Every year around this time, for some reason unknown to me, the thought of space travel bangs away on my imagination. Last year around New Year’s I wrote about the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, and speculated on the idea of traveling to different universes.

This year the imagination engine is sticking closer to home. At least in physical terms. I think. (Physics can be so darn confusing.) I’d really like to travel to space one day. I’d love to see Earth from space, and would just turn inside-out to be able to visit another planet.

In my lifetime, that’s obviously not going to happen. But when it does, when humans someday possibly venture out to see another planet, and maybe possibly even find there’s someone already living there, I’ve been wondering something.

Will we have changed as a race by then? Our current wanderlust, our travel addiction, is fed by many centuries of mistakes and misunderstandings. Travel started out as conquest, then as discovery, then as exploration; then we moved on to the Grand Tour of the 1800s and zipped to today’s mode of faffing all over the planet as quickly as possible. In the beginning, and even today, the travelers generally made the colossal mistake of assuming that the places they were visiting needed civilizing, de-populating, and colonizing — aka “This place belongs to those who can make use of it,” a concept we haven’t really grown out of yet.

The current horror and accompanying rhetoric coming out of the Middle East makes me wonder if we’ll ever truly be ready to venture out into space and contact other species or at least see other places. Will we ever advance enough to assume on contact that another place might have something to give or teach us aside from its extractable resources? Or that another culture might know more about wisdom, existence, or what’s important in life than we do?

Can we travel without ruining?

We haven’t managed it yet on our own planet. But I have hope. After all, there’s all you Perceptive Travelers out there. Maybe your sensibilities will determine those of the future.