I guess I should preface this semi-rant by saying I am one of the least judgmental people on the planet. Whatever floats your boat, as long as it isn’t hurting others, is fine by me.

But I’m really never going to be much of a fan of intolerance and the intolerant.

A few days ago, I was having lunch with a couple of my friends that I hadn’t seen since I got back. We were chatting about places I went to, liked, disliked and all the post-trip talk that I’ve become used to (and enjoy — I like talking to people about traveling, in the hope they will do more). A mutual friend of ours came in and took a seat next to us and asked the almost-automatic first question I get these days: “Where was your favorite place?”

Considering I was gone sixteen months and went to forty-four countries (and really liked all but about three of them), this is a toughie, but how I now generally answer it is, “well, loved tons of them, but for a suggestion of a great spot for a couple week vacation, I’d say Turkey, Namibia, Panama, Cambodia or New Zealand.” I don’t remember which of these I tossed out to him, but Turkey was one of them.

He frowned immediately upon hearing Turkey and so I asked if he had been there. He said he had and that he really disliked it. Upon my asking why, he said that he didn’t like the dirtiness and the call to prayer bothered him. I had totally forgotten he was a very conservative Christian — the type that wore it on his sleeve.

Personally, I have no idea how anyone could dislike the call to prayer. It is haunting and beautiful. Admittedly, the first call is at about 5:15 in the morning, but still, it is one of the true trip highlights for me in my entire journey. In case you haven’t heard it — here is the best one I heard on the entire trip. The early morning call in Stone Town, Zanzibar, right next to the hostel I was staying at. There is obviously nothing to the video, but take a listen.

What became quickly clear from talking to him was that it wasn’t the cleanliness (I didn’t see Instanbul as a dirty city at all) or the wake up to the call to prayer or any of that that he didn’t like — he just didn’t like that everyone was Muslim. I made some comment about loving Syria and all of the Middle East and feeling amazingly safe there and got back from him a reply that was basically, “but they are all trying to kill us.”

It was time to move the conversation to something else, before I said something offensive.

I do understand that people have different comfort levels in different places. The crazy hectic pace of Vietnam turns a lot of people off. The lack of personal space in Africa strikes some the wrong way. The rudeness of New Yorkers is certainly no turn-on. And so on and so forth, but for some reason this particular conversation just made me internally shudder a bit.

There is a great big, fun, exciting world out there to explore, but a good bit of the greatness will be missed unless you are willing to check some of your long-held prejudices at the door and go experience a place with an open mind. You might not like what you see, hear, smell or experience, but at least go into it with an open mind. I just got the sense that he went there knowing he wouldn’t like it already — for all the wrong reasons.

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I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all. Read more by Michael Hodson and connect on Google Plus.

15 Responses to “Close Mindedness on Religion” Subscribe

  1. Joel May 18, 2010 at 6:42 pm #

    It's a silly line, of course, but I like to say I tolerate anything except intolerance.Realistically, no one is ever going to enjoy every aspect of travel or other cultures, but that doesn't mean you can't appreciate them for what they are.Great post and I'm fully on board with that attitude!

  2. Nomadic Chick May 18, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    I second Joel. Your acquaintance or friend, whomever is stuck in a boxed way of behaving and thinking. It's best not to hate, but feel sorry for him. Just pondering all the adventures you had, people you met, newfound friends! Seems ahh lot more fun than spending nights with a dog eared bible alone. P.S. When are you migrating to WP?

  3. David May 18, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

  4. David May 18, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

  5. Adam May 18, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

    Ugh, that is so frustrating to hear things like that. I have gotten the same types of things after our return from our RTW, particularly when I tell people that my two favorite countries were Colombia and Vietnam. Two places with reputations amongst Americans that are obviously less than favorable. At least your "friend" has been to the place he dislikes. He may have been closed-minded about it, but most people I encounter who talk poorly of a country/city/place have never even been there, which I find even more frustrating.

  6. SoloTraveler May 18, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    Adam – I do agree with you. I loved Colombia (might move there) and Vietnam. Heard a bit of that before I went also. Same for me going through Sudan. All places were great. At least the guy I know HAD been to Turkey, but after he left, the 3 of us all agreed. . . he just wasn't going to like it because of his attitude going in. But he should get some credit for going to see it himself also — so true. Thanks.

  7. VagabondQuest May 19, 2010 at 5:11 pm #

    I hate narrow mindedness! (Is hating narrow mindedness a form of narrow mindedness too? That I'm narrow minded about narrow minded people)I remember before I started this journey, a relative asked why Ryan and I bother doing this. I said, to see the world, to see what every place have to offer, the diversity is very interesting. And he said, he didn't get it, Canada is the best place to be. Why did we want to see crappy places. I was jaw dropping with his statement. He didn't even ever stepped out from Ontario, other than going to Disney World.

  8. Lula Varjak May 19, 2010 at 6:07 pm #

    Please don't group all conservative Christians in the same box. I am one, but I do not share your friend's attitudes. Christians are supposed to love all people- expressly ALL PEOPLE- from every tribe and tongue. It's the bad behaving Christians that give us all a bad rep.

  9. SoloTraveler May 19, 2010 at 6:13 pm #

    Certainly don't lump everyone in the same boat, but in this case, I think his attitude was based on his religious beliefs. More power to him — he's certainly entitled — but from my point of view, he's missing out on some of the good things out there in the world.

  10. Suzy May 21, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    Couldn't agree more. If you are traveling you have to have an open mind about people, art, architecture, traditions, and religion. If you don't, those moments that change your preconceive stereotypes and notions will never get a chance to impact you and change you. Some people though will never be open to change and difference, especially when it comes to religion.

  11. brian May 31, 2010 at 2:34 am #

    New Yorkers are not rude. We just like to talk and walk fast, that's all. We're just misunderstood really…As for your 'friend', why did he go there in the first place? Or did I miss that?

  12. Erica February 4, 2011 at 12:08 am #

    I’ve definitely had my fair share of ignorant comments about the places I’m visiting… in Latin America. Apparently everyone is out to kidnap me and is mean and evil. I even had one old previous Black Ops guys tell me, “Don’t make me have to rescue you in the jungles of Colombia! I’ve been there. I know what those people are like.”

    /sigh
    Erica recently posted..Seduced by British Columbia

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