26 October, 2008

On Travel and the American Mindset Against It

On the walk home from the market yesterday my classmate and I compared notes. Being from Australia she has a very different sense of the world than I do. It got me thinking...

As a young person living on an isolated continent, there is an expectation in Australia that you will travel the world. This girl is only 23 and has been to so many places she can't even recall them all. She tells me that while she and a friend would be wandering the streets of Hong Kong or New Delhi, she would often run into other Australians doing the same thing.

In contrast I've grown up in a country that has an inflated sense of self. There is a deep rooted feeling engrained into us that America has it all, and has it the best... so why bother traveling, right?

It is incredibly expensive to travel within the US, much less outside of it. There are many roadblocks and issues to deal with when you leave the country. Just preparing to travel can be a very big chore. It's like they want to make you feel guilty for wanting something more than America. "I'm sorry, I really want to visit Burma, is that okay with you?" you're supposed to ask.

In America travel is seen as a luxury. People who travel often are "lucky" and living an exotic lifestyle. But in Australia, you're an idiot if you don't leave the island. How different the mindset must be to grow up feeling that it is natural and important to travel to unfamiliar places, instead of feeling that it's unusually decadent to fly coach to another country for a week.

I spent the walk home listening to my classmate, realizing I have missed out on a important part of life. And I promised myself that I would take steps to change that fact because I feel so ignorant of the goings on in the world around me. I suppose that is the result of growing up in a culture that encourages us to stay put, and be proud of it. America! Fuck yeah!

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