Tourism, With A Side Of Culture

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I am a snob. Yes, I admit it. When someone says they like to travel and then regale me with tales of cruise ships, all-inclusive resorts, and the Grand Canyon … my eyes glaze over. I whisper to myself … “Self, they have no idea”. But a conversation the other day left me thinking of another version. And of another perspective.

Nikki made an off-the-cuff comment that there were a lot of places here in the US that she really wanted to see. And I agreed, there are many. But her statement also triggered a memory in me of my father. “Why would I want to travel anywhere outside of America when I haven’t seen all of it yet?“. A very superior and America-First mentality, right? And one which always triggers that snobbish response. But I never really stopped to think about the whys behind it all.

Sure for some, wanting to stay within the known is fear of the unknown. Being in a place with different languages feels terrifying at times. And there are also those who absolutely adhere to tribalism and would only leave the Greatest Country On Earth at gunpoint. But with our conversation, I suddenly had the vision that the differences in travel styles are really between two other concepts.

Yes, the US has incredible sights. Oceans, mountains, plains, giant cracks in the ground. You can visit the four corners and have completely different food in each. Just the way the sky and land looks is night and day different as compared to being on the opposite coast. Indeed, America is a land of wonder. But it also has a limitation. And it’s in that category that I have my own preference.

Regardless of where you travel in the United States, the culture is the same. Now I know many of you just went into teenage girl speak … “What do you mean we all look the same? Her hair is 0.00005″ shorter than mine! We’re sooooo not alike!“. Yes, there are minor differences between states and regions. Accents, those foodstuffs I mentioned earlier, even politics. But generally speaking, when in the US you’re experiencing American culture. So regardless of where you travel and what you see, the underlying foundation is … America.

Now for many, perhaps that’s all that is wanted. But I believe it’s also because it’s what just about everyone knows. Everything else is just a concept from magazines and books. We have two borders, one which speaks the same language and looks a lot like this country. And the other … well, it’s demonized and a lot of citizens believe it shouldn’t be allowed to touch us. As Americans, we have virtually zero experience with diversity and borders. Which means we have zero experience with different cultures.

I responded to Nikki that there were perhaps two remaining parts of the country that had enough cultural diversity that I would consider them to be “travel”. One being Hawaii and the other Alaska. There are cultures in each that hold on to the original ways. Then again, maybe not. America is a land of vanilla ice cream, where assimilation is key to survival. Sure, keep serving Arrroz Con Pollo at dinner, but call it Chicken And Rice. Because that’s what being an American is. Fitting in.

I choose to “travel” not because I want scenery changes. I can literally do that anywhere. And regardless of where I find myself, something new will meet my eyes and senses. But if I want to experience a different culture … that requires me to be outside of the states.

I’m trying hard to be less of a snob. Even as I’m typing these words, I’m finding myself fighting against some pompous comment that is sure to be pointed at the cruise ship industry and its clients. I do get that all people are different, and pleasure is personal. But I also worry that for some people, they limit themselves because they simply don’t know what it’s like on the other side of our dotted lines.

When Nikki and I start our loop around the world next year, I’m going to be focusing on travel videos. But I don’t want them to be “travel videos”. Anyone can point a camera at an attraction and tell you about the admission fees, lines, and what’s inside. That’s scenery. That’s tourism. What I want to do is share the feelings of another culture. The people. What it’s like to be in the midst of something truly different. From all angles, from sweet goodness to sheer horror. One, because that’s what I enjoy and I want to try to share with others. But also because if I can help someone experience something new, and it enhances their life somehow (all without me preaching the holy dogma of travel) … then the world becomes a little closer. A little more intimate.

I have been throughout north and south america, europe, asia, and even a touch of Africa. And regardless of culture, I have found that people are pretty much the same. All wanting happiness. All striving for better opportunities for their families. But it’s in the how that they do that which I find irresistible. For there are so many paths to joy. And to share in their lives and experiences is the greatest gift I could ever receive.

So yes, I need to be less pompous. I need to understand that there are cultures of travelers and cultures of vacationers. And that all cultures are worth experiencing and learning. Even the ones I don’t understand or particularly enjoy. There is room for everyone on this journey.



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