Global Citizens – from the sofa to the planet

You ARE a global citizen.  Whether you travel the world on a regular basis or spend more time than you care to admit sitting on the sofa, you can’t escape your identity.  Whilst divided by oceans and mountains, by political borders and ideologies, by spirituality and religion, by language and skin colour, and by every little detail that makes us individuals, there is so much that we share.  Regardless of the differences, we are 7.4 billion residents (exact number here!) of one little planet hurtling around an incomprehensible massive universe.

We are different

We are each unique. We were created that way. No two individuals share absolutely everything. We enjoy different foods, we read from different genres, we listen to different music. Essentially, we all dance to our own tune.  Yet celebrating our individuality surely does not exclude also celebrating what we have in common and how connected we really are.

We are the same

Drinking in the Netherlands. Credit: Karen Alexis
Drinking in the Netherlands
©Karen Alexis
Feeding the Ducks at Lake Tjornin in Reykjavik, Iceland. Credit: Danielle Des of 'TheThoughtCard'
Lake Tjornin in Reykjavik, Iceland
© Danielle Des
Related Post: @The Thought Card
Shopping at Kreuzberg Turkish Market. Credit: Karen Alexis
Shopping at Kreuzberg Turkish Market
©Karen Alexis
Instagram: wanderlustingk
Children taking the bus to school in Burma. Credit: Hannah Logan
The Bus to School in Burma
©Hannah Logan
Instagram: hannahlogan21
Construction in Singapore. Credit: Karen Alexis
Construction in Singapore
©Karen Alexis
Instagram: wanderlustingk
Woman smoking in Istanbul. Credit: Nicole Sunderland
Smoking in Istanbul
©Nicole Sunderland
Instagram: eatlivetraveldrink

The images above were taken by different people, at different times, in locations all over the world. And whilst you can certainly play ‘spot-the-difference’ to great effect, you can also play ‘spot-the-similarity’.  Across the globe, people are going to work or to school, shopping for groceries, meeting up with friends, indulging in a cheeky cigarette…

We may have different politics, different ideologies, and different priorities. Yet we all have hopes, dreams, fears, and anxieties.  We all have emotions and we all feel pain. We all love and we all grieve. As Shakespeare so famously wrote “if you prick us, do we not bleed?”  Regardless of our idiosyncrasies, at the essence of who we are is our humanity.

Global citizens without leaving the sofa

Mushroom, Leek & Cashew Nut Risotto
This is a Mushroom, Leek & Cashew Nut Risotto

I enjoy this meal from the comfort of my own home in England. But where exactly has my dinner come from? Well…

Risotto – the dish itself originates in Northern Italy.  Yet the ingredients in my risotto this evening have seen little of the Dolomites.


  • Rice – grown in Thailand and, according to the bag, it was packed in Belgium.
  • Hazelnut Oil – the hazelnuts have come from Turkey, and the oil was processed in the United Kingdom.
  • Leeks – my leeks are British, actually grown locally and purchased from the greengrocer down the road.
  • Mushrooms – these are shiitake mushrooms from Japan, packed in the United Kingdom.
  • Cashew Nuts – the nuts have come from Nigeria, via Germany.
  • Lemon – from Argentina.
  • Thyme – this is from my windowsill so definitely local, although the seeds I grew it from originated in France.
  • Pumpkin Seeds – the pumpkin was grown in China before the seeds were processed in Russia.
  • Black Pepper – from Vietnam.
Ingredients have come from the countries shaded PINK.

My plate of risotto has seen more of the world than I have!

My evening meal is just one illustration of how we find ourselves connected to more places than we imagine.  If there had been a draught in Nigeria then my risotto would have lacked its tasty cashew nuts.  If women in Thailand hadn’t spent hours each day taking care of the paddy fields then there would be no rice on my plate.  If political relations between the UK and Russia had broken down then my pumpkin seeds would still be sitting in Vladivostok.

Where has your food come from today?  And your clothes?  And your cosmetics?  And the device you are using to read this?

