Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one.
“Imagine” - John Lennon
For years I’ve been carrying around this idea, and while it would take an act of heaven to be realized, imagine a world where we all worked less, traveled more, and lived better. You may think I’m dreaming like Lennon once did, but let me assure you that some of us already embrace pieces of my harebrained scheme. And while it would take a massive rescrewing of our collective heads, the vision isn’t as utopian as it sounds, requiring some healthy capitalism combined with altruism to become a reality.
I’ll just call my idea the global travel economy for the MBA's out there. Rich and poor countries alike would participate in a strategy to reduce work to six months of the year, where people would take the other six to travel. For those with enough money, they could choose where they’d want to go, although they’d spend a requisite amount of time in a developing part of the world, and I don’t mean Cancun. Those traveling would be feeding the economies of the places they go. If you’re a poor farmer from a developing country, your travel would be subsidized by the government and local businesses. Of course, a certain redistribution of wealth could happen along the way, and that wouldn’t be all bad if everyone were happier and less stressed at the end of the day. It would take a certain leap of faith for us to realize this; the haves would need to jump out of the rat race for half of the year, while the have nots would need to be willing to go back to the toil. Folks who prefer the adrenalized urban life, or have hard labor wired into their genes, can opt out after trying it out for two cycles. Presidents and prime ministers can be exempt, but everyone on down can realize that nobody is that indispensable. Academics already take summer and winter breaks; a months-long respite can be salubrious all around.
I’m sure you’re raising a few objections already. Don’t we need to work, especially if we’re living in an expensive area? If the recession is scaling back our lifestyles, better that we start making choices around what we really need. Think back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors; did they need a latte a day, two cars, and four cell phones in the family? Maybe you’re wondering if this scheme wouldn’t turn little fishing villages into havens for the Starbucks drinking set. The trick is that travelers would do as the Romans do, living in homes of natives gone abroad, eating the same food, sharing in some of the community life along with fellow sojourners. Outsiders would study up on local customs and preserve rules of decency. No excessive booze, or peeing in the streets, evidence of the Bay to Breakers bacchanalia that blows through San Francisco every May.
If you’re inclined toward cynicism (and I wouldn’t blame you), you’d immediately see that some people would game the system to work less and less, while corrupt officials might pocket funds set aside for the poor. For this idea to work on a large scale, rules and enforcement, not to mention the cooperation of nations, are needed. (And who knows what proverbial Berlin walls might come down as a result?) Yet the key to its success would be a paradigm shift, where our modern appetites are turned away from pricey iPods and cheap goods toward an epicurean taste for ways of life different than our own.
Hedge fund managers, beware. You might enjoy the slower pace of life, leaving your mobile devices and spreadsheets behind. You’ll forget what you learned in law school and B-school, and dust off the tomes of Hemingway and Proust. In my travels, I’ve met a number of Wall Street types who got off the treadmill, and spent months to years roaming around the world. It’ll take some convincing to get us out of our habits, but that’s the beauty of travel, shaking off the worn coat that no longer gives comfort or warmth. Aussies do it, John Lennon dreamt it, can’t we fall in love with the rest of the world, too?
Win a copy of my debut novel in the Goodreads giveaway: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/7389-in-the-lap-of-the-gods
~~ IN THE LAP OF THE GODS ~~
a novel by Li Miao Lovett
A massive dam rises, a million lives are thrown into turmoil...and a widower saves an abandoned baby girl from the Yangtze.