Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The More I Learn About This Country: The Importance of Travel

The more I learn about this country, the more I think I should live somewhere else.
Hunter S. Thompson

The impulse to travel is a deeply ingrained one. Whether we get it from the old hunter-gatherer instinct to follow the migrations of our food sources, or if it's more similar to modern-day escapism, the need to explore has become as quintessential to humanity as empathy is. And well it should be- there's nothing that broadens the horizons more than putting yourself somewhere you've never been, surrounded by a language you don't speak and smells and sounds you've never encountered before. It's marvelous, exhilarating, and terrifying, and if I ruled the world, I would put it at the top of everyone's to-do list.

It seems, lately, like I've been seeing a lot of similar statements. However, a lot of the time, they're different in one key aspect: many of them say something along the lines of "Travel is my biggest priority and you're wasting your life if it isn't yours too." Here's the thing: as much as I'd like to tell everyone that their money is only worthwhile if they're doing something to expand their horizons, I don't know them. I don't know their lives, their jobs, their family situations, or anything else about them- who am I to say what they should or shouldn't be spending their money on? I've been incredibly privileged my entire life: my parents retired younger than most, have always put a huge emphasis on the importance of exploration, and, though money was never plentiful, were able to save up to take us away on nice vacations that I took for granted for far too long. I'm also very thankful that, as an adult, I've never been out of work, have always had enough money to feed myself and pay my bills, and was able to save up money and take time off for work with relative ease. I don't have kids to leave at home, a job that would fire me if I tried to take time off, or trouble making ends meet as it is. Basically, what I'm trying to say is, if you can travel, you're lucky. Privilege 'n stuff.

However, I do think that exposing oneself to new cultures is something that's important enough that everyone should make a point to do, whether that means flying thirty hours away (Hello, Australia!) or one of these much simpler and cost-effective ideas:

  • Find yourself a nice day trip or two! Visit a neighboring state/province and go to a museum or sit in a cafe. This is one of my favorite things to do- I've always loved picking an exit at random when I'm driving off the highway and just discovering what there is to do there, but you could do this by train, bus, taxi, or whatever else it available to you.
  • Find a really, really excellent restaurant of an obscure cuisine you've never eaten. I went to a tasty Afghan restaurant in the city a year or two ago, but other cuisines to check out could be Ethiopian, Nepalese, Swedish, or Basque. Just remember that it's likely that you're getting a watered-down version of whatever you're eating, especially here in America- it may or may not actually be legit!
  • Go to the library check out a book of fairy tales from a country you've never heard of. While you're there, try picking up a travel guide and maybe a history book or two. Turn yourself into an expert!
  • Google and find the arts and crafts of a specific region you're interested in. Usually you can find some easy, inexpensive ideas meant for kids that can be fun and enlightening for creative types of any age.
  • Research upcoming holidays. It's often thought of as disrespectful or inconsiderate to try and celebrate a holiday that isn't your own culture's, so be respectful, but learning about a country's important days and the mythology behind them is a great way to learn more about a society's values.
Readers: do you often find yourself suffering from wanderlust? How do you cope? And while you're at it, tell me the one place you want to go first and foremost, above all others!

PS- Sorry I've been so dead lately! Getting into the swing of the semester is always hard, but I have a handful of articles already started that I'd like to get to in the next few weeks, and then an important announcement! See you soon~


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