Why we travel?


Outline

  1. Your travels
  2. Why travel?
  3. Why travel top 10
  4. Why should young people travel?
  5. Why don't Americans travel?
  6. Self-imposed Isolation
  7. Long way Round / Long Way Down review
  8. A geographer's perspective

Your travels

            When I was growing up, much of the traveling my family did was going to different parts of the United States we had not been too before. My first big experience traveling I truly remember is when we moved to Nebraska in 2000 from New York. We loaded everything we owned into a mini van and a rented moving truck, and drove half way across the country. My parents, sister, brother and I along with my Grandma and Uncle made the journey. After that most of the traveling I experienced was family vacations either back to New York (numerous times), or driving to places like Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. We also drove out to the West Coast, when I was in middle school, to San Diego, California. On the way back from there, we made a detour in Arizona and saw the Grand Canyon. I think I was too young to appreciate the scale of it then.

            My first experience outside the US was on a cruise the summer before my junior year in high school. It involved going to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk. In terms of getting an experience at these places cultures, there wasn’t much beyond a “tourist” experience. In 2010, as part of graduating and taking five years of French, I was able to go to France for a little over two weeks with some of my classmates from school with the teacher as a chaperone. We did about 10 days of traveling around France and finished with a 4 day home stay with a kid close to our own age at the time. In Paris, we ate at the Eiffel tower, went to the Louvre, saw the Arc de Triomphe, etc. The 2010 World Cup occurred while we were in France, and thus we got to experience all the excitement and fun most of the country had while cheering for the French Football team. It was quite a different experience than here in the States. I enjoyed the traveling around the country much more than the home stay portion. Unfortunately my experience consisted mostly of the kid who was supposed to be around my age, just playing World of War Craft and me just sitting on the couch watching MTV music videos. Although, I did have some good experiences with the parents, they were very kind and showed me around Paris. They were very hospitable and it was a great experience.

            The last time I travelled out of the country was to Jamaica for my honeymoon after my wife and I got married in 2015. This was much like my cruise experience in that we only stayed on the resort and didn’t really experience much of the culture, as the staff advised us to stay inside the resort gates for our own safety. The closest thing to experiencing the culture was a catamaran cruise to and exploration of  the Dunn’s River Falls and the Jamaican Jerk Chicken they served on the resort. We did however have about an hour bus ride from the airport to the resort both ways, and it was quite a shock as to what we saw as far as living conditions in some areas. We are looking forward to being able to travel again in the future. We’d both like to go to Europe and see Ireland, England, France, France, Italy, etc.

Why travel?

            Ms. Huberman explains to her friends, “I’ll be exposed to new ways of doing and seeing things. It will be good for me.” She describes herself as a seasoned traveler, as I think many Americans probably think of themselves that way. But when she got to India, it was an eye opening experience for her. She described people throwing trash everywhere, the man who molested her on the way home from work, and the consequences that man faced. Or her experiences in China where she saw the travel amusement parks, “Windows to the World.” Americans are very lucky in that they have the ability to leave the country and travel the world. For Ms. Huberman, travel isn’t necessarily about going from place to place, country to country, but seeing and experiencing the different cultures and reflecting on how life is similar or different in other parts of the world.

Why travel top ten

1.     It teaches you about the world – This is important to me because it the world and life encompasses more than just where I live. There are different cultures all over that you or I can learn from and I think it’s wrong not to acknowledge other people’s cultures and traditions.

2.     It provides you with unforgettable moments and experiences – Life is short, I don’t want to grow old and reflect back on my life wishing I had done something else. Part of life is taking risks and making life changing experiences and memories. “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

3.     It teaches you about yourself – I think is important because it helps define who you are and your views of the world. It can teach you to be comfortable in your own skin no matter where you go, or scared. It can satisfy the need to explore and see new things. It can humble you and put things in perspective.

Why should young people travel?

