Saudis making an impact with ‘glocal’ travels
During one of my classes on global tourism, we had a discussion on how we all feel more connected once we visit a certain country or place. Somehow the world becomes smaller and we all become closer to each other despite our cultural backgrounds. Suddenly, those differences make us feel more likely to get to know a person because of our shared interest of traveling.
Having that exposure to the world through travel makes us well-rounded about different countries and people. We start seeing and valuing the beauty we find somewhere new whenever we step out of another airport’s doors. In my class, we talked about how we are all somehow “wanderers” of this planet.
People started sharing their experiences and encounters through traveling. We were learning from each other’s stories. We were traveling through time and space because of that discussion, which made us feel more connected than ever.
That discussion reminded me of how there has been an increased interest for Saudi youth to go abroad and have a traditional travel experience, where they can try new things and experience new cultures just like the locals — whether it’s staying with an Airbnb family or at a hostel with people who share with them the same journey. Comfort isn’t necessarily found at a hotel, but perhaps in experiencing the beauty of the simple lives of locals. A great example of such travel is done by a group called Saudi Nomad, which tries to be as “local” as possible in its trips. Many young people find that style of travel the most enriching for exploring a new place, and to also explore themselves in a new environment. It is said that trips like these make the traveler look at things from a new perspective.
Recently, I was at the airport preparing for another long trip from the US all the way across the Atlantic to Saudi Arabia. This time was different though. It wasn’t just another trip. It wasn’t another line in immigration or security. This time I was looking at everyone around me and thinking of their stories: The places they were traveling to; the loved ones they would hug once they arrived; their overweight suitcases that were packed with gifts and memories; the phone calls and text messages they were sending to let someone know that they were departing.
But there’s also another side of travel. We all choose to leave and go somewhere — whether it’s a short trip or a long one, whether we’re traveling for tourism or to seek knowledge. We all share a universal bond once we walk through those airport doors. We all travel to find a sense of purpose, no matter what our trips are for. Looking at everyone around me, I had quite a happy laugh thinking about the millions of encounters that my fellow travelers were about to have.
The millennial generation of Saudi Arabia is changing and developing rapidly, while also being aware of the world and what it has to offer. We are seeing many Saudi youths creating change locally that is being reflected globally because of the increased universal connectivity we have in the Kingdom. All around us, from schools to universities to work places, we are witnessing examples of people who not only pass through a certain place, but who also choose to have a purpose and make a change in it.
Now I hope you can all look at your upcoming travels differently. I hope that you make the most of them by letting yourself stop and feel everything. Just like in my class that allowed us to share our past experiences, I hope you allow yourself to experience your journeys. And, in the midst of it all, I hope you allow yourself to also learn to appreciate differences, beauties, cultures, and love throughout all of your personal rides.
I would also recommend we have a platform where Saudis abroad, whether studying, working or touring a country, can share their insights into how they are bringing their local Saudi identity to the global stage. Saudis are increasingly becoming “glocal” — local change-makers who embark on a global journey to influence the world positively.
• Razan Farhan Alaqil is a student of political science, international comparative politics and global studies. She is a Saudi youth representative at the UN.