Someone once asked me what it meant to be a “citizen of the world,” and I was stumped. It was my first time hearing that phrase, and I was downright intrigued. As a traveler and someone who adores being out and about, I felt that the phrase “citizen of the world” perfectly described me.
However, after doing some basic research, I realized that being a citizen of the world encompasses more than just being on a plane a hundred times a year. According to www.worldservice.org, a citizen of the world is “a human being who lives intellectually, morally and physically in the present. A World Citizen accepts the dynamic fact that the planetary human community is interdependent and whole, that humankind is essentially one.”
When I first read it, it sounded like a whole bunch of bullshit hippie rhetoric, but when I delved a little deeper, I found that the philosophy of being a world citizen makes perfect sense. It basically encourages everyone to live generously and openly and encourages a “better understanding and protection of different cultures, ethnic groups and language communities.”
Sure, there are some things on the site that don’t make any sense, but at the end of the day, you just need to learn and practice what you believe in. To that end, I broke it down and came up with 17 suggestions of things you can do to be a citizen of the world without ever leaving the country.
#1 Be an eco-warrior. Nothing showcases your abilities as a global citizen more than fighting for Mother Earth, herself. Be an eco-warrior and do whatever you can to impress her every single day. From only buying local produce, to engaging in the 3 Rs *Reduce, Reuse, Recycle*, there are thousands of things you can do to make a difference. [Read: 16 things you need to learn to give up to have a much happier life]
#2 Be active in your community. There are many clubs and organizations that cater to making friends and learning something new. For example, I’m based here in Taiwan, and am a member of the local International Women’s Association. It has given me the chance to make new friends and meet women from all over the world. Language exchange groups are also great outlets through which you can partake in community-based activities.
#3 Organize fundraisers. You can go all out and organize something for your community, school, or club, but you can also keep it simple by doing it among your friends. For example, I pick a charity once a year and every time my birthday rolls around, I ask my friends and family to donate to the cause instead of showering me with gifts and expensive meals. I raised over $2000 last year to benefit a local animal shelter. If I can do it, so can you.
#4 Read the news. Don’t just focus on one news site, and be sure to deviate from the safety of your go-to 6 o’clock news. It is undoubtedly hard to find a news outlet that’s going to report the other side of the story, so get your news from a myriad of sources and form your own opinion of what’s going on. Don’t be afraid to engage your friends in lively discussions about what you’ve learned.
#5 Be an armchair traveler. If you can’t leave the country, you may as well take full advantage of being an armchair traveler. Indulge in documentaries and travel shows for a little taste of what the world is offering you.
#6 Try different cuisines. Don’t be afraid when it comes to what you put in your mouth. The easiest way to get a taste of someone else’s culture is by trying their food. Make it a point to try a new and exotic dish at least once a month.
#7 Explore your own backyard. You don’t have to leave your country to see the world. You’d be surprised by the number of things you can do right at home. Whether it’s going on a weekend-long hiking and camping excursion in the mountains, or exploring every nook and cranny of your beloved city by foot, take the chance to get to know your world.
#8 Learn a new language. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in a new culture without even leaving the country is to learn a new language. Whether it is picking up Mandarin at the learning annex, or learning French at home through Rosetta Stone, there’s nothing that binds people together better than language.
#9 Practice tolerance and respect. It is hard to be a tolerant and respectful person when the media and those around us continuously inundate us with what to think and say. Just scrolling through what’s published on the news makes it hard for us to form an unbiased opinion. However, you need to push the white noise aside and practice tolerance and respect despite what everyone else is saying.
#10 Stand up for those who can’t. Whether it’s being a keyboard warrior and blasting that random friend on Facebook for Islamophobia, or sharing the ongoing plight of Syrian refugees with your friends over cocktails, no action is too big or too small to make a difference, especially when it encompasses standing up for those who can’t.
#11 Learn from the elders, share with the youngsters. There’s some truth to what your grandparents say when they nostalgically reflect on the past. Times really were simpler back then. Don’t be too shy to absorb their wisdom and, in turn, share what you learn with the younger generation. Qualities such as caring for your neighbor, practicing chivalry, and being polite to everyone shouldn’t be left in the past. [Read: 7 simple ways to be a much better role model for the youth]
#12 Open your mind to new ways. Your way may be awesome, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only way. Open your mind to a new way of thinking and doing things. It may be tough at first, especially if you’re someone who is resistant to change, but trust me when I say that it will do you a whole world of good.
#13 Communicate with friends abroad. Social media has made it so easy to communicate with people from every corner of the world. I’m sure that you have friends who live outside of your home country, so reach out to them, forge a stronger friendship and learn about their culture. Be honest and upfront with them about your goals to be a more cultured and informed person. You’ll be surprised by how willing they will be to share pieces of themselves with you. [Read: How to be more cultured in an age obsessed with social media]
#14 Open your home to couch surfers. I’ve met some of the most interesting people by opening my home to strangers. Turn your spare room or couch into a place where passing travelers can lay their weary heads. They will regale you with stories of where they’re from, what they’ve seen and done, and inspire you to do the same. AirBnB and Couch Surfing are two great ways to list your home.
#15 Expand your social circle. If you’re not going to travel, the least you can do is expand your social circle right at home. Make friends with people who have different religious beliefs, financial standings, and outlooks than you. Learning about and embracing difference is always good, as it’ll broaden your way of thinking. [Read: 12 easy ways to add more people in your social circle quickly]
#16 Stop indulging in materialism. This includes everything from thousand-dollar bags to branded bottled water. The sooner you scrap self-indulgence from the agenda, the sooner you give yourself the chance to spend more time and money on things that matter. [Read: 13 little things you can do to be a less material person]
#17 Pay-it-forward. Don’t underestimate what one random act of kindness can do. Just like dipping your finger into a still pool of water, indulging in kindness will create a beautiful ripple effect that keeps going and going. When you do something nice for someone, they, in turn, will want to do something good for someone else, and so on. Read heartwarming pay-it-forward stories from around the world and be inspired to do the same.
[Confession: Why I’m embarrassed to save the world!]
Being a citizen of the world will give you a competitive edge, and definitely serve its purpose in your future endeavors. Everyone wins when you become more aware of the world around you, so be sure to do whatever you can to be a citizen of the world!
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