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Cam Marston on Our Littlie Corners

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I love this quote by Mark Twain:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

So very true. It’s not until you leave your little corner of the earth and start asking questions that you realize how much you don’t know. As I child I had a giant United States map on the wall. I’d stare at it, wondering about the people in the cities represented by the small dots in the middle of large states that was a small town in the middle of nowhere. “Who lives there?” I’d wonder. “What are they like?” Later, I’d stare at a giant map of the world I hung over my bed. Tiny named cities marked by tiny, small dots in the middle of the Sahara Desert always caught my eye. “Who lives there?” I asked. “What do they do?”

Later my travel for work began answering some of these questions. My trips would take me to small towns where I would meet the people that lived there. They’d always asked me the same thing when they learned where I was from: “You for Alabama or you for Auburn?” “Well,” I’d say, “Both my parents went to Alabama, so I was an Alabama fan in utero.” And as curious I was about their world, they were curious about mine. We asked questions of each other about their homes, their cities, and their hobbies which usually led to fun conversations and brief friendships.

I remember a time in Montana when I met someone who had never even heard of Mobile, Alabama. “Is that a real place?” she said. “Yes,” I answered, caught a bit off guard. “It’s where the jubilees happen.” She stared at me. “You mean a jubilee like a fair or a circus?” “What?” I said, “No.” It was unfathomable to me that someone had never heard of Mobile or - what I thought - were our famous jubilees in Mobile Bay. In time I realized I had been soaked in these stories and these traditions since birth. They had shaped my world view. Heck, they were my world view – I was unintentionally and unknowingly narrow minded. And I never would have learned how narrow my world view was had I not left, as Mark Twain says, my “little corner of the earth.”

But my little corner exists at home, too. There’s exploration to be had in my own back yard. And I don’t need to get on a plane to make it happen. We are living in a divisive time, yet Mark Twain offered us part of a solution. If travel is the death of narrow mindedness, we need to get out our passports, so to speak, and venture out of our own little corners. We do ourselves no favors by keeping to ourselves.

I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.

Cam Marston is the Keepin' It Real host for Alabama Public Radio.