The Danger of a Single Story

Sandy beach by the Delta of river Neretva with colourful road signs.

Last night I was watching Mary Beard interview one of my favourite authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It got me thinking about her books and her TED talks.

Her most famous TED talk is We should all be feminists. It went viral pretty quick and was written into a short book that the Swedish government gave to all 16 years olds. If you haven’t seen the talk yet, give it a watch.

But the interview also reminded me of her other talk, The Danger of a Single Story. In this talk, she touches upon the danger of whitewashed literature that we, as children, read in school.

But it is not just the lack of racial and cultural diversity of the characters, it is also reading the books that all have the same stereotypical characters – weak white women, angry black women, violent black men, etc. It is a single story that gives us a very limited mindset when meeting people from different backgrounds, a single story that affects our first impression.

This got me thinking, can the same be said for reading on travelling destinations? When we decide to visit a country, do we only have a single story of that country, a single point of view? Do books and films give us preconceptions about a place? Is this how we decide where we want to travel next?

And the most important question – does travelling itself tell us a different story? Does it open our eyes or does it disappoint us when we realise a place and its people are not how we pictured it?

Check out the video below and let us know what you think.

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