Let’s Debunk A Few Misconceptions About Travel


I exist, almost exclusively, in a world of travel. It’s what I read about, it’s what most of my friends talk about and naturally it’s all I write about. It’s a bit of an obsession. That’s why I was surprised recently by the questions when I was asked to be a guest on a radio program in a smallish sized town. The questions were fairly similar to each other and all dealt with issues of fear, safety and uncertainty. There were no questions about the amazing benefits travel affords us, only how to deal with our fears. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you think about it. If we tell people they need to be scared and worried about the travel experience, then they will naturally be scared and worried about the travel experience. While I can certainly attest to the fact that bad things do happen sometimes when we hit the road, these moments are rare and far between. No, instead the travel experience is almost entirely a positive one not only full of fun and relaxing activities, but many more opportunities for us to grow and evolve on very personal levels. So, with all of this in mind, I thought I’d tackle a few of the more common misconceptions about travel and debunk them once and for all.

It’s dangerous

This is a misconception expressed especially by my fellow countrymen and is oh so wrong. I think some folks have a natural inclination to distrust anything foreign, and every news story about any issue, no matter how trivial, only feeds into that false mythology. With some notable exceptions – war torn areas, North Korea, Baltimore – the world is on the whole a fairly safe place. Does that mean you should travel carefree? No, you always need to take precautions to both protect your money and things, as well as yourself. Basic common sense should help though, and as long as you aren’t overly foolish you should be fine. Regardless, you should never let a false threat (real ones are ok) of danger to stop you from traveling. The fact is that in many cases where we live is more dangerous than the places we want to visit. I’ve traveled all around the world many times but the only time I’ve been pickpocketed was right here in the U.S. So no, the world is on the whole NOT a dangerous place and you should start seeing it as soon as possible.

Plane Overberg South Africa

Only for the rich

Sure, if you want to jump on a private plane, stay at the best hotels and resorts and eat out at 3-Michelin star restaurants every night, then having some extra cash in the bank is helpful. But travel is one of those great experiences that is truly egalitarian. Not every trip has to be epic and over the top, a simple road trip to a destination a few hours away isn’t only fun, but helps in all the usual ways that we normally benefit from travel. We explore, learn and relax. Sure, it’s sometimes a little more fun to do that on an exotic beach, but my point is that travel doesn’t have to be complex to be fun. Even if you have your eyes set on that trip to Europe or Asia, it’s more possible than you think. One of my first posts was about how to save extra money to put towards travel. Stop buying fancy coffees, limit how much you eat out and look at your monthly expenses and identify some other ways you can save money. Believe it or not but it adds up very fast and once you’ve realized these savings, devote them towards that trip you’ve been lusting after. I think you’ll be surprised just how much you can save and how quickly you can do it.

Retro clock

I don’t have the time

This is another one mostly aimed at my fellow Americans. The sad fact is that not only do Americans get very limited time off of work, but we don’t even use what time we do get! Every other industrialized nation realizes the importance of time off and having a work-life balance, and yet these are concepts we just can’t accept easily. So yes, I do think that most of us do have the time to travel. Remember what I said in the previous point, travel doesn’t have to be lengthy or complex to be fun. Take a Friday off and enjoy a long weekend somewhere close by. Better yet, take a look at the calendar and maximize holidays and other days off. I used to do this all of the time when I had a conventional job. If you plan it right, you can get a couple of weeks of vacation and only take a few days off of work.

bangkok airport

Too hard to go overseas

America is lucky in any number of ways, and both our isolation and myriad sights and activities on our own continent have both been advantages over the years. But that isolation builds up a certain level of ambivalence about seeing the rest of the world. It’s not something I suffer from, but the feeling is an undercurrent in our nation. Add to that the misconception that the entire travel experience, from long flights to foreign languages and strange foods are all too cumbersome to bear, and the sad result is that a majority of Americans will never, ever leave the country. This is a hard concept for the rest of the world to understand, but as an American, and while I may not agree with it, I understand it. The reality is though that those experiences that we think are too complicated are actually what make the travel experience so great. Food, the most important part of the travel experience, WILL be strange and different, but the joy is in its discovery. Sure, communications can be a challenge sometimes but English is the de facto lingua franca in the 21st century and even if you can’t find someone who speaks it, pointing and made up sign language almost always works. I don’t want to debate the challenges inherent in the travel experience, no; instead I want to urge everyone to embrace them instead of shying away. They are what make travel so very special, they are how we grow as people and ultimately, those perceived challenges are amongst our most treasured memories.

