I’m sure we’ve heard them before: Utterly incomprehensible travel excuses that keep people stuck in the same boring place for decades at a time, never experiencing anything but the cozy comfort of familiar surroundings and predictable leisure activities.
I will say that some excuses are decent; it takes some prioritization and potential sacrifice to build up the savings to do it, for example. I’d say it’s worth doing, and far less of a sacrifice than it may have originally seemed, but most travel excuses are just plain stupid.
What’s even worse is that the ones who stay are home are often the ones for whom travel experiences would be the most eye-opening. Scared of other cultures? Think travel is scary? Have no idea what people are like all over the world? Then you need to go!
Us backpackers? We’re finished. We’ve seen things. We’ve experienced other cultures. We’ve eaten weird food. We’ve seen funny street signs. We’ve been in the middle of some bizarre festival on the other side of the planet, and we know it totally beats having a 3 bedroom house with a fancy backyard in our cozy and predictable homeland. Travel is wasted on travelers.
(Not that I’d stop, though.)
But damn if it isn’t frustrating when I meet someone who thinks the rest of the world is a scary wasteland of tyrannical dictatorships, weird cultures, disturbing customs, and think the whole ordeal of travel is of little or no value, and growing up and “getting on with your life” is somehow the right thing to do. Get yourself a fancy house, a closet full of uncomfortable office clothing, and spend all day “being an adult” at a job you hate for a salary you can’t enjoy in the “greatest country in the world.” Yeah, I’ll get right on that. That’s exactly why Americans should travel.
So it’s time for a little tough love, boys and girls. If you find yourself making these excuses, you need to get the fuck out. Get yourself a one-way ticket to Bangladesh with nothing but a teeny backpack and no plans of any kind and go have yourself a spectacular fucking time.
Travel excuses that only mean you need to travel
#1) “Is it safe?”
Damn. If you actually think living at home is safe, you need a reality check. Depending on where you are, you may very well be in the country that other people avoid because of how dangerous it is. This is especially true of those who live in the “greatest country in the world,” aka, the USA.
Ever take a look at crime statistics in the United States? Nah, I didn’t think so. You can probably cite all sorts of scary things that happened to Americans abroad, though. There’s that one guy in this one country. That other guy somewhere else. That one thing that happened that one time. Yeah, that’s totally a good reason to run away from reality.
Take a brief look at a list of countries with the lowest homicide rate, and you might make an interesting discovery. The United States is #104. Let that sink in.
Here are some countries with a lower homicide rate than the United States:
If you’re afraid for your life, you should leave home as quickly as possible.
Oh, and read this if you think hostels are scary.
#2) “They don’t like Americans.”
Take a second look at that sentence. Is it a preconceived notion based on information other than having been there and experiencing it for yourself? Nice job! You just committed an act of prejudice.
What’s unfortunate about this particular sort of prejudice is that it’s self-perpetuating. Once someone gets it into his or her head that “the world doesn’t like us,” they stay at home and never find out how nonsensical it is. Nevermind that millions of Americans go traveling all the time and have a spectacular experience. Nevermind that some places in the US treat minority populations like presumed suspects (ahem, Arizona). Once people think dumb things and shelter themselves from evidence to the contrary, it’s hard to get facts into their heads.
But I won’t bother arguing against that belief. It’s useless. I’ll merely point out that if you think the world hates Americans (or French people, or Italians, or whatever you may be), then it’s all the more reason to get out there and not be an idiot so people can see.
If they think Americans suck, go prove them wrong. Go somewhere and don’t suck.
#3) “I don’t like how they do things there.”
Ah, yes, culture shock. Everyone’s favorite reason to stick it out in your home country and never experience anything else, all the while thinking your own set ways are somehow objectively superior.
It’s not often I meet people who encapsulate the American Dream, as I generally don’t associate with people whose only aspiration is buying a bigger house and accumulating a dozen business suits, but I’m occasionally reminded that they do, in fact, exist. People who “need” to buy things. Who “need” a new $400 purse. Who “need” a BMW. Who “need” to go tanning. People who think wants and needs are totally the same thing. These people often complain about not having any money. What a wonderful culture! But I digress.
It’s not that I think all ideas are equally valid; let’s face it, some ideas are just plain stupid. But if you’re afraid of other cultures, then you need to experience other cultures. You might actually learn a thing or two. You might learn that the best education on the planet is in Finland. That the longest life expectancy is in Japan. That the happiest country in the world is Norway. That Romania has waterproof, wrinkle-proof, rip-proof money that you can go swimming with. Why the fuck don’t we?!?! Oh, and in most countries, receiving a phone call is free. Only the caller has to pay.
Feeling jealous yet? I bet you are.
If you think your culture is oh-so-great, I bet you haven’t seen much else. And that’s exactly why you should go.
#4) “Don’t they have weird food?”
Yes, they do, and it’s fucking fantastic.
So yeah, this is a bit of a minor point, but still, people are extraordinarily terrified of what it’s like to eat in other countries. They have this weird picture of mangy rats on barbecue skewers drenched in the blood of slaughtered newborn children and garnished with wombat toenail clippings.
Ironically, the ones afraid of the food are probably devouring “food” that is cartoonishly unhealthy for them. One look at a week’s worth of food around the world should be enough to show just how much healthier food is supposed to be, and in other countries, usually is.
But I won’t try to convince anyone with the health aspect, because traveling for cuisine is absolutely spectacular. And this is coming from one of the world’s pickiest eaters, especially as a kid, who now gets super excited seeing all the wonderful concoctions the world has to offer. Oh, and street food is quite often the best food.
#5) “I don’t think I can do it.”
Well then that’s why you should go!!!
Seriously, if you’re scared of how tough it’s going to be to travel around the world on your own, well, then your fears are getting the best of you. 18 year olds with zero travel experience do it all the time, and they have extraordinarily spectacular experiences. Are you really going to let them be cooler than you are?
So if you’re scared of dealing with:
- A weird language
- Funny looking currency
- Crazy cultural oddities
- Not knowing where things are
- Only bringing a few pairs of shoes
- Being alone
…well then you need to go. If you can’t handle these (mild) life challenges, then life is going to smack you in the face when real problems occur down the road. Like when your Wi-Fi goes out.
And it won’t even be as tough as you think. It’s probably going to be fun.
Now get out of here!
The world beckons, my friends and loved ones. It is a gloriously beautiful, intriguing, confusing, silly, rewarding place that…is worth a visit or two. And, weirdly, the ones who least want to see the world are the ones who need to see it the most.
So if you run into a buddy of yours who says that Spain is terrifying and he’d rather stay at home, slap him in the face and don’t take his excuses anymore. Send him on a one-way flight to Nepal and check up on him in about six months.
He’ll be just fine.