Seeing your own country.
The object of most travel scenarios is to escape. Escape has many different faces, but it usually boils down to two basic ideas. They would be to escape the situation you are in (career, relationship, weather, emotional state, etc.) for a while, and to escape to some other place (different country, region, continent, etc.). I get both of them. I use both of them for justification on almost a daily basis. So, it would seem, do most travel operators, bloggers, and advertisers.
Most all of the social media based advertising I have seen lately is targeted toward getting you to travel to somewhere “else”. Go to the Dominican Republic, its magical! Cruises are the only way to see the world! Now is the time to see Europe! Everyone wants you to go somewhere else, and experience new and wonderful things. I get it. I really do. I also have been a proponent of this way of thinking for a long time. There are countless points on the big blue globe that I still want to visit. It’s one of the things that drives my desire to travel.
But – I also remember a time – when there was a different way of thinking about travel. There was a time when traveling to somewhere else meant going to a different location inside your own country. Going to a different city, or state, or region, inside your own country. Getting away and seeing how other people lived. Looking at how other people built things. Experiencing wildlife and nature that was far removed from your own.
Considering that I am American, what I am talking about is the great American Road Trip. Families would pack the kids up in the car and head out to some other place. They would go to the mountains. They would go out to the beaches on the coast. They would wander around the southwest and see the great majesty of the desert. They would travel to see, to experience, and to escape.
Everyone on the globe (okay, maybe a good 98%) have heard stories of driving the iconic Route 66. Many people from other countries have traveled to America, rented cars, and driven this stretch of asphalt. They wanted an experience that they had only read about. So, they went out and grabbed it. I have no doubt that they came back with stories they told over and over again. That’s what the great road trip is all about. And, this experience isn’t about America, it’s about experiencing a new and unique experience. People go to do this around the globe. I have friends who have ridden motorcycles around the Belize jungles. I have a friend who flew to New Zealand and toured the country via motorcycle. He still talks about it. I still talk about driving on the Autobahn in Germany, when I was in my teens. It was a lifetime memory experience.
But, I’m getting off topic. Where I was actually headed with this was, why don’t people view travel inside their own country as travel anymore? Why do people need to go away from their own country to experience something “new”? I am of the opinion that new things are just outside your door, every day. All you have to do is go find them. I still have friends that look at the world this way. They spend weeks planning the summer road trip. They through it all in the vehicle and head out on the highways and byways to see what is new. They always come back with the best stories. Having driving almost the entire Continental United States, at one time or another, I can assure you that you never know what you’re going to see until you look around.
Granted, there are many countries in the world where this isn’t really a great idea. I mean, you can do the country of Lichtenstein in a couple days. Yes, the whole country. Other small countries have many excellent travel opportunities. But lack the geographic area to make them “endlessly wander-able”. Most of the Caribbean, the small countries of Western Europe, some of Central America can all be explored in a reasonable amount of time. But, for the big land mass countries, you can spend endless amounts of time exploring them.
If you live in one of the big land mass countries, do you still get excited about exploring your own country? People from India, Brazil, China, the United states, Canada, Russia (including Siberia), and other large land mass countries, do you explore your own country the same way you go out and explore others? If you don’t, I understand. If you do, that’s awesome!
As a traveler, I love to travel. I love to experience new places. As an American, I love exploring America. That last sentence wasn’t actually a mistake, it was intentional. Having grown up directly on the USA-Canadian border, we came to view Canada as just another part of your neighborhood. Yes, they were on the over side of the river, they had different money, and they had funny road signs (if you went into Quebec), but they were just those people over there. We spent large amounts of time in Canada going up. I learned to appreciate good museums by going to the museums in Ottawa, Ontario. It was part of what made me appreciate and have a sense for culture. I find it sad, that in our post 911 world, the cultural experience of growing up on the border is now all but completely gone.
Where that last paragraph was headed, I think, was that there are many great experiences not far from wherever you are that will give you meaningful experiences. Yup, that was what I was going for. I am always on the lookout for new places I want to go. I have to lists in my phone of places to go/things to do. There is an international one, and there is a US based one. Things that come up in Canada get added to the US list, just because. Whenever a read something and it sounds cool, or I see something on TV that I want to do, I had it to the list. Could be museums, festivals, and great bars, whatever. I want to go places and have new experiences.
Being part of the population that has the benefit of being from a large land mass country, I say don’t count out your own country. The ease of traveling your own country cannot be undervalued. You already understand the road signs, you already have the money, you can speak the language, you understand how tipping in your own country works (this one thing is of immense value all by itself), all of your electronics work without adaptors, and a HUGE list of other benefits exist. Probably another one that I find personally satisfying is that you will be able to read all of the information plagues in the various museums, because they will be in your own language. (Or, for the immigrants, they will be if you have managed to transition the language barrier.) One thing that I find continuously tedious if all the information plaques in museums that I can’t read, because I don’t speak French, Spanish, German, and the like.
Please, do yourself a favor and explore your own country. There are hosts of people travelling to your country every day to do that very thing. The next time somebody from out of town asks you a question about how to get somewhere, or what they could do for fun, if you can pull a good answer it might be because you haven’t explored enough of it yourself. I say, do justice to your country. Get out there and see it. Have a good time, somewhere you speak the language.
The walk-up fence at The Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, Central New Mexico. Site of the world’s first atomic bomb explosion. Open to the public one day a year. This was taken sometime around 2012. There was a HUGE line to get in.