas 2023

Hilton New York Times Square Hallmark
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Violent conflicts have either begun or are ongoing in areas around the world that receive a plethora of media attention — such as in Israel, Ukraine, and Russia as only three examples. People blindly take sides without fully understanding what they are supporting or opposing. Social media is largely the reason as a vehicle for freely spreading hatred and bad news — some of it fake or manufactured — that can overwhelm a person to the precipice of depression.

I tend to vacillate between having faith in people and wondering just how evil people can be at times. I do not understand why we cannot respect and celebrate our differences and work together towards a brighter and more productive future. I do not understand why countries cannot be more open to welcoming foreign visitors. I do not understand why Christmas 2023 is seemingly different than any other time of the year where peace, joy, love, cheer, and helping others should be spread by all people around the world. Shouldn’t what makes Christmas such a special time of year to millions of people around the world be observed all year long by everybody?

Although Christmas is rooted in the religious teachings of Christianity, it not only has unfortunately transcended to vast commercialization — but on a more positive note, also has fortunately transcended to a spirit which is not recognized by the boundaries of religion. If someone wishes a merry Christmas to a person who is not Christian, I do not believe it is out of ignorance or a desire to convert that person. Rather, I believe that the person is simply wishing the best for the recipient of that greeting — regardless of religious belief.

As one example, employees of a rental car location in Abu Dhabi wished me a happy Eid-Al Adha — and I was not offended in the least even though I am not Muslim. In fact, I smiled, as I found it thoughtful that they included me in their wishes pertaining to a holy day in Islam — regardless of whether or not I was Muslim.

I have visited numerous countries where the main religion is Islam — including but not limited to Morocco, Egypt, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Malaysia. I have not once felt like anyone discriminated against me because I was not Muslim. In fact, I usually was treated rather well and respectfully. I reciprocated that respect accordingly.

There is nothing wrong with engaging in the excitement of snagging that next great deal to build up the balance of miles or points in that frequent travel membership program account. In fact, I have been known to participate in that myself now and then…

…but for me, travel is not about miles and points and elite level status, which are simply means to an end. Travel is a passion of mine which is about visiting new places; learning new languages; observing the rituals and traditions of various cultures; trying new foods to eat; and enjoying experiences one would not experience at home. It is about looking out the window and watching the world pass by on my way from one destination to another. It brings about a better education of other people like no other medium in the world — an education which encourages diversity; discourages stereotyping; strengthens tolerance; and promotes understanding all year long. I have learned far more from traveling than from anything else.

The combination of selfishly poor leadership and propaganda has been feeding into unrest around the world for centuries. Today, that propaganda is fueled by both irresponsible reports from mainstream media and rampant postings of social media.

Add to the chaos and cacophony the advent of technology — through which manipulating text, audio, images, and videos through various software application programs and so-called artificial intelligence — and knowing what to belief is factual and true becomes almost impossible, which further fans the flames of misinformation and hatred.

The world can go a long way if we simply tolerated, respected, and trusted each other more. Sadly, that seems unlikely to happen…

…but the thought is nice.

Some Traditions to Consider for Christmas 2023

Hilton New York Times Square Hallmark
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

One tradition to remember your travels — if you do not already do it — is to pick up a small souvenir made in the country in which you travel and hang it on your Christmas tree every year. Every souvenir you hang on your tree will remind you of your travel to that particular country — as well as what you experienced and learned there. Admiring a tree such as that would eventually be like seeing the whole world at once.

Then again, eating Christmas dinner from a can likely would not want be a new tradition you would ever want to adopt.

We need to be more respectful towards each other, as already noted earlier in this article. We need to assist each other by sharing helpful information. We need to say please, thank you, and apologize when warranted, as I never thought of doing so as a sign of weakness. If conflict or criticism becomes necessary, do so constructively. We need to take the time and effort to give feedback. If a person who left a legitimate critical comment for me was willing to take the time and effort out of his or her day — even if it were only for a few minutes — to bother to give me feedback, then I feel honored. As I wrote in this article:

No one is perfect; and no company associated with travel is perfect either. Constructive criticism — which I absolutely invite from you pertaining to The Gate, by the way — is essential in helping the subject of that criticism to improve. If a person is willing to take the time to post positive or negative reviews instead of using that time on something else, then it should be appreciated. I have said it before multiple times — such as in this article — and I will say it again: Constructive feedback is a gift.

My day is truly brightened when I find out that an article which I wrote helps someone who reads it and that person takes the time to let me know. That is what writing a weblog should be about, in my opinion — helping, informing and entertaining others.

Final Boarding Call

Hilton New York Times Square Hallmark Christmas
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

For some levity and to enjoy something a little different, please be sure to read the following fictitious articles which pertain to Christmas:

Although the miles and points of frequent travel membership programs can indeed be potentially valuable to being able to better afford travel; and while elite level status in a frequent travel loyalty program can result in enjoying the opulence of luxurious benefits and amenities — such as fine foods and creature comforts at theoretically no extra cost — they are not the reasons why I travel.

Regardless, some people who will do just about anything when a potentially lucrative deal is presented. There is a real adrenaline rush when considering the lengths some people will go to secure a deal — no matter how potentially lucrative it might be; and especially considering that the consummation of the deal may not be guaranteed — and such stories can be the foundations for interesting articles…

…but are miles, points and elite level status generally the commercialism equivalent of travel in recent years? As has been said by some people pertaining to the modern perception of Christmas, has the true spirit and meaning of travel become lost in the frenzy of taking advantage of that next great deal?

A lot can be learned from both Christmas and travel — I have already outlined some of the aforementioned benefits of both — and although perhaps some people may think that the time to do so is long overdue, it is never too late to start…

…and with that, I wish you a Merry Christmas 2023; a Joyous Chanukah 5784; and safe travels to you for many years to come. May the conflict and divisiveness in the world diminish; and may we embrace a deeper understanding towards each other in the quest to work towards the world being a better place overall for everyone in which to live in peace…

All photographs ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

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