There’s an assortment of monumental headline-worthy current events I could reference for you right now that seem to be urging Americans to stay put. Economy, elections…need I say more? Reading Beth’s post today about the possible impact of this whole scenario on travel set my mental wheels in motion.
For me, travel is not a luxury to be dispensed of during times of economic hardship and political upheaval. Instead, it takes on a deeper sense of importance. I budget for travel each year as part of my continuing self-education fund, an annual expense I am willing to take on because I feel that it’s a personal investment. Responsible travel also means that you are supporting things like community development and environmental preservation around the world.
While some folks are suffering financial hits from the current state of our economy, many of us are coming through more or less okay and will stay at a relatively stable financial state.
In other words, we can still travel. And we should.
5 Reasons to Travel NOW
1. America needs self-appointed ambassadors now more than ever. With the United States under the world spotlight right now, and with the blemishes on our recent international track record, we need to go out in the world and show that we care about connecting with other people. We can demonstrate a heartfelt respect for the cultures and people of the planet while reflecting a face of America that goes beyond the media’s broadcasts.
Rick Steve’s put it beautifully in his blog recently: “These days, the brand of America is hurting overseas. Our ambassadors routinely don’t speak the language of the countries they are stationed in. Cities are shut down by security when our president passes through. We are routinely outvoted in the United Nations 140 to 5 on issues that matter to the developing world. Our country, with 4 percent of this world’s population, feels the need to spend as much as every country combined on its military to feel safe (and, it seems, you can’t get elected without promising more). And meanwhile, half of humanity is trying to live on $2 a day.”
2. People poorer than us are depending on our money. Tourism is the world’s biggest industry. For some developing nations, tourism is one of the primary sources of income. A massive shortage of visitors can create a much more immediate and intense economic crisis in places like these. The fickle fluctuations of the western world has a serious impact on entire villages, regions and nations.
3. Go when most people stay. There is a huge advantage to visiting places when there is a drop in tourism. Locals appreciate that you have chosen to come anyway, and you will probably have encounters with folks who are pleasantly surprised to learn that you are an American traveling in their country. It’s that much easier to get off the beaten path and really connect with local people when you aren’t fighting to distance yourself from the camera-touting hordes.
4. We need a breather and a good dose of cultural perspective. Once the elections have passed, my prescription for any American who can afford to do so is – take a break! It has been a stressful time to be an American, and it feels like just as the world is focused on us, so have we been focused a little too narrowly inward. There is life outside! And what better way to process all the thoughts and theories we have on the state-of-the-nation then to discuss them with foreigners? I remember traveling through Southeast Asia during the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq; it was fascinating and informative to look at my home country through the different lenses of cultural perspective.
5. From a practical standpoint, it can actually be a good financial move. Travel in some of the less-expensive parts of the world can save you money, believe it or not. Once you lay down the big bucks for the place ticket, day-to-day expenses in some places are far cheaper than the cost of our daily lives here. I’ve come home with savings in the bank after months in Southeast Asia, where my daily expenses averaged $15 to $20. If you have enough time to make the flight price worth it, you might look at the daily costs of some cheaper destinations as your own economic relief package.
By the way, I wouldn’t even think about telling you to leave the country before November 4th without submitting an absentee ballot!
Photo courtesy of cafemama / creative commons