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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?