I never thought I would have traveled as much as I have in my life. I was actually afraid of flying (still fight it). But traveling for me has changed how I see everything about life, and that’s why I’d like to break a few lies to open you up to the idea of international travel.
I know my birth country America is huge and you could fill your whole life going to every national park and feel enriched. There are so many great things in this country, but the thing is, they are part of one system and one culture (although I know you can find diverse subcultures here).
You buy groceries the same way across the country. You wash your clothes the same way. You commute the same way to your work on the same highway systems. You get entertained the same way (Netflix, Hulu, Sports). You get the idea. You may be thinking, “And that’s comfortable and how I like it.” This brings me to my first point against your reasons to not travel outside our borders:
But I’m comfortable here.
This comfort you speak of. Does it make you happy? Do you feel alive? Do you have curiosities about life and people? What if this comfort is the thing that is holding you back from feeling alive again—from finding a new aspect of yourself—from becoming a more compassionate and happy person. There are many ways to ignite this, but international travel will shock your comfort out of your system, and a sensation of being alive will take its place.
But It’s too expensive.
If you stay at the Sheraton on a famous tourist beach, you are probably right. I’m talking about travel with the intent of actually seeing the culture, eating the food, and getting to know the people. I will probably write more articles on how we save money traveling, but here are a few ways to save big time!
Airbnb – Stay at other people’s houses around the world for cheaper than hotels. This is also a great way to get to know the culture because, many times, you end up in a local neighborhood. They also have way more creative lodging than any hotel like this garden cottage for $61/night in England. You can also “Airbnb” (yes, it’s a verb now) your home, so while you travel, you essentially pay for your vacation!
Home Exchange – You can do a reciprocal exchange of homes or collect points that go toward nights at homes that accept this type of exchange. Our friends did this with their home in Prince Edward and stayed in Hawaii!
House sitting – People will actually let you stay in your home and watch their pets for FREE while they travel. We recently started to explore this option and think it is a great option to save money and feel “at home” away from home.
But it’s unsafe.
There are countries that are more dangerous than others. We do have to know the risks of where we travel, but your risk of anything incredibly horrible happening while you travel is very low. In fact, what I’ve found is people are incredibly nice. We’ve been lost a number of times and been helped by locals. Locals have invited us over for dinner or offered to show us around. Yes, we’ve been pickpocketed or been victims of scams but have never felt in immediate danger.
The interesting thing is if you are afraid of a certain people group because of what’s on the news, what you are seeing is usually a 0.001% of worst of humanity who happens to be found in that people group. Evil exists and just as you don’t like it, neither does most of the world! Travel with the intent to know a culture is walking in the opposite spirit of a world putting up walls instead of building bridges.
But I don’t understand the language.
You can learn the basics on the Duolingo app and start talking to natives in that country (and maybe make a friend you’ll meet up with) on the HelloTalk app. You can actually learn an insane amount of language if you cut out social media at night for a few months. How much you ask? Here what happened when Camille did it with Italian and when I did it with Portuguese.
Language is intimately linked to culture, and even by understanding a bit of the language, you can begin to appreciate a new culture before you leave. For example, if you were to go to Spain and start to study Spanish, you may learn that ~15% of the language has Arabic roots. This would lead you to learn that Spain was ruled by the Moors (N African Muslims) for 400 years! Then you’d start seeing all the Arabic architecture in Andalucia, Spain and become interested in exploring all of this more in person. Now you want to learn the language, right?! Ok, ok, at least learn the basics.
But I have kids.
Traveling with young kids does shift everything about international travel. You have to slow down and visit more parks and playgrounds. The beauty of this is you’ll find yourself with the people of the culture, and maybe your child will make a friend who has parents. Then, maybe they’ll invite you over for an authentic meal and show you this super secret local spot (kid-friendly) and your mind will be blown (just hypothetically speaking). When we were in Spain, we made some great friends on the playground because Maddox made a friend and we met the parents.
But I have work.
The reality is Americans work too much! Many don’t take their time off even. I understand everybody has unique circumstances and sometimes paying the bills and providing for your family is the season you are in. You do have to be smart and see if you are in a job, season, or situation to go, but sometimes, when you set out to fulfill a desire, it motivates you to be more creative in saving and figuring out how to make it work.
Well, I’ve done my best to break these lies and at least open you up to think about international travel. It truly has changed who I am, and I’ve been privileged to see and find God in so many places around the world as well as see how He sees His creation (landscape, animals, and humans). So see you in Jordan? Or maybe Switzerland?
The art of travel is about creating internal landscapes as vivid and varied as the world around us, so that our mental maps become documents not just of where we went, but who are are.
George W. Stone, Editor-in-Chief, National Geographic Traveler (Feb/Mar 2019)
If you didn’t have any excuses, fears, or money concerns and could go anywhere, where would you go?
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on theholisticpursuit.com
Featured Image by Dane Deaner