Walt Whitman wrote, “Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road. Healthy, free, the world before me, The long brown path before leading wherever I choose.” As long as there have been people, there has been travel. For nearly as long, some folks trek simply to see and to experience different places.
These days, travelling to far away places is big business. In many parts of the world, you can travel down that fabled brown path that Whitman described to another country. Many of us would rather fly, take a train or travel by ship to our destination of choice. But go, we must.
I’ve long been an advocate of long distance tourism. It’s one of the most enjoyable and satisfying ways in which to expand your personal, inner horizons. I’ve often wished I could bring a xenophobe along with me out of the country. I don’t stay in luxury, resort hotels. Why bother with that? You might as well stay at home. No, I’d rather mingle with the regular people of the countries I visit.
My hypothetical xenophobic fellow traveller can learn to enjoy the host country close up and personal. If you can befriend a citizen of another country before you plan your trip, you may find yourself with the treat of a more wonderful destination than the travel agencies can present.
My xenophobic companion would ride common carrier class in trains and busses alongside me, my new friend and the other citizens of our host country. We might stay in the home of my new, overseas friend. Or we may find lodging in a small boarding house or cozy hotel. We’d enjoy the regional, traditional foods and celebrate the local festivals and holidays with the inhabitants of the towns and villages. I predict that soon my hypothetical fellow traveller will lose his xenophobia and wish that he might stay away from home a little while longer.
I know that if he can fully experience the day to day existance of people and cultures of another land, he will concurrently travel to new places within his own mind. Whatever sum he invests on his vacation abroad will bring a rich return in personal growth and deeper understanding of his fellow humans.
Today is the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s World Tourism Day. The UNWTO hopes that today will bring more awareness about the role of tourism to the world. The UNWTO hopes to demonstrate the positive contributions of world tourism to cultural, economic, social and political values everywhere.
Even if travelling abroad is not economically feasible for you this year, I recommend that you take some time to learn about the people, culture and civilization of a country you’ve dreamed about visiting. Investigate, in depth, on the web or check out materials at your local public library. Most libraries have tourist guides of the popular tourist destinations. It’s really more effective to hold, in your own hands, a book and map describing your destination.
You can choose hotels, restaurants, places of interest and cultural events. You can daydream a little and imagine the things you’ll learn. I hope you can depart very soon.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes an anonymous sign he saw on one of his travels, “If you lived here, you’d be home now”.