“I’m a citizen of the world,” Socrates said, “and my Nationality is Goodwill.” The notion is a meaningful one, but has been neutered by some travelers, who use it to shirk their origins and humblebrag their wanderlust. They turn a positive sentiment into an empty one; after all, traveling alone does not give one global residency. Being a global citizen, in my view, means much more than touching down in exotic locations and snapping selfies by the ocean. Sure, you can do those things, but your connection to each destination—and the world at large—must run deeper than the shallows.
According to Kosmos Journal, a global citizen is“ someone who identifies with being part of an emerging world community and whose actions contribute to building this community’s values and practices.” Global citizens are active parts of an interconnected global community that, despite its borders, share goals and values that promote wellness, sustainability, and peace.
How, then, does one become a true citizen of the world without stripping the label of all meaning? There are several steps anyone can take to embody global citizenship. Here are a few pieces of advice that will help you become more global-minded, and harnessing goodwill wherever you travel.
The first step to being a global citizen is to learn about the world—its history, its problems, its people, and its natural and manmade wonders. There are many different narratives, perspectives, and lenses through which our world is viewed. The more of these we understand, the more globalized our own worldviews become. Reading books from authors across the globe and tuning into international news sources are two great ways to start.
It’s important to keep in mind that, unlike school, learning is a constant. We can always learn more and should never stop absorbing new information and using it to better ourselves and our surroundings. Whenever you travel, you should take the time to research your destination, then make the effort to seek out people and places you can learn even more from. Every corner of the world contains multitudes not readily apparent to the casual guest. Global citizens will try to unearth as much as they can to broaden their perspective.
Being a global citizen does not erase your origins. Knowing where you came from is a key part of being a global citizen, because it’s the foundation upon which you are building; it shapes who you are and what you are capable of. As a proud Latina, I’m well-aware of my roots and how they have impacted my journey. As far as I may go, I have a special place for Venezuela in my heart, as well as America.
Some self-described vagabonds will say they are global citizens to eschew the labels and responsibilities of where they came from, choosing erasure over depth. But knowing and owning our origins is vital to a global perspective. This means taking the good with the bad, at once removing the rose-colored glasses of patriotism and being proud of the opportunities we’ve been gifted by our homeland and ancestors. Whether you choose to condemn or laud your place of birth and development, it will always be a part of you. More importantly, you’ll need to proudly exercise your national responsibility to influence global change.
A global citizen should not exploit the places they visit. Travelers that take and don’t give miss the point of global citizenship: truly connecting and creating positive impact wherever you go.
There are various ways to go about this, and not all of them are difficult. For starters, you can look for volunteer opportunities or places to visit that give back to local communities. But doing good wherever you go is a mindset that even those without the resources to travel can take on. We all travel in some capacity, whether it’s just to work and back and the occasional trip upstate. There is no shortage of opportunities to do good, whether it’s in a 5-mile radius of your home or abroad.
You can also do international good without setting foot on an airplane by being a cognizant and responsible consumer and commuter. Walking more and driving less reduces the harmful effects of CO2, and buying sustainable products can likewise reduce harm to the environment and workers.
All of these are preliminary steps, but they instill in anyone a sense of duty to really create a sense of worldwide unity and solidarity. So, ask yourself: how can I use what I have—my knowledge, my wealth, my privileges—to really inspire change? What global issues do I care about most, and who is making waves in this space already?
In all likelihood, there are a variety of organizations that align with the aspects of global citizenship that resonate most strongly with you. You might consider volunteering, donating, or joining them in their efforts at an even larger capacity. Similarly, getting into politics is a great way to influence change. What sort of foreign policies do you believe promote global values? Vote and promote candidates that support them.
Additionally, be vocal about your concerns. My love for animals has inspired me to advocate for their wellbeing across the globe. One of my dearest causes has been raising awareness on the dog meat trade in Asia, which uses pseudoscience to justify the torture and consumption of stolen and abused dogs. This is an international issue many Westerners aren’t aware of, and one I’m proud to champion.
Lastly, global citizens global worldview to celebrate and lift of people of all cultures, participate in efforts that promote their worth, and share ways in which others can get involved in tackling global issues. To do this, you must maintain a mindset that recognizes and channels shared values, and recognizes the inherent worth of people all over the world.
If traveling is enjoyable when you are not globally engaged, think about how much better it will be once you are. Instead of washing it off like sand when you jet back home, your adventures will become more purposeful: part of a fuller mission to understand the world and change it. That, my friends, is global citizenship. Whether or not we ever live up to it fully, doing what we can to imbue our actions with meaning will help us all evolve for the better.