Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Get Out Much?

I really need to get out of the country---it's been way too long. Once I took my first trip abroad, I knew travel had to be a priority in my life, but it's so easy to let the months and years slip by without "getting out". I'm taking a trip in the fall, but in the meantime, here's one of my favorite rants on Americans and travel.

For me, traveling is a huge part of developing identity and perspective, both of which seem to be in short supply around these parts. Despite---and perhaps because of---our ultra-connectivity, we are so often isolated in this country. Though we have the beautiful illusion of "globalization" and being a part of a world melting pot, in reality we have almost as much wool in our eyes as the Chinese about what it's like beyond our borders.

Most of our "experience" of the world is beamed into our our living rooms and PCs through a highly filtered lens. And though it's not the consciously state-imposed censorship enjoyed in China and other countries, our own brand of media-enabled ignorance is pretty mind-boggling if you stop to look at it. When you go out into the world or even engage other cultures within our borders, you realize that the shiny screen doesn't begin to capture the essence of actually experiencing that exchange in person. Television, movies and the news media so often create a fantasy world that runs on stereotypes and bite sized versions of reality.

The puzzling part about all this is that for most of us, this isolation is completely voluntary; about 80% of Americans don't even have a passport. Though many can afford to travel, it's either impractical or just not a priority. We're allotted 14 out of 365 days in the year to explore the world. And unlike many other countries, extended gaps in employment taken for travel are generally frowned upon. So that's under 4% of our lives. 4% of the less than 20% of the country who decides to get out there---how modern is that?

I'm not attacking Americans for not traveling or the media for perpetuating world stereotypes to get ratings. Because we're all complicit in this dance. I am attacking the roots of a stagnant mindset that weighs us all down. It's this head-in-the-sand ignorance that's led to much of our foreign policy blunders and the resulting global PR nightmare in which we find ourselves today. We can do and have done so much better. And I believe we will again. And the beauty of travel is that it's transformative; it's as much about reconnecting with ourselves as it is about connecting with the world.


blog prince said...

I think everyone should be required by law to travel and see the world. And not just to London. The Peace Corps should be required service for everyone between the ages of 18 to instead of being essentially an unstructured and ultimately hollow sham. Everyone should be required to go for two years sometime between the ages of 18 and 25.We all need to get out and see how the other half lives. My time in Russia and Israel and other places made me realize at a young age how lucky we have it here in the states. I think the reason why people don't travel is because we do have it too good here. And they don't want to feel guilty or begin to question the fairness of all that we enjoy. Let's not forget that our current P.O.T.U.S. had NEVER been outside of the U.S. until he was president. NEVER. Not even Canada.

keeeefor said...

I can't hide any longer from this blog; its too close to my heart. The aforementioned comment regarding how our 'experience of the world is beamed into our living rooms and PCs' struck a chord with me.
Too many of us absorb the human element through highly segregated means, (TV, radio, internet, and telephony), leaving great parts of the populous with one of a variety of "filtered" P.O.V.'s, and this alone in itself, is never beneficial.
We are social creatures. We've been bred that way.

My instincts to pick up and go or "monk out" usually tend to kick in about twice a year, usually in the warmer months. But alas, I am under the thumb of the 925 office at this time, albeit the instinct is alive and well. It never leaves.
I think that many of us get so caught up in our routines of seeking money and security that it is virtually impossible for some of us to break away from our antiquated systems. In all fairness, some of us need to work 2-3 jobs just to keep our kids fed.
And if you're rich, well, then you can do what you want. Travel anywhere you wanna go. Its not fair, its never been fair...most of us aren't rich, nor are we middle-class, and the issue facing me, in my personal life, is to find a a more meaningful way to "fill out" my life more. To expand my experience. To make as much time for travel and play as I do for the "necessities."