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Travel with a Purpose

By on June 7, 2014
Endy Zemenides

Endy Zemenides

Greeks in the diaspora are finalizing their plans to travel to the homelands this summer, and “Travel to Greece and Cyprus” campaigns are in full swing. These campaigns tend to focus on the help we can provide Greece and Cyprus by spending our travel dollars there. This is clearly as great a contribution we can make as individuals to the economic recoveries of Greece and Cyprus. With all the challenges our community faces over its future, one more purpose should be added to our travel plans.

Cyprus

Cyprus

Recently, HALC members sat with Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10), who had been a board member of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and involved in AIPAC before being elected to Congress. While discussing tactics Jewish Americans use to educate and inspire their community, Congressman Schneider emphasized the “narrative trip.” He described the differences between visiting the homeland in order to relax or visit family, and a trip designed to reconnect you with your identity. He gave us example after example of Jewish Americans who took such a narrative trip and came back and became leaders in their community and in the pro-Israel movement.

As we develop our itineraries for trips to Greece and Cyprus this year, we should take special care to incorporate a “narrative” portion to our trips. We travel to Greece and Cyprus not only because we have family there and the beaches are great, but because we consider these places central to who we are.

Greece

Greece

Whichever part of the Hellenic identity is important to you, your travels to Greece and Cyprus can be a key to advancing it. Here are just some ways to develop a narrative trip this summer for you and your family:

1. If promoting the language within your family is a priority for you, travel to Greece and Cyprus is a built in immersion experience. Besides a more concerted effort to speak Greek, taking your children to Greek musical performances (hopefully making them Greek music fans and getting them singing in Greek) can help their language skills. For younger children, buy Greek comics. For those whose language skills are more advanced, try Greek theater.

2. If Greek history/culture are your thing, do more than just take a walk on the Acropolis. Guided tours are offered for nearly every Greek landmark. What you can learn on these tours will leave you more in awe of our history and culture than anything we learned as children in Greek school. Performances – theatrical or musical – at ancient theaters should be on everyone’s bucket list.

3. If you are advocating for issues, get an up close look. For those traveling to Cyprus, make a point to visit the municipality of Famagusta and get a look at the “ghost city”. For those calling for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, spend time at the state of the art Acropolis Museum and realize the absurdity of not returning them to Greece. A short trip to Istanbul/Constantinople and visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate will give one a better understanding at the challenges faced by the Patriarchate and Christian minorities in Turkey.

So, let’s all travel to Greece and Cyprus this summer – but let’s make the trip more special than ever. Let’s both help the homelands economically and the Hellenic identity spiritually.

About Endy Zemenides

Endy Zemenides is the Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), a national advocacy organization for the Greek American community. To learn more about HALC, visit www.hellenicleaders.com