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Planes, Trains and Automobiles…..and…Boats

French TER at Que?vy - flickr creative commons

I have never personally been outside this country.  And except for a trip to Iowa a number of years ago to accompany a friend, never been west of the Mississippi. One of my sisters had as part of a missionary group  and my mother besides being stationed on France during WWII, had been to Europe a number of times. As well as living in New Zealand and Australia during her youth.

Until recently I have had little motivation to travel outside this country. But now that I am retired, I would like to make at least on trip to Europe. If I could I would spend a year or so circumnavigating the globe but this is far, far outside my financial arena.

You simply cannot get the feeling of what life is like someplace else without actually spending some time there.  I don’t mean some tourist package where all you actually see are those places and people in the brochure.   And most business people who travel just spend time with other business people.

One of the biggest problems this country has is it’s physical isolation from the rest of the world. Sure there is international cable TV and cell phones and the internet but most of what you get through these is still highly edited propaganda from sources with their own agenda.

Then there are various documentaries from PBS and National Geographic.  Most have a condescending arrogance about them or are as dry as the desert southwest.   The only series of this type that I have found to be informative AND gives you the kind of deep intimate insight at all has been the travel adventures of Michael Palin.  A number of which are available on you tube beginning with his first. A tracing of the fictional trip made my one Phineas Fogg.  I have watched the first three he did twice and got a lot from them.

And as good as these travel series by Palin are, it’s not the same as being there and few would get to experience anything like them.   The sad truth is that most Americans rarely get a chance to travel outside the country and when they do it’s usually some “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium”  kind of tour.  Where the see all the basic tourist spots and spend most of their time with other Americans.

So they remain woefully ignorant of what life is like anywhere else and have little contact with anyone except other Americans.    Their view of the world being as narrow as someone on a remote island.

This was not always the case. For one thing, travel outside the US was a lot more affordable. Air fares where lower and the the dollar went further in other countries.  And then there was the draft. In the years between the Korean conflict and the Vietnam build up, if you were drafted or enlisted you likely would spend that time in Europe or Japan. At least that was something.

These days is a lot more expensive and out of reach of most. And now the world is far too dangerous to go to too many places. Michael Palin certainly could not do his circumnavigation like he did today. For one, most of the Middle East would have to be bypassed.

This is a shame.

I myself am planning to go to Europe next year to attend an Amateur Radio Convention in Germany. I know someone in Germany and hope tom get a line on inexpensive accommodations. But we will see. But even with that I feel fortunate as my hobby allows me to make contact people outside the US I otherwise would not.

Unlike those in Europe who have no choice but to know what their neighbors are doing and how they feel about it, out geographic isolation I believe works against us in our understanding what the rest of the world thinks and how the really feel.   Americans live so much in a bubble with their news so filtered, it’s no wonder they seem stupid.

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