            The six reasons young people should travel according to Ms. Peterson are the following: you’ll get out of your comfort zone, traveling builds confidence, you will develop cultural sensitivity, you can adapt to globalization, be immersed in a second (or Third) Language, and the infinite opportunities to network. I think she brings up a lot of good arguments for her reasons for young people to travel. With social media continuing to grow, access to other parts of the world, the people that live there, and the cultures they have are getting easier to interact with. However, it’s not the same as being in that place in person. Traveling when you’re young can give you a different perspective on other countries’ cultures and customs. Life is short, experience as much of the world and many things as you can in the time you have here. Make memories, meet new people, and find who you are in your travels. When you’re young, you should take the opportunity to travel and not look back later in life wishing you had more time.

Why don't Americans travel?

            First, the number of Americans with passports is about 30% whereas the UK is around 75%. Many Americans are comfortable being comfortable where they are and do not like going outside the norm. Why travel to Europe to see the Alps when they could go to Colorado to see the Rocky Mountains? Americans are isolated in terms of being exposed to other cultures and languages. And in turn many Americans only know one language, whereas Europeans will know at least know two, sometimes more. Additionally, I think the American culture of  “the more money I have, the happier I’ll be in life,” is the thought process for a lot of people. After watching Where to Invade Next, most European countries value the importance of time off from work, have weeks of vacation time given to employees every year, maternity/paternity leave, disconnect from work at home, etc. and these seem like unbelievable ideas in America. In the countries mentioned in the documentary, most people interviewed were aghast when informed that most American companies don’t care for their employees the way European companies do. In America, time is money, and companies like making money regardless of the true cost to their employees.

Self-imposed Isolation?

            One individual I know that lives in somewhat self-imposed isolation is my father-in-law. He has both the means and time to travel, but prefers to stay in Nebraska, at home if he can help it. It’s not that he is opposed to gaining experience by traveling, but he is uncomfortable in unfamiliar situations, especially those that put him out of his comfort zone, like not having those around him speak the same language he does. Traveling, even to another state within the country, makes him uneasy and anxious. Some people have the unquenchable desire to see the world in person, while he is more than content to see the world on TV from his recliner.

            Another example is a close family friend. Like my father-in-law, she is more comfortable in her own space, where things are predictable and she can control what happens next. Unlike my father-in-law though, she does enjoy traveling to an extent, meaning really only to an Americanized resort in Mexico, for example, where the most culture experienced is the romantic “Mexican” atmosphere and staff that might happen to speak both English and Spanish. While some may not consider traveling this way real traveling, she is content and happy to get out of the country while still retaining some of the comforts from home. She is able to schedule her day and control most aspects of her stay, which is more than enough for her.

            Each of us lives in varying degrees of isolation from the rest of the world. This isolation is both happenstance and self-imposed. If we are born in an isolated part of the world with few opportunities to travel, we will likely lead an isolated existence. Self-imposed isolation occurs when have many opportunities to see other parts of the world but choose to spend our time and resources in one tiny area. We isolate ourselves because we are afraid or uncomfortable in other parts of the world.

Long way Round / Long way Down review

            Personally, I enjoyed both of these series’. The preparation that went into planning and executing both trips seems like a daunting task. Wallaston’s review that McGregor and Boorman’s journey is not the same as Ted Simon’s journey or as truly alone on the road may be accurate, but nonetheless it’s still an accomplishment and inspiring. The documentary only scratches the surfaces of these cultures we see through their camera lenses as they traverse through each country. Their experiences were made for television, had a time line, a support crew, sponsors, and money; but that doesn’t mean it can’t inspire other people to be world travelers and go experience different cultures and countries.

A Missing Geographic Perspective

            I think when planning these trips they should have looked at the terrain they were going to be riding through closer. Whether that means packing lighter, using different bikes, more riding practice in difficult terrain before the trip, etc. could have maybe made the journey easier. These are “if’s” though. They could have looked at the population densities of the countries they were passing through beforehand and perhaps looked at customs of different countries. A scene that stands out to me was the rough terrain and hardship the two men experienced while attempting to traverse Mongolia. They experienced terrain ranging from sand to swamp, and even thought about foregoing the rest of the planned ride through Mongolia in favor of probable better riding conditions in Russia. In the end, they continued along the planned route and were proud (rightly so) of themselves when they finished. A better knowledge of the terrain and conditions they would most likely experience may have prepared them better, but hindsight is 20/20.


Submitted by Samuel Dameron on 01/29/19.