For those of you who are engaged in international adoption, you are most likely gearing up to travel to your adoptive child’s homeland. Most likely, you have not been there before or perhaps you have never even traveled internationally, but I assure you an adventure awaits! To experience a new culture, customs, environment, language, foods, and terrain is a wonderful gift. To get to know more about your child’s birth culture and incorporate what you have learned into your family’s own culture, customs, foods, and décor is one of the most wonderful gifts you can give to your child. However, you may find that it is also a gift you are giving to yourselves too.

                                “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, women and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one’s

little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”                              -Mark Twain

What you will likely find on your travels is that despite different languages, customs, laws, dress, foods, religions, and environments, people are really much more alike than different.  People all over the world desire the same things—loving families, good friends, a home, education and understanding, food and nourishment, acceptance, peace, and meaning to their lives. In truth, we are all very much alike.

Those who do not choose to travel and instead go about their business living life in quiet isolation and in the restricted geographic parameters of their own city and state unfortunately do not get to see this firsthand. They do not get to experience the wonder of our great big world and the kindness of strangers you often meet when traveling. They do not get to see the many similarities of family life in different countries and the opportunities to exchange ideas and wisdom.  They can never really appreciate the historic wonders of the world found in architecture, monuments, buildings, various terrains, churches, ruins, and art. They also cannot truly see and thus truly feel the pain of seeing the results of famine, war, poverty, and displacement. Travel allows you to obtain a global perspective and an open appreciation for others and their lands. It allows you to fully think and reflect, to contemplate and to remember what you have personally seen and heard when making a decision or formulating an opinion on a world issue. It gives you a unique perspective on the meaning of life and what you can do to make it better.

In today’s society, we hear so many negative things about other countries and cultures—some perhaps true, but many are not. We tend to accept the interpretation of the media and leaders who group together people for one description rather than exploring the variety and differences of the people in the group. We often do not take it upon ourselves to research, learn or visit the places and people who are being discussed to allow ourselves a better and more truthful understanding of the situation.  We just accept what we are being fed.

As an international traveler and an international adoptive parent, YOU have the ability to influence others and learn for yourselves. You can learn about your child’s culture and bring back books, foods, clothing, art, customs, and some language to share at home and increase your child’s comfort level with their new home in America. You have the opportunity to share what you have seen and learned on your travels with others—friends, relatives, neighbors, teachers—to help them better understand a particular country or people. Your enthusiasm for what you have seen can inspire other people to engage in international travel and learn new things for themselves. You can help quell misinformation about a country or group of people whom you have visited by expressing your thoughts and experiences. You can instill cultural pride in your child for their homeland and the family, friends and country they left behind.  Yes, YOU can make a real difference!

An international adoptive parent can truly be a “World Changer”!  Not only are you positively changing the life of an orphan, but you can also be an “influencer” who works to change the negative perspectives of others about foreign countries and cultures.  There is a big beautiful world out there……….make your voice heard!!!

Karlene Edgemon works as MLJ Adoptions’ Director of Social Services. Throughout her 25 year social services career, Karlene has been able to watch adoption transform the lives of children and she is always brainstorming new ways to support adoptive families before, during and after their adoption.