Natasha Alden wrote this spot on article on Huffington Post, and I just had to share! I have so often been thought of as crazy or rich for traveling like I do, and the truth is I’m just a little bit of one of those (and it’s not rich). These are the main points she makes along with some of my comments:
- “We have so much to offer in our own country.”
Definitely agree. The US has great cities, amazing landscapes, and many subcultures. The one thing the US doesn’t offer is a destination where you are surrounded by people who aren’t Americans. So while I know you can spend a lifetime traveling the States, there is a limit on how much it expands your horizons.
- “We have extremely pricey passports.”
True- $135. If you are a budget traveler this can be a setback, especially if you need to get passports for a whole family. They do last 10 years though, so consider it an investment.
- “We are led to believe that international travel is expensive.”
I think this is one of the main misconceptions holding Americans back from traveling outside of the country. For instance, the guests I work with on my tours in Alaska pay at least $3,000-$4,000 per person for around a 2 week cruise and land tour holiday once you include all the extras like flights and excursions. Depending on where I’m going I could travel for about three months on that same budget. It’s all about knowing your resources.
- “We aren’t given vacation time.”
This is a huge hurdle. Compared to all other developed nations the US is seriously lagging in vacation benefits. This means most people will travel only when they are retired, if at all. Some younger people are taking the opportunity to travel abroad before settling into a “real job,” but taking time off to travel is considered a career setback in some fields.
- “We are in some serious debt.”
Ain’t that the truth. Between student loans and mortgages it is almost impossible for many people to save for any extra traveling.
- “We think you have to speak the language.”
If you speak English you are pretty much set to travel almost anywhere. It is always a good idea to learn a few local phrases though. It shows that you are considerate of the local culture and it can be helpful in day-to-day traveling. Not being able to speak a second language well is no reason not to travel to a foreign place however.
- “We are scared.”
I know this keeps Americans from exploring beyond our borders. If you are an American who has traveled internationally please spread the word! Most countries have far less violent crime than America. You are way more likely to get harmed by another person right here within our own country, meaning you are actually safer when abroad. Pickpocketing and snatch and run thieves are the most common crimes tourists experience when traveling and they are going to target people who look like easy targets and are oblivious to what’s going on around them. The easy solution is being aware of your stuff and surroundings. I have been to over 30 countries and have never had anything stolen from me.
- “We are just plain old ignorant.”
This one is a bit harsh, but there is some truth to it. In our culture we are sheltered from the outside world, mostly just hearing the bad things. If that’s all you here, that’s all you know. Remaining ignorant is a choice however, and you don’t have to stay in the dark. There is a wealth of real information out there, you just have to want to know it.
The first step to improving is identifying the problems, and that’s why I love this article so much. Traveling and experiencing other cultures will be one of the most rewarding things you do with your life. Now that you know what’s holding you back you can begin to overcome those obstacles!