“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Although originally made as a joke to a friend, Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” allows for a multiplicity of meanings. The more obvious one is a traveler has a decision to make when he comes to a fork in the road. Americans come to a similar fork in the road when choosing between venturing off the beaten path or staying within the comfort of the States. More frequently than not, we choose the latter when it comes to traveling.
I’m not referring to those with the desire for adventure yet lack the ability to do so. I refer to those who pridefully uphold the United States as the greatest country on earth without having ever stepped foot outside of American soil.
Why don’t more Americans travel internationally?
Reasons — better yet, excuses — I’ve heard, vary from concerns regarding safety to not having the funds to fearing a language barrier.
I’m constantly asked, “How do you travel as often and as far as you do as a college student?” I won’t say it doesn’t require sacrifice. It absolutely does. I have to give up doing certain things I would love to do in exchange for travel. But it’s not the sacrifice many would think.
Seeing another country doesn’t have to entail staying at a five-star resort in Bimini while being served cocktails around the clock. As nice as that would be, naturally, it would be expensive.
That’s where traveling smart comes into play. Choose your destination and travel during the off-season. Have an idea of what you want to do and keep your eye on flights and hostels. Even a luxurious vacation to Bimini is more than doable with websites like Airbnb, Homeaway, TripAdvisor, Booking, Skyscanner or Kayak.
Living like a local is the best way to travel. Visit markets, read blogs and do your research on how to get the most out of your experience without paying an arm and a leg.
Living like a local does not coincide with danger.
I’ve met people who fear leaving the country due to terrorism, war and rumors they see on the news. The problem? The majority of what Americans are shown from international news are the terrorism and wars, yet the United States is the most dangerous country in the world. We have more prisoners, more school shootings, more traffic accidents, yet we’re thriving.
Granted, that doesn’t justify traveling recklessly to the unreached areas of Africa alone because “anywhere is safer than the States,” but don’t let danger keep you from experiencing a new culture and people. If you refrain from doing things out of fear can you truly say you have lived?
It isn’t always physical danger that people fear. Some worry about the language barrier. I have friends that have preconceived negative ideas of people from other countries strictly based on the fact that they cannot understand their language. Little do they realize English is the universal language, so they’re well equipped for simple conversation at the very least. If anything, learning a few phrases to get around is easy when you have a translator right in your pocket.
Fear of travel boils down to comfort and, unfortunately, ignorance. I asked six people to tell me their favorite country and they all chose America. We live in an American bubble. We live in a country of convenience, and I am by no means complaining. America has so much to offer. But when we’d rather be comfortable than inconvenienced for the sake of growth, we’ll reach the end of road most often traveled and then the American dream will be dead.