BY MARK FALDMO, JR.
By and large, most Americans do not travel overseas. Most travel booked is within the Western Hemisphere: Mexico, the Caribbean, Hawaii and other U.S. destinations. Fewer than than 30 percent of Americans hold passports, according to a 2008 Government Office of Accountability report. In comparison, according to media reports, about 70 percent of Europeans, 60 percent of Canadians and 70 percent of Australians do. This is a staggering statistic!
The United States is a large country. In fact, the continent of Europe would fit nicely within the borders of the U.S. and Canada. From the great National Parks, to the many historical sites, theme parks and varied landscapes, there is much to see and do within our own borders. Most people do not feel the need to travel outside the United States.
Even if you live in an exciting city, have a vibrant job, and have a socially fulfilling life, nothing can provide the perspective or experiences of traveling abroad. You’ll be motivated to try new cuisine, appreciate other cultures and customs, and possibly even learn more about yourself in the process.
Americans are well educated, but that education does not always extend to other countries, their societies and cultures. This ignorance breeds fear and our news media have done an incredible job of feeding that fear. The airwaves are filled with stories of terrorism, drug violence, airline safety and riots. But the truth is that the majority of North Americans will experience little more than an airport delay or lost luggage when it comes to traveling abroad.
However, what could be more awe-inspiring than actually standing at the base of the ancient pyramids in Egypt or straining your ears to hear the haunting roar of the crowd at the Coliseum in Rome?
When considering a trip overseas, it is important to become educated about the world beyond our borders. Contact your travel agent, consult travel guides and search websites for information on the culture and traditions of countries you will visit. This will help you to become ready to explore unknown lands and meet new people. Remember, you only live once. Passing up the opportunity to travel abroad could amount to passing up a life-altering experience.