Take Off and Go!
Theres no denying the genuine wonder and excitement of a jaunt overseas. If you're already a seasoned traveler with extra pages in your passport, this is hardly breaking news. Yet surprisingly few people take the opportunity, beyond a couple of weeks' vacation, to explore our world for an extended period.
Meaningful travel, in our opinion, educates you and expands your consciousness. It takes many forms, but two major factors unquestionably affect the depth of your trip: the duration of the journey, and how comfortable and familiar the surroundings are.
Here's a depressing statistic: numbers from the U.S. Department of State suggest that only about twenty percent of Americans have valid passports. Is it any wonder that we as a nation are sometimes baffled by other countries' views of the United States, when just one in five of us are crossing our borders to see what's out there? Our national ignorance of the world's affairs can have dangerous effects on international politics and policy. Consider this: the United States is routinely outvoted at the United Nations one-hundred-forty to five. And according to a University of Maryland poll in September 2004, thirty of our thirty-five closest allies oppose U.S. policies.
This leads us to our second premise: not only is travel extremely beneficial for your personal growth and exploration, but it also serves a higher purpose - increased cultural understanding, tolerance, and goodwill. As Mark Twain so keenly observed, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." So think of travel as a significant responsibility - to yourself and those around you.
How long should your trip be? Only you can decide, but keep in mind that many before you have gone away a year or more and survived (and thrived) to tell the tale. Just take a look at the Aussies, known to go on walkabout for years at a time, if you need inspiration. Worried about marring your resume? Don't be. Savvy employers understand now more than ever that people need breaks from their day-to-day work. Think you're too old to travel, or have too many commitments
at home? You're not, and you don't. Couples and families grow closer through their travel experiences. Homes can be sold or rented,
bills can be paid in advance, pets cared for, children shipped off to boarding school (okay, we're kidding here). The point is, you'll always find excuses for not going, but how will these excuses sound ten or twenty years from now?
The important point is this: if you're fortunate enough to have the opportunity, take off and go!