South Africa

Best done when I retire

I talk to a lot of friends and strangers alike who say that they all plan to travel, but when the kids are older or when they retire and have more time. While these are fine times to travel, you should never stop all travel until these perceived ‘perfect’ moments occur. The truth is that there is no such thing as the perfect time for anything in our lives and sadly, we don’t know what the fates have in store for us. Having lost several family members well before their time, I can attest to the fact that if we’re not living for today then we’re not living at all. Don’t put off seeing and experiencing the world, because you may never get the chance otherwise. Specifically when it comes to kids and travel, this argument is a red herring. I know many – many – people who travel with kids of all ages and you know what? Those travel experiences are the best things parents can do for their kids. The education and personal development that both occur as a result of travel can’t be replicated in any other way and ultimately your kids will be all the better for them.

What are some other misconceptions about the travel experience you’d like to see dispelled?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

14 thoughts on “Let’s Debunk A Few Misconceptions About Travel”

  1. Whoaaaaa. I think I need to debunk some misconceptions about Baltimore! I mean yea, I would not have wanted to be anywhere near Mondowmin Mall on April 27th, and there are areas that I wouldn’t feel safe walking around at any time, but don’t all cities have areas that tourists are advised to avoid?

    I’ve lived in Baltimore City for over 10 years and the worst personal experience I’ve had with crime is one busted window on my car. Obviously we have our problems but there are also a lot of great things about Baltimore and I gotta say it stings to see my favorite travel blogger lumping Baltimore in with war torn areas and North Korea :(

    1. It was a joke and I hope that everyone takes it that way. I’m localish, as you know, and have a long history of jabbing Baltimore. :) Sorry if it offended but thanks for reading!

      1. Oops! Sorry for jumping to conclusions. Many of my Baltimore County acquaintances have been making ludicrous remarks about never setting foot in the city again so I suppose I am a bit defensive.

  2. While I agree many places are safer than thought to be and people should take basic precautions (watching their belongings, researching the political state of an area, etc), one thing that factors in, unfortunately, is race/ethnicity and gender. As a female woman of color, my experiences vary, sometimes negatively, than those of my Caucasian friends or even males in general. It’s something I have to take into account when traveling as well.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree that money and time considerations shouldn’t discourage travel. There are many kinds of travel and there’s always a place or time frame that fits the situation. And I especially agree to not wait until that perfect time in the future. The time is now!

  4. Generally speaking I agree with these misconceptions and am often telling friends the same things. I also agree with SC’s comment about differences in ethnicity and gender and the impact these differences have on travel. My experiences traveling as a female woman of color, often solo, is different. It just is. I do agree that the world is not nearly as scary and dangerous as people often make it out to be, but I also, quite frankly, would never go to certain places by myself that maybe a Caucasian male would. So I think what it comes down to is never being afraid of traveling the world because it’s something everyone should do, but also being smart about where you go and the precautions you take.

  5. Great post! I agree that you shouldn’t put off traveling simply because you’re waiting for a “better time”. Travel is an experience for any period of your life, and hopefully this post will inspire somebody to start planning a trip!

  6. We just got back from a six week trip to Europe, traveling by ship, train, buses, rental cars, and an occasional taxi. We stayed in hotels, B and Bs, Airbnb apartments, rented homes and private homes. We are in our mid-60s, although it pains me to say that. Had a fantastic time, of course. We left home without any return flights booked. When we finally returned, I mentioned the trip to a friend, and her first question was, “Weren’t you scared??” Of what, exactly? Scared we might end up in some dreaded tourist trap for dinner, maybe, but that was about it. Ate some fantastic meals, saw mind-boggling sights, and made a list of all the places we want to hit on our next trip. Just GO!!

