On Friday morning, I woke up early and found the world had changed. In place of an open multicultural society there suddenly, oh so suddenly – rose the spectre of a closed off nation, inhabited by narrow-minded people who seemed to prefer isolation before friendship, suspicion before openness and most crucial of all – rejection of the notion we are all part of a great community, made up of many facets of different but beautiful pieces of cultural history.
The choice by the British people to leave the EU is a fundamental break with the values my generation grew up with. As I moved from a child to a teen to a young adult, I watched the world grow smaller, borders disappear and cultures evolve. I rejoiced in the many exciting flavours filling my supermarkets. I practised foreign tongues in countries I didn’t even need a passport to get to. The world grew smaller around me and in doing so, it grew infinite. There were infinite possibilities opening before me, of places I could go, people I could meet and cultures I could marvel at. I learned the histories not just of my own country, but that of all our countries. I learned that what prompted the creation of this unwieldy union of nations was ultimately a wish for peace, for prosperity and the realisation that only by working together towards a common goal can these things be achieved. I grew up a European and I treasured it. I did not take for granted those who came before me and paved the way for all the luxuries I enjoyed. But I did take for granted that they would remain a fact of life. And I hoped for the future. As the years went by and I went from a young adult to just an adult, I watched the beginnings of the next generation be born and marvelled at what lay before them, what possibilities they might have. For surely, things would continue to get better. In the connected age, the age of cheap airfare, of instant information, of the world being more accessible than ever before.
And then I woke up and found the world had changed. And as the day wore on and the piles of statistics grew, it seemed clear that an older generation had effectively closed the door on the future of their young. Gone was the freedom of borderless travel, of easily living all across the union and the feeling of relative political stability. No longer a part of a unity, just apart. I grew worried and I grew hopeless. I worried for the future, for my country and those of others. I worried the Europe of my childhood was diminishing, with borders closing up and people turning on each other at every instance, turning us cold and ultimately, alone.
But it is precisely in these statistics that hope is to be found. An overwhelming percentage of Britain’s young adults voted to remain. They voted for a continued open Europe. They voted for continued ease of travel. They voted for working and living opportunities far exceeding their borders. They voted yes to a mixture of cultures, a mingling of minds, a dazzling diversity of a continent. And in this is a real cause of celebration. As right-wing, populist and extreme parties are on the rise all over Europe, as Trump continues to champion fear-mongering and division in the US it is with the generation of tomorrow I lay my hope: those of you to whom unity matters more than money, who believe that we are not better off alone. Those of you for whom the right to a shared world is all-important, who recognize that only by embracing our differences can we move forward.
And this is not achieved behind closed borders, behind narrow minds. It is achieved through experiencing the world, both the good bits and the not-so-good. Only in learning about other cultures and people can we understand our own.
This world of ours is a fragile place. Us humans have made it so and it is only on us to make it better. We have warmed up our planet, we have spewed poison into our oceans, we have cut down our trees and we have waged war on ourselves. These are not and never have been simple problems. And they have never concerned just a select few of us and it is not up to just some of us to fix them. This fragile world needs all of us working together, not as separate entities only guarding our own closest interests. So to the people of tomorrow, I ask you: keep fighting for a united Europe, and for a united world.
Keep travelling, keep experiencing other cultures. Keep widening your minds in a way that only stepping outside that famous comfort zone can achieve. Keep seeking new frontiers and challenge the old. Keep travelling.
At Global Nomadic, the core of our work has always been to contribute to the betterment of this planet, through offering meaningful international experiences and career opportunities to young adults. The placements we offer are not meant to just offer a fun break on your gap year. They are meant to introduce you to the world, and the world to you and by doing so, invite you to change it. These are lofty goals that might sound high-flying and unachievable. But they are only so if you give up on the idea itself. So don’t give up. Keep travelling. Even if it is in a post Brexit world.