The Origins of the Book and Its Title

I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not motivated by a love of adventure. Don’t get me wrong: my home town – a semi-rural hamlet – was not confining. I loved being home and I did not love adventure because I wanted to escape from my home. I always needed a home base, somewhere to which I could return from my adventures. But I really needed the adventures. It was in my DNA, I learned later. Before I was old enough to go on adventures by myself, I would fantasize. I read books on adventure and sent away for brochures about distant places. There was a plum tree in my backyard, and it became the airplane in which I would fly to Panama, Tibet, and Fiji.

I quickly figured out that the demographics of my street, school, and town were not the demographics of the world. I had no problem with my neighbors, classmates, or townspeople, but I wanted to go beyond and meet everyone in the world. I wanted to learn every language, swim in every ocean, and taste every cuisine.

I had my first chance when my father took a sabbatical from his job as a history professor at Smith College. He packed up the family and moved to Manchester, England, for a year. I took my 8th grade year at a grammar school at which I was the only American, which suited me just fine. I learned a lot in that year, which included visiting Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Switzerland. I was hooked. I declared myself a Citizen of the World, not out of disaffection with the United States of America, but out of solidarity with all humans.

My next opportunity to exercise world citizenship came after I graduated from high school. I volunteered for Operation Crossroads Africa and spent the summer in Bangui, in the Central African Republic. Together with nine other Americans and a counterpart group of Central Africans of the same age, we lived together, ate together, argued together, and built a youth center. Not ready to return to the United States, I spent my freshman year in college at the American University of Beirut. I visited 23 countries during that year, in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The end of the year was dramatic: in June 1967 I was evacuated on a freighter in the middle of the night from Beirut to Cyprus – the Six-Day War had begun.

Eventually I had the good fortune to be offered a job as the Associate Dean for International Relations at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “Do I have a travel budget?” I asked the Dean. “Unlimited,” he replied. “Where do you want me to go?” was my second question. “You figure it out,” was his response. Thirty years went by, and I had accumulated 13,464 business cards from 85 countries around the world.

By that time I had received an informal education in intercultural relations, ranging from the very best to the very worst. I was no longer a starry-eyed youth but a seasoned international traveler. I had stood in Red Square in Moscow, at the precise point at which my country’s nuclear missiles had been (probably still are) aimed. I had shared dinner with a former officer in the army of North Vietnam. I had spoken to an Argentine who had been kidnapped by terrorists and kept in a hole in the ground for six months. And I had been threatened at rifle-point by Hausa soldiers in northern Nigeria. I observed that, despite improvements in the global environment, people still had a difficult time getting along. At the same time, I had the good fortune to meet people who I felt exemplified the qualities that I thought were conducive to positive and productive intercultural relations. I decided to reflect and then write about what I had learned on my lifelong odyssey.

I happened to be listening to an album of songs by Jacques Brel. One of them was entitled “If We Only Have Love,” and one of the refrains ended with the words, “If we only have love… then death has no shadow, There Are No Foreign Lands.” Goose bumps immediately covered my body (as they do when I write these words), and I knew I had the title for my book.


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