  7. So true! My partner and I often get asked about the trips we take, and then hear something like, “Must be nice,” or “I’d love to travel but have kids,” or “Maybe one of these days, like when I’ve retired.” No! Find a way to do it now! I realize we’re very fortunate. We have two good incomes and the travel for my job alone generates enough frequent flyer miles and loyalty points every year to pay for not only a couple of big international trips, but to also cover most of that in premium airline cabins and in very nice hotels. But, that’s not everything. Even when we didn’t have the same resources we found ways to save some money, take the time off, and go. And, not every trip has to be something extravagant or expensive. We’ve opted to not spend as much money on certain things so we’d have more for travel. It’s all about deciding what you value most, and to us, experiences are very important, and therefore, get a higher priority in our budget than, say, a new TV or replacing the Ikea coffee table and bookcases in our living room.

    I also love it when I’m able to help others find a way to experience travel themselves. Just last week I was helping to mentor four summer interns at my company. These four kids are super smart, ages 19-22, and all from Florida. They shadowed us at a client visit in Las Vegas, and none of them had been to Vegas before – in fact, none of them had ever been west of the Mississippi, and one had not only never flown before, but had never been more than about 200 miles from home before last week. It was incredible to work with them in a professional manner, but also to help show them the opportunities that were out there beyond work. We talked about how the frequent flyer points they’re earning this summer during their travels with my team can help them afford trips down the road, and how to make even a mundane business trip fun by finding things to do in the evenings besides sit in a hotel room, or eating in restaurants that are unique to that area, as opposed to franchises they have at home. It’s great to share experiences, not so that others just “live vicariously,” but in a way that encourages them to find a way to follow their own travel dreams, whatever they may be, and turn them into reality.

  8. Karen @Places2Discover Cuises & Tours

    Spot on! As a confirmed travel addict who has also infected, in the most positive way, her daughter, I couldn’t agree more with your comments and reasoning. The childhood memories of our annual family vacations including the skills learned in creating packing and shopping lists, mapping out the route, and researching and exploring sites to see along the way have never led me astray. I will never forget Harry S. Truman’s birthplace because I visited it. This was in the 1970’s before the internet, Trip Advisor, travel blogs etc, just good old-fashioned books and maps. Research and travel planning for myself and my clients is my favorite part of the job and the discovery of exciting places near and far energizes me.The challenge is not what to do along the way to your destination, but how to stretch the day to 30 hours to do it all!
    My Germany student exchange experience was bar none the best decision I ever made. In fact, I managed an undergraduate program there for 5 years and took students only a few years younger than myself around the country, including an annual trip to East Berlin. Fear is overrated- knowledge is power and once open, the wise person’s eyes remain so.

    The time is right when opportunity presents itself. Health issues, your own or loved ones, financial setbacks, political situations, unexpected/unplanned expenses, exchange rate fluctuations etc. cannot be predicted so why bank your future on the supposed certainty of things you cannot control? “The worst mistake in life is to think you will live forever”.

  9. YES! I have debunked myths related specifically to traveling with kids, but many of them are the same because many parents think they don’t have the time, money, etc. I always try to reinforce that travel doesn’t have to be expensive. And yes, parents shouldn’t wait to travel with their kids. I’ll never forget the woman who told me “Take him to Disney” because I was a parent and therefore needed to think about my kids. My kids love to explore the world around them (the real world, not the fake one that exists at theme parks).

  10. Great list, and I’m glad to see that you drew this from your experiences, rather than from a broad, general knowledge, saying “people think this”. Those types of posts make me think that the author presumes to know what the general population is thinking which – last time I checked – is actually impossible.
    It’s discouraging to hear that people are afraid to travel when I don’t believe their fears are founded, but the more information is out there to dispel myths the better!
    Thanks for this post.

  11. Great Article! One of the reasons that you missed and it’s often heard from people in India and in societies with strong family culture is ‘Family Responsibilities’. With extended family and extended responsibilities, some people have formulated a new excuse for not traveling. Though few families do travel together, but these are very few.

    Would like to see this misconception dispelled that – everyone in family is able to take care of himself/herself, and people become more independent in their travel decisions.

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