I love Star Trek. 

If you didn’t already know this about me, I forgive you. I guess it’s never come up on this blog, but there it is. It’s not something I’m ashamed of, in fact I embrace it proudly, and though I wouldn’t call myself a Trekkie, I am indeed a fan of the franchise.

Gene Roddenbury’s vision of the future was hopeful, innovative and served to pushed boundaries not only of the genre and television, but also in terms of social issues when it first hit the screens in the 1960s. For example, Kirk and Uhura’s iconic kiss was the first interracial kiss on broadcast television.

As it went on, the series and movies continued to explore some pretty big topics like human rights, social justice and the meaning of life. It also shows us a possible future for the human race where money, poverty and hunger simply don’t exist.

The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity. – Jean-Luc Picard, First Contact

Plus, they had iPads way before Steve Jobs had dreamt them up.

star trek
left: Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard in 1989; right: Zab in 2014.

So, in honour of today being Captain Picard Day here are three lessons, with accompanying episodes of The Next Generation (clearly the best series in the franchise) I believe we, as travellers, can learn from Star Trek.

Don’t judge other cultures by the standards of your own 

When you travel to a country with a culture drastically different from your own, it can be easy to judge things based on what you grew up to expect as normal or not normal, ordinary or extraordinary, acceptable or unacceptable. Most of the time this won't be a problem, but when it comes to big issues, such as social justice, this can be quite difficult to deal with. The lack of LGBT rights in a place where you travel, for example, can be a particularly difficult thing to witness if coming from somewhere where equal rights are expected. What to do? It may be easy to judge people and want to try to effect change, but apart from being yourself there often isn’t much you can do.

Recommended episode: The Outcast, in which Riker falls in love with an androgynous alien whose society does not accept some people’s desire to identify with a specific gender.

does this sound familiar?
sound familiar?

Communication is always possible 

For some people, it’s easy to be put off of travelling to a country where you don’t speak the local language, but given the right attitude, there is always a way to communicate. Of course, rudimentary sign language, pointing, using images and translation apps (or better yet, Translation and transcription services) all help, but finding some common ground and creating a human connection with someone can be the most powerful ways to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you.

Recommended episode: Darmok, in which Captain Picard is stranded on a planet with an alien who speaks only in metaphor and together they must fight a common enemy.

Los Medanos, Quebrada de las Conchas, Argentina (this could be a Star Trek location!)
Los Medanos, Quebrada de las Conchas, Argentina (this could totally be a Star Trek location!)

You are an ambassador for your home 

In countries or regions which do not necessarily receive a lot of tourism, or from which locals are less able to travel abroad than you, it is quite likely that the locals you interact with with base their perception of others from your country or perhaps even foreigners in general based on your behaviour. What you say, how you treat people, and even how you spend your money matter when you travel, as you could be setting people up to be prejudiced against certain types of other people.

Recommended episode: Liaisons, in which an alien race uses members of the Enterprise crew to perform experiments on various human emotions.

trying to make a good impression of British people with with Fernando, our couchsurfing host in Córdoba, Argentina
making good impression (hopefully) of British people with with Fernando, our couchsurfing host in Córdoba, Argentina

What's your favourite Star Trek series, or what other television series do you think can teach us something about travel?

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