I recently heard an interview with Thomas Swick, a long-time travel writer who has a new book out – Joys of Travel. This isn’t a travel guide to finding restaurants and cathedrals; it’s about the experience of traveling.
Luckily my husband enjoys travel, which has allowed me to be a tag-along. Personally, I’m a home-body. The idea of a travel bucket list makes me envision racing through famous places. 1,000 Places See Before You Die tires me out just thinking about it, so I appreciated Swick’s opposite advice. He says, the less glamorous the location, the more rewarding it can be. Don’t simply be a tourist looking for the “best” hotels, restaurants, and museums. Try to live, if only briefly, the life of a local. He made one specific suggestion: go to the local post office, stand in line, hopefully chat with people, and buy stamps.
In Europe, 71% hold passports. Only 36% of Americans hold passports. That doesn’t count non-citizens, of course, who live in the US with their own country’s passport, so the total number of residents with passports is 42%, but that doesn’t mean many of us travel every year. William Chalmers figures that in 2009, just 5% of American residents traveled outside North America.
The size of the US must be considered – we can travel vast distances without ever “leaving home.” I’ve seen mountains, deserts, and oceans; museums and historical sites; bustling markets and live theater – all without leaving home. But none of the deep-seated cultural differences that world-travelers experience.
One of Swick’s “joys” is appreciating home. Whenever you travel, you’re learning about home. He says the multi-cultural make-up of the US is something he has come to appreciate.
Maybe that makes up a little for what this home-body has missed.
BTW – Swick’s seven joys of travel are: anticipation, movement, break from routine, novelty, discovery, emotional connection, and appreciation of home.