A couple of months ago a couple of good friends were traveling to Tehran to visit family and celebrate Noruz, the Persian New Year. Before they left, I beseeched them with one request: “Take some photos of runners for me, please!!”
Asking for running photographs might seem to be an odd request to make of people traveling to this part of the world. But in fact, it goes right along with the Blaze Travel Guides’ mission. My hope with this company is not simply to write running guides for popular travel destinations. Rather, I hope to use running as the means to help spread international awareness, acceptance, and understanding.
There are many differences between people of diverse cultures and backgrounds. At the same time, there are many similarities, and many values held in common. I believe, at the end of the day, that we hold more in common – such as love, respect, family, and community – than we do different. If you can discover just one aspect of commonality – even a seemingly superficial aspect, such as going for a daily run – it opens the floodgates of the imagination. What else do I have in common with these people, you might ask yourself. What else do we share?
The more we share, the less dangerous the world becomes.
Now that I’ve finished BTG’s European running guides, my intention is to show running culture is shared not just among the people of the United States, Europe, and New Zealand. In the next few years I will expand our guide series to all continents of the world. This next phase of the project starts on Tuesday, May 31, when I head to Canada on a research trip to expand BTG’s North America series. In the future this series will encompass Southeast Asia, South America, and, if we are lucky, the Middle East.
Today, these destinations might not be as popular among international travelers (although they are certainly very high on many peoples’ travel agendas). But that does not mean that these areas don’t deserve to be traveled to, researched, reported on, and mapped. We might have more in common with people in these parts of the world than we think we do. When BTG publishes its guides, we do so not only to empower people to run in places they are already traveling to, but to encourage them to travel to places that they might not otherwise think about. To make these kinds of discoveries for themselves.
The universe is far wider than our views of it, said Henry David Thoreau. Similarly, the world does not have to be the scary place as it is often made out to be. When we permit ourselves to travel, and allow ourselves to run, we discover essential truths like these. This truth brings us closer to the people around us – all the people around us. It also brings us closer to ourselves.