What Does it Mean to Be a Global Citizen?

Where we’ve lived—and where we’ve traveled—make us who we are.

What Does it Mean to Be a Global Citizen?

Photo by Jon Bowen/Flickr

Where are you from?” That’s often one of the first things we’re asked as travelers. I don’t have just one answer.

Oklahoma, where I was born? Arizona, where I lived most of my life? California, where I pay my taxes? San Francisco and New York, the two cities I bounce between each month? Or maybe simply the United States?

“I’m a citizen of the world,” was the answer reportedly given by ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes. I’d probably get some funny looks if I said that, but I do consider myself a global citizen. If you’re reading this, you might consider yourself one, too. And you’ve probably learned what I have: The more we travel, the more we realize how much we have in common with our fellow humans and how dependent we are on each other for our happiness and security.

Being a citizen of the world doesn’t make me any less of a citizen of my home country or state or city. In fact, learning about other cultures helps me appreciate my own even more. Plus, travel has taught me to be curious about everything I encounter as soon as I walk out my own front door.

The places I’ve lived are a big part of who I am. But so are the things I’ve done in the places I’ve visited: volunteering in Roodeport, South Africa; skiing in Verbier, Switzerland; doing business in Tokyo; biking through Australia’s Barossa Valley; delving into the museums of Montreal; trying to decipher Tehran; and so on.

Of all the places in the world, I’ve chosen to live in the ones I love most. But the places I’ve visited have also contributed to who I am. That is why I’m a traveler.

So how do I say all of that the next time someone asks?

Greg Sullivan is the cofounder and CEO of AFAR. You can reach Greg at greg@afar.com.
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