Be a better Global Citizen when travelling

There are endless ways that you can be a Global Citizen when you move around the world.  Whether you are taking a two-week holiday to Europe, backpacking for six months across Asia, or attending a business conference in Japan, there will be a hundred opportunities to engage with the world around you.  The key lies in making those engagements beneficial rather than detrimental to the local people and environment.  Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:

1. Visit ‘attractions’ that actually help

Try places that support the local people, animals, or environment rather than just the areas highlighted for making money out of tourists.  Some great examples are Monkey Jungle in the Dominican Republic (write-up by Valerie Wilson of Trusted Travel Girl), the Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus in Cambodia (part of a great post by Bianca of The Altruistic Traveller), or The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.

2. Think about where and what you eat.

Is the food local?  Is it produced sustainably?  Is it fairly traded?  Have the local people or their environment suffered from its production?   Bianca, of The Altruistic Traveller, has a great series of ‘Ethical Eateries’ that’s definitely worth a read.

3. Where will you stay?

Maybe there’s an option to stay in a local community where your tourist dollars can help the locality rather than a large hotel chain.  Or what about making a real difference by volunteering in exchange for your accommodation, like Kelly, writing for ‘Amanda’s Wanderlust’, did when she experienced Mindful Farming in Thailand.  Another great idea is to hunt out places that advertise their eco credentials.  There are many Ecolodges and EcoRetreats around the world.

4. Spend your money wisely.

You can support local communities by shopping at the markets and by booking your tours and excursions on the spot rather than through an agent.  Also be aware of any damage that your money could do.  For example, paying for a photograph with a chimpanzee or a tiger cub often fuels animal trafficking and cruelty.

5. Be aware of where you are.

Do your research and learn about the ‘rules’ of the culture you are visiting.  There have been all too many reports recently of tourists offending local communities (and indeed whole countries or whole religions) by behaving in a way that is seen as unacceptable when visiting sacred sites.  Think about where you are and what that place means to others.  If you know you ought to cover your head, then cover your head.  If you should remove your shoes, then remove your shoes.  It is important not to ride roughshod over another culture believing that you are ‘different’ and it ‘doesn’t count because you’re a tourist’.

6. Make an effort with the language.

I’m British and we are infamous for our lack of language skills.  Yes, English is spoken throughout vast swathes of the modern world.  However, learning a few words of the local language will not only ease your journey but will build better relationships with the people you meet.  Think about why you expect your own language to be used by everyone.  Are you believing your language, or your country, superior to the one you are visiting?

Can you think of more?


Be a better Global Citizen at home

There are so many things you can do without making any drastic changes to your life or jumping on the first plane to some far-off land.  Here are a few of my favourite suggestions:

Feed a child - support charity as a global citizen1. Look at your food shopping.

Where does it come from?  Who produced it?  Who benefits from your buying it?  Buying local supports your region as well as reducing pollution from transportation.  Foods that, by necessity, must come from overseas can still help.  Fair Trade products are becoming more widely available and benefit the producers rather than raking in profit for big business.  And food produced in developing or poorer countries can provide great benefits to that country when exported.  It might take a bit more research but is, in the end, a relatively simple way to make an individual impact.

2. Support a charity.

There are thousands of charities working around the world and there’s sure to be one that interests you.  Maybe you want to help the disadvantaged in your own community.  Maybe you are interested in healthcare provision in Mexico.  Perhaps it’s food availability for families in Nepal, or education for children living in refugee camps.  Whichever charity you choose to support, you are connecting to someone else outside your own everyday social circle and this is bound to increase awareness of your impact on those you have never met (and probably never will).  My own charity, Chaffinch, has a helpful list of ways you can help whether your budget is large or non-existent.

Forest App View - Being a Global CitizenForest App Planting Trees - Be a Global Citizen3. Download the ‘Forest’ app for your phone or browser.

Grow ‘trees’ by ignoring Facebook and putting your phone down for a while (and get more productive at the same time).  The points ‘earned’ from growing virtual trees can then be converted into real trees planted around the world.  I’ve just planted my first tree!

