It’s true that nothing beats the actual experience, of personally seeing the wonders of the world, engaging in conversations with the locals, taking a photo of iconic places with your own camera, of literally stepping foot on a foreign land. But sometimes, some of us, just can’t travel for various reasons—fear, finances, responsibilities, time, health, etc. For those reasons and contrary to popular belief, I say, you don’t have to travel to see the world.
1. WATCH*. A college professor once told me that the most idiotizing activity in this modern world is watching TV. I used to believe that until I became addicted to NatGeo and Discovery Channel’s shows. I was able to learn a lot about cultures different than my own, see the most amazing landscapes and cityscapes of the world and know the personal stories of strangers without leaving my couch.
2. READ. Reading makes the things you get from watching TV more meaningful because you have the freedom to use your imagination and expand your creativity. Much of the things I know about Japanese culture came from books, fiction or non-fiction, I read. When I lived in Japan, not only did the things I learned from my reading cemented my knowledge about Japanese society but reading actually complemented some social aspects that are otherwise hidden from a foreigner like me.
3. BROWSE. Thanks to the internet revolution, information are now merely a click away. Check the stories travelers around the world freely shared to you.
4. MEET. There’s nothing as enriching your knowledge of other countries and their cultures as talking to those who lived there. Greet travelers, ask questions and befriend them. Most travelers would like to interact with locals so take advantage of that next time you see a foreigner wandering around. Those are rare, free, personal and firsthand information.
5. LOOK INSIDE. You don’t have to cross borders to have the most memorable adventure of your lifetime. Explore your own country. Hop on a bus, sail on a ship or walk along the trail to get to your destination. It is usually cheaper without having to sacrifice much of your time, money and other responsibilities.
There are countless essays, lists and guides written that encourage people to travel the world. They serve as sources of inspirations for those who fear traveling alone, loathe being out of their comfort zones and have no idea that there is so much to see in this world. Words of experienced travel writers continuously inspire us to seek the unknown and indulge into different cultures with an open mind and an understanding heart. But sometimes, I cannot ignore the fact that some people just can’t afford to travel for acceptable reasons. My mom, for one, has fear of heights and the only time she rode a plane was to attend my wedding. That’s quite a reason for her to brush off her acrophobia just once.
But there are more reasons why other people cannot travel.
Leisure traveling is usually perfect, or more appropriate, for individuals with at least an average monthly income, single and male. I know these are stereotypes but before you rebut, let me explain.
1. Traveling requires a lot of money. The phrase “a lot” there is relative. A thousand US dollars may not be much for some but it could be a lifetime worth of savings for others. When you live in a developing country and sitting below the middle class social stratum, it is only logical for you to spend your income, or if any, your extra income, for your basic necessities—food, shelter, clothes and education. You might have read inspirations from some who saved their income for a year, quit their job and traveled the next year. That simply won’t work for many. Let’s take the case of my own country, the Philippines. In 2009, the average annual income of a household was around 4,500USD while the average annual household expenditures reached around 3,900USD.** These rough estimates show that an average family saves at least 600USD annually. There is a really good blog that I follow whose authors traveled South America in a little more than 6 months and spent around 10,000USD noting that they did volunteer works and couchsurfing to cut off accommodation expenses. An average family in the Philippines would take at least 16 years to save that much and see that part of the world.
2. Traveling is easier for those without responsibilites. I am not saying that it is impossible; you will find a lot of families traveling together tagging their month-old babies. There are great tips out there for those who want to travel with their kids without much hassle. Take this scenario. You’re married and you want to travel but your spouse cannot afford to take a break from work; unless you won’t feel the guilt of leaving your partner burning at work while you are exploring the wonders of the world, there’s nothing wrong with that. You could take turns if your schedules do not permit traveling together. Here’s another scenario. You have kids and your favorite airline just released promo tickets redeemable during the school days and you have no one to ask for babysitting your brood. An individual has much more freedom to see the world anytime at his/her convenience is s/he is single.
3. Traveling is not 100% safe. I don’t mean to scare you but I want you to be careful. You might have heard of stories from travelers who were robbed, kidnapped, lost, jailed, think of the worst. Some would say it’s worth the experience. True. But it’s definitely not worth your life. Let’s face reality; backpacking alone, often in developing countries, is sometimes dangerous. If you are female, pretty and with modelesque figure, I suggest not to go alone strolling around my country. It would be safer to have someone with you, dress in something that is not eye-catchy and avoid going out on the streets at night. There are effective tips out there to ensure your safety while traveling. Make sure you are armed with enough country-specific information when planning your trip.
This is not meant to discourage anyone from seeing the world but this keeps us grounded to the reality we are in. “Go for it” is easier said than done, at least for some. There are exceptional stories of traveling with the least cost possible, globetrotting the world with the whole clan or young females discovering things outside their comfort zones and they were truly inspirational. But I hope that this gives an alternative for those who want to see the world but cannot due to their own limitations. As they say, life is short and it must be lived to its fullest. How to fulfill this popular saying varies from one to another; and all ways are equally perfect.
*Watch TV in moderation. Anything excessive is harmful.
**Note that inflation rate was not even included in these figures. Source: NSO 2009 Family Income and Expenditure Survey
- Last cartoon c/o http://www.xkcd.com