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Travel can broaden our ideas and knowledge

Oct. 03, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

People say that travel is broadening. It certainly can be as far as food and weight is concerned, but it also can help expand our thoughts and ideas. On our recent vacation, we were reminded that other nations and places have ideas or practices that could benefit us.

Actually, it was one country's lament that they need more garbage that got my attention. After all, we Americans never hear a plea for more garbage.

It seems that Switzerland, a country that prides itself on cleanliness, started recycling garbage many years ago. Currently there are well-used waste receptacles everywhere one turns and garbage no longer has to be separated by material content.

Somehow the Swiss figured out a way to combust their refuse in such a way that it now provides about one third of their power. But it's a small country with practical folks who don't create much garbage, resulting in a garbage deficit. There's a problem Americans would love to have! So now other countries are paying the Swiss to dispose of their garbage and the Swiss have inexpensive energy.

Many American communities are improving in their effort to recycle and even Huntington has caught the spirit. But if one small country needs more garbage we need to find the gold behind their recycling techniques.

Then there's the Dutch and their bicycles. To say that the people of the Netherlands frequently ride bicycles is an understatement. They are fanatics, using bikes for basic transportation and sport. Visitors quickly learn to never step into a bike lane because that is the primary means of transportation.

Aside from saving on amazingly high gasoline costs, there appeared to be very few overweight and even fewer obese persons. Americans are getting into the bicycle mode, with many cities, including our own, looking to encourage bike riding for fitness and commuting.

Granted, the United States is a large geographic country where there is always something happening that demands attention. We are a nation of "breaking news," which occasionally is truly newsworthy.

But one of the interesting things that occurs when watching English language TV in other nations is that they not only cover their own political scandals, murders and economic messes, they also cover the nearby countries and those around the globe.

In just a few minutes, news highlights from around the world and all continents are presented, making viewers more informed about the wider world. Weather reports from dozens of cities near and far are presented offering knowledge about geography and places that are actually important, but we Americans rarely hear about.

Some of you may have been aware of the Paralympic Games that took place in England a few weeks after the International Olympic Games. I had heard about these games, but due to the very limited media exposure here in the United States, had little opportunity to fully appreciate or watch them until they were highlighted on European TV.

Most Americans have never had the chance to see the 4,000 Olympians representing 164 countries with superior skills and serious disabilities in high-level competition. It was heartwarming to see the American veteran who lost his sight in Afghanistan last year win a gold medal in swimming this year. We Americans deserve to have more opportunities to see the future Paralympics.

While it is true there is no place like home and returning to familiar places and people is heartwarming, travel does offer us opportunities to expand our horizons and take home new ideas.

Diane W. Mufson is a licensed psychologist. She is a former citizen member of The Herald-Dispatch editorial board and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page. Her email is dwmufson@comcast.net.

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