Lately news in the travel world has been mostly negative. Talk of walls, bans and terrorism hasn’t made the traveling public feel more at ease about hitting the road. That’s a tragedy in my opinion, travel has so many benefits that no one post could list them all and to see people stay at home out of fear or apprehension breaks my heart. So, in the spirit of spreading a little positive news I thought I’d share a few reasons why 2017 is in fact a great year to leave the house, hit the road and see the world. Whether you’re going on a cross-state road trip or an around the world cruise, the same benefits apply to all equally, so get out there and take advantage of this amazing year to see the world.
One thing that frequent travel certainly provides is perspective. Those of us who live the strange lives of frequent travelers are fortunate in a variety of ways, but certainly in the number of cities and countries we visit throughout the year. A couple of years ago though I started to notice a shift in many of these cities, changes at first subtle but now pronounced, marking a sort of urban renewal around the world. Honestly, I first noticed it here at home. Washington, DC has changed a lot since I first moved here in 2000, all for the better. Unlike my generation, today young urban professionals want to live and work in the city and not the suburbs, which in turn has led to a Renaissance in culture and food – especially food. Restaurants and cafes aren’t only popping up all the time, but they’re good. Really good. This trend isn’t relegated to DC though, I’ve seen the same urban renewal happening in almost every city I visit and it’s made the travel experience so much more enjoyable than it would have been a decade ago. Public art, quirky pop-up cafes, avant-garde boutiques and a certain general spirit of creativity are all hallmarks of this urban shift. We’re in its heyday at the moment, so be sure to get out there and experience it for yourself.
Not as expensive
Granted, this entirely depends on where you live, but as an American this is one of the least expensive times to travel the world as we’ve seen in years. Close to home, the rapid decline of the Canadian dollar makes our neighbors to the north a veritable bargain basement for travel experiences. Even further away, the British pound and of course the Euro are as favorable to those of us carrying US Dollars as they’ve been in a very long time. While that won’t affect the price of your plane ticket or your hotel room too much (although fares to Europe have been very low lately), it makes day to day living and exploration cheaper and easier. Already this year I’ve noticed how it’s affected my travel both in Canada and further afield. I’m eating out more, enjoying nicer restaurants and taking part in more local experiences and activities. The net effect is a more enjoyable and well-rounded travel experience.
Easier and more pleasant than ever
Although the airlines get a lot of negative press – and they do seem to be the one part of the travel sector the world loves to hate – they’ve actually never been better at providing an amazing travel experience. Consider this, in 2016 US airlines alone carried 823 million passengers. That’s more than ever before and is a staggering figure if you stop to think about it. And yet, in spite of the world traveling at rates never before seen, their ontime performance is getting better and they aren’t losing our bags all the time like they used to. Airlines globally are becoming more streamlined and efficient and while the net effect isn’t always the best for passengers, the fact remains that they’re getting us to our destinations on time and faster than ever. That’s a tremendous shift and one that will ultimately encourage more and more people to travel in the future.
Airlines aren’t the only ones trying to make the travel experience more enjoyable, hotels in the last 5-10 years have made incredible strides in providing more engaging and immersive experiences. Thinking back to when I was a kid traveling with the family, hotels were fine but honestly, they were little more than places to sleep. Even early in my former 9-5 career, on business trips staying at even the “best” hotels was a fairly boring experience. Hotels then shook themselves and realized suddenly they weren’t only living in the 21st century, but also catering to new generations with completely different hospitality expectations. The results have been slow, but ultimately (I think) amazing. The modern hotel is light and airy, full of life and engagement. The lobby is no longer dead space but instead a social hub with places to grab snacks, plug in your laptop and chat with others. Rooms are more functional and even the service has improved. No, this is surely one of the best eras for the lodging industry, whether you’re in one of Marriott’s new Moxy rooms or in the Presidential Suite at a Four Seasons.
Travel always helps
The real power of travel is I think the sharing that happens between people. Whether we like it or not, we’re all citizen ambassadors when we leave the country but it’s not a one-sided relationship. Meeting new people, learning about their stories and lives, that is I think the most important part of the travel experience. Through them we begin to better understand their culture and country, most times erasing misconceptions and wrong impressions in the process. While there are certainly outliers, I’ve learned that people are genuinely great almost everywhere in the world and that there is so much more that unites us as humans than what divides us along political lines.
It’s when we fail to connect with other people, whether we travel across our own country or across the planet, that we suffer. It’s also the foundation on which poor understanding of Others is built. It didn’t matter as much 20 or 30 years ago when the outside world didn’t really affect us that much. When there weren’t mass shootings or terrorist acts on our soil, when refugees by the millions didn’t cross borders in search of safety. When individual countries are (mostly) left to their own devices, being as interculturally aware isn’t as necessary. Would it be nice? Sure, but it’s not a predicate for a well-functioning society. Now it is. When bad things happen, whether it’s a flailing economy or terrorism or something else entirely, we as humans have always blamed Others, and that certainly hasn’t changed in the 21st century. It’s such a basic emotion it may be at the heart of the human experience. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept it or stand idly by refusing to change those emotions. How we do that isn’t just by traveling, by experiencing other people, other languages and other cultures, it’s understanding them. There’s a big difference between those two concepts and understanding that difference is key.
The way to combat fear and hatred isn’t by arguing or yelling, but through education. By taking someone we’re related to or know and sharing with them our life experiences and what we’ve learned from people in other countries. Unless we address the core underpinnings of where our fears come from, then nothing will improve. Unless we as a civilization understand that more connects us than separates us, then nothing will improve. Regardless of our own politics or stances, this is all of our collective fault. We have failed each other but luckily there’s still time to correct that mistake. To take our fellow citizens and not try to change their minds about any one thing, but to open it to a world that’s not nearly as small and scary as they may think.