I’m from the United States, and I’ve lived here my whole life. Even though the country is huge, you’d think that in the past 23 years I would’ve seen a fair amount of it. Not true.
I’ve thought about this off and on since my first dip into international travel six years ago. It’s puzzling, for sure. Why have I been to five other countries’ capitals but not my own? It’s certainly easier and cheaper in many ways to travel within the US as an American, but when I think about “traveling,” my mind automatically jumps to foreign destinations. I’m sure I’m not the only one who does that.
I think two basic mentalities contribute to my thinking:
“More of the Same”
I’ll admit, I find it much more thrilling to visit a new country than another state. There are different languages, currencies, modes of transportation to experience. Usually there’s a long flight, which to me conveys, “Hey, we’re actually going somewhere!”
Traveling domestically is the opposite of that. The people speak the same language, there’s no currency exchange, and you’ll see the same chain restaurants and stores (mostly). It can seem like a new location is way too similar to wherever you started out from, and that’s just not as exciting.
I travel internationally to experience new things and get out of my comfort zone, and sometimes a trip across the state border seems like it can’t deliver that.
“Family Vacation Blues”
Growing up, most of our trips were family vacations, either going to visit relatives or the four of us heading out on our own. We also traveled a lot for sporting events, like me and my brothers’ swim meets. The sports left me too tired or busy to do any exploring, usually, and I don’t really count those as trips.
Family vacations to visit relatives in New Jersey or Florida were spent hanging around the house, preparing meals for the group or maybe going to the mall. Occasionally we went to amusement parks, the zoo or the beach, but I don’t remember exploring the cities or visiting many tourist attractions that had any “cultural” value.
Sightseeing was not the main focus of these family vacations, which is fine – I feel very fortunate to see my extended family fairly often – but I think that contributed to this notion I have that domestic travel is somehow sub-par to international travel.
I’ve been trying to dispel that notion. Now that I’m older, with a car and a (meager) income, I can head out on my own for some fun. My husband and I are fans of weekend getaways – we love Living Social for that. Our recent trip to San Francisco was the first trip in a while my family took to a new destination just for fun – no extended family to visit.
I’m making a personal resolution (starting now – who needs New Year’s?) to begin thinking like a traveler even when I’m at home in my own city and country. It’s certainly easier to travel at home. No passport, no customs, no language barrier, and usually airfare is much cheaper. Maybe I’ll visit the state Capitol Building, which I haven’t been to since a field trip in the second grade, or I’ll plan a getaway and explore a side of my own country I’ve never seen before.
I’ll be putting this vow into play with an upcoming belated birthday trip to Asheville, a city in my own state I’ve never been to, which is renowned for its natural beauty, fun-loving atmosphere and artistic scene. And beer.