I lived in Orlando for almost five years. Since moving to Houston, I have made a purpose of returning to the City Beautiful as often as possible. This endeavor leads to at least two trips across the Gulf a year in attempts to stay as connected as possible to what I consider my adoptive home.
I would be a liar (as if I am not other times in my life) if I denied Walt Disney World did not play a huge part of my excursions back to Central Florida. Mickey Mouse is not my sole reason for returning, but he joins my list of friends, activities, the church I attend in Orlando, and various other sirens that call me to return.
Of all the things that go on in Walt Disney World, Epcot hands down is my favorite of the resort activities. There are many reasons for my love of the second-built theme park within the San Fransisco-sized Disney resort, and the primary one has nothing to do with Mickey Mouse.
I am a huge proponent of travel. Travel. Travel well. Travel often. Travel exposes people to views, opinions, cultures, and most of all people that are different than us. Too many of us never experience the world outside our own hometown. The world is so much bigger than your neighborhood. However, international travel seems much too huge an endeavor for the average joe.
Epcot follows a “two parks in one” model with Future World on one side and “World Showcase” on the other side. World Showcase consists of eleven pavilions featuring different countries from all parts of the world. One can spend all day walking the semicircle of World Showcase spending time in each country as you go.
The pavilions are staffed with Cast Members from the respective countries. Now, there is a Disneyesque manner in which each country is portrayed. However, a visit to each pavilion will put one in contact with actual people from somewhere other than Anywhere, U.S.A. Some pavilions show films educating viewers of the country, and all have restaurants featuring samples of local fare.
We are living in a time when the world is growing and shrinking at the same time. This situation provides many opportunities to pull each other together. However, there are just as many, if not more, trying to pull us apart. Diversity is a beautiful thing, but it is something one must experience to appreciate. I am fortunate in that I have eleven stamps in my passport (so far). However, most people feel they cannot accomplish a tour of the world.
The reason I love Epcot is it allows people to go on a trip to one place and meet a widely diverse range of individuals. It provides experiences in their culture, even if it is in a Mickey Mouse way. Time has taught me experience changes people. Travel changes people. Walking the pavilions of Epcot provides an opportunity for Disney guests to expand their minds and take in a plethora of new ideas, food, music, and most of all, people. I feel an exuberance wandering from “country” to “country” I cannot find in one location like I can inside Epcot. My love for this theme park actually has so little to do with Disney and so much to do with my growth as a person.
One cannot grow as an individual, thoroughly love, and fully take in life inside one’s bubble. This world and the people who live on it were beautifully created, each in their own way. Get outside your comfort zone, talk to people not like you, learn why they think the way you do. Don’t spend your life in the same bland room everyday. Life was meant to live in color. We each get to choose what kind of community we will live in tomorrow. Do what you can to make it a better one.