Friday, April 30, 2010

360 Degrees Longitude: One Family's Journey Around the World by John Higham

This is the true story of John & September Higham packing up their lives, their jobs, their responsibilities, and setting off for an around the world adventure with their two kids for an entire year.

Not only was this book entertaining, but it reinforced the importance of travel to learn tolerance and understanding. It forces you to set aside your preconceived notions of culture and actually learn the truth beyond the propaganda.

It was crazy to read about the family's experiences in Thailand one day, and then, on their whim, just decide to up and go to Cambodia. To have that kind of freedom must be so completely different from the normal daily grind of American suburban life.

This book helps you realize a couple things about travel:
1) The media has a way of making you view the world through a specific lens - one of fear and propaganda. If you take away your frequent use of the media to get your information and force yourself to experience the world beyond the propaganda, and you actually find that people and cultures around the world are worth giving the benefit of the doubt.

2) The American dream is not everyone's dream. Americans have this mistaken notion that everyone around the world aspires to be like us. That is so not the case. Break down the arrogance and celebrate that others around the world love their culture and lifestyle just as much as we do.

I certainly could never do what the Highams did, but their story just helped reinforce why travel has become such an important part of my life.

Not only was this book a joy to read, but it adds an interactive experience to the mix: you can download a Google Earth file and travel along with the family as you read! This is a very cool feature that actually got me to explore Google Earth for the first time. I'm ashamed to admit I had never explored this application prior to this occasion. Now I think it's one of the coolest pieces of software ever!

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