Being the aspiring foreign correspondent that I am, travel is something of a passion of mine. Admittedly, I haven’t had the opportunities to travel as much as I would prefer but give me time; I’m only 21. I’ve had a thousand plans on places to visit and a thousand more ideas on what to do once there but there always seems to be one chief concern: money. Of course there are other issues like jobs, leases, and such but it all seems to tie back to money. That being said, I recently found this Time article and this blog post from everyone’s favorite Catalog of Thoughts that gave me some serious hope.
More or less, the point of those posts is to explain the many ways in which one can travel the world for little to no money if you’re smart and perhaps very charming. Seriously, those Irish kids are just awesome. If I could get to Buenos Aires for free in a day I’d probably just consider that year of my life a success. Two of them even went to the Vatican, dressed up as priests, and applied for what I can only assume was the then vacant (by a couple days) seat of the Pope.
It has long been a dream of mine to travel to all seven continents, spend a year or so living at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, and to hike in Alaska in a not-quite-as-stupid Into the Wild fashion. I want visit every country I can, immerse myself in cultures unknown, and come back with the stories only a traveler can tell. Basically, I want to be Anthony Bourdain with less coke addiction in my twenties. Hell, my uncle did it (the travel not the coke), why can’t I?
I speculate the thing holding so many twenty-something-would-be-explorers back from those fantastic adventures is the fear of not being able to establish themselves once they’re out of college. Having gone through college in a less than stable job market where the emphasis for many classic fields *cough writing cough cough* has sharply declined and created this very real fear that you have to hit the ground running once that diploma is in your hand. Thus recent grads flock to mediocre entry positions, minimally paid (if they’re lucky) internships, and part time jobs just to try and establish themselves in the “real world” rather than exploring the bounty our world has to offer. Imagine if recent grads put all that time and energy spent applying to dozen of job into booking trips and saving up money for said trips.
Perhaps I’m naïve or a dreamer, but I feel like an American culture that encouraged such exposure to the world beyond our shores would result in a far more insightful and generous generation of Americans. It is through our time with people unlike ourselves that we grow as thinkers, givers, and hopefully lovers. Not that I have personal experience but I don’t often hear complaints of hooking up with people abroad. Our world always seems to be walking this razor thin edge of war because we simply do not understand our would-be enemy. Ignorance is not bliss; no, ignorance starts fights. If people had the opportunity when they were younger and more idealistic to see these cultures firsthand, it could create a sense of universal common ground. Common ground breeds friendship, which breeds love, which breeds community, which breeds peace.
I believe Maya Angelou sums it up best, “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”