4. Play the ‘Free Rice’ game online.

It’s a multiple-choice quiz and you might just learn something new as you play!  You can choose from categories such as Chemistry, Geography and Languages.  Every question you get right is worth 10 grains of rice, which are donated to the United Nations Food Programme.  Two minutes of your time each day could easily provide a hungry person with rice EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Do comment below with your own favourite suggestions for people to try.

We are all Global Citizens

Watching the news each day, and hearing the voices across social media and in our neighbourhoods, it’s all too easy to think the world is becoming more divided.  As the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU in the interests of ‘sovereignty’ and everyone from politicians to postmen debate the movements of Syrian refugees, it does seem that many people have a desire to divide and isolate.  Yet is this really what we want?  Or are people just seeking some sense of control in our ever-expanding world?

Compared to just a decade ago, we are more connected than ever.  We rely more on each other for the trappings of everyday life and to provide the services we desire.  We are in contact with the global community so much more than at any point in history.

Why are we building walls?  Why are we trying to shut out the rest of the world?  Each of the 7.4 billion people on this planet has hopes and fears, and the capacity to love and to hate.  We are human more than we are British, or Indian, or American, or French.  We all call this planet ‘home’ and it is up to every one of us to protect it, and one another.

I have no country to fight for: my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world.   We are all global citizens - from our daily routine to our walks on foreign shores

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  1. Great post. I have always considered myself to be a global citizen, and am particularly aware of that identity at the moment as the UK votes to leave the EU. Thanks so much for including a link to Kelly’s wonderful guest post on my blog as well. That’s much appreciated.

    1. Must apologise for the error with the link (saying it was your experience and not Kelly’s). I will resolve that immediately. Must pay more attention! Thanks for reading and for allowing me to link to the excellent post.

  2. The Free Rice browser initiative is a brilliant idea, and love you other tips on how to be a global citizen! One other suggestion might be shopping in charity shops wherever possible and donating items- that can have an impact across the world 🙂

    1. Great suggestion. I’m a massive charity shop fan myself. In fact, probably 75% of my clothing comes from charity shops, which I know is horrifying to some people but I get some great bargains – designer stuff that looks perfect for next to nothing.

  3. I definitely feel more connected to places I have visited. I find it important to learn about the local issues when travelling. I watched the recent coup attempt in Turkey with a decent sense of what’s going on because of this.

    1. Exactly. The more we experience the world, and the more we understand that other people are just like us, the easier we find it to relate to what they’re going through even if they are physically far away from us. And learning about the issues in other countries is a great way to become more globally aware.

  4. Awesome post, I know many of us think of traveling as just a leisure activity. And while it is a break, thinking about the greater good should be embedded in our lifestyle. I love how this offered great things to consider and incorporate.

  5. It is so true about the world not being all that different. I moved from England to Dubai and most people assume i either live in the desert with a camel as a pet or i don’t work and just spend my days on the beach! Neither of which are true. In fact life is pretty similar to back home!

  6. I loved your post! I will never think of risotto the same way as I did before reading your article. Indeed, we are all global citizens and we should appreciate so much that we are free and we are able to travel and learn. Others are not so lucky…

    1. Yes, so many people forget that they don’t need to fly to Africa to tackle poverty or plant trees in Columbia to help the environment. There’s so much ‘day-to-day’ stuff that we can all do to make a difference.

  7. It’s really important to consider how your actions impact those who live in the place that you are visiting. For example not buying from kids, so that they don’t sell as an alternative to going to school because they make more money for their families.
    I also like that you’ve included all the apps that can help from anywhere!

    1. Thanks for highlighting the kids thing. It’s sooooo important (and often difficult to resist). There is definitely a need, as you say, to consider your impact on people and communities. So often, people travel and just don’t think. I guess people may have saved all year for a holiday and want to relax and have fun. But it’s important not to forget ‘global responsibility’ and, like everything, the more you do it the more natural it becomes to consider what you’re doing.

  8. While I do believe in Global Community, I had never thought of my spending habits this way before…I do try to speak the local language as much as possible though, I need to practice my french more before going home. Thank you for the advise, it opened my eyes

    1. With the risotto is just showed me that, even when you cook from scratch, putting a meal together actually involves an awful lot of people in a lot of different places.

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