As an American, I am often surprised at how ignorant some of my fellow Americans can be. We like to think that we are the best country in the world and that there is nothing to learn from other places. After traveling so much, I think I have a pretty educated opinion about how far from the truth this really is. Not to mention how unwilling Americans are to travel, so few in fact that only 36% of Americans even have a valid passport (which is a record high). That means that 64% can’t travel outside of the USA.
Over the years, I have heard some interesting comments about traveling. I’ve put together my top 10 favorites of what people have told me when I told them I was a traveler or about to travel so break out some popcorn and join me in some laughter.
10 “Be careful in France, there are Muslims there.”
I could not hold back frustration and laughter when I was told this. Where do I even start? There are Muslims everywhere in the world even in our precious America. What this conversation escalated into was unbelievable. They proceeded to tell me that they were almost killed by Muslims and I proceeded to explain that someone who practices the Muslim religion is different than a terrorist. That is a huge problem here in the good old US of A. This is like saying don’t go to the south there are black people there. Okay, yes but how does that translate into danger? Go places and take in new cultures and new people, I promise it will make you a more educated individual.
9 “You can’t go to Germany, ISIS is there looking to kill Americans.”
8 “Don’t go there it isn’t safe.”
Is anywhere really safe? I’m from a large city where we have major crime just like any other American metropolis. I am just as likely to be robbed where I grew up, as I am anywhere else in the world. But of course, I travel smart even at home. I’m not going to walk down a dark alley at night regardless of where I am. Traveling doesn’t mean you will be unsafe it just means that you should keep an extra eye out since you are not familiar with your surroundings, but you should do that anywhere.
7 “Why would you leave the best country ever?”
Okay, assume that America IS the “best country ever” (oh and this does not make me unpatriotic). There are many countries that are amazing and even, get this, a few that could be perceived as better. For example, in Germany and Finland anyone, even a foreigner, can get a free education. They do this because they believe (and so do I) that in the long run those educated people will help their economy and community even if they do not decide to stay after their studies. They believe in the overall good of the people, regardless of where you are from. Don’t get me wrong, America is a great country and I will always be thankful to have been born and raised here, but we could learn a lot from other countries as well.
Leaving America to see a new place doesn’t take away from our pride. If anything you will return home having a new appreciated love for our country. After living in another country I came back home to the USA. I love it here and I believe that that life experience made me a stronger person. Just because you leave doesn’t mean you can’t come back.
6 “Haven’t you seen the movie Taken? You shouldn’t travel.”
Yes, bad things happen but they can happen anywhere and it should not keep you from experiencing new places. This is also why Hollywood has way too much power on how we perceive the world. Just because you travel doesn’t mean you will find yourself in the middle of a Michael Bay movie. This is one hypothetical situation that some scriptwriter thought would bring in ticket sales. Come on now.
5 “Don’t go to Egypt, they had a revolution.”
Egypt has been on the top of my bucket list for pretty much my whole life. I ended up going in 2004, and now we are many years after the revolution. When I had the opportunity to go, I wasn’t going to hesitate. When I went to Thailand many of my friends and family begged me not to go. They were afraid I would die.
I don’t understand why all the concern. Yes I do understand that some places have governments that are not as stable as we consider our own to be, yet that does not necessarily mean that the country is unsafe. Egypt has been going through many transitions, but after talking to friends who live there and friends who had traveled there I was never concerned. And I was right. It was a great place to visit and I never felt unsafe. They are dying for tourism due to this stigma and we were welcomed with open arms. If you ever get the chance it is a great place to visit with a vast history and great people.
4 “You’re just leaving to avoid paying taxes.”
This was told to me when I first moved to Taiwan with my wife. I ended up living there for two years and yes I paid taxes in the US for both of those years. The USA is only one of two countries that, if you are a citizen you must pay taxes, unless you are paying taxes in that country you live in and if US has an exemption with that country for otherwise. When I moved to Thailand I was ridiculed for abandoning my country to avoid paying taxes. I was living in Taiwan legally and paying taxes in my home country that I didn’t live in. I would never try to avoid paying for my home country, however many Americans that are expats in a foreign country are renouncing their citizenship because of paying taxes that do not benefit them. In any other place (except the USA and one other country) you only pay taxes in the country you live in, regardless of where you are a citizen, which makes sense to me.
3 “You are unpatriotic if you leave America”
Unpatriotic? Don’t get me wrong, I love my home country and I am very proud to be American, yet that doesn’t mean I have to stay here my whole life. If anything traveling has made me appreciate where I come from even more than I did before. Plus, we could all learn a lot by understanding and experiencing new cultures. Saying that someone is unpatriotic because they leave to go experience somewhere new is ignorant. We love to show off that we are “the freest country in the world” (which is not true), yet we are criticized if we leave? If I’m so free then why are my fellow Americans giving me crap for traveling?
2 “You moved to Taiwan? I give it two weeks before your wife is a sex worker.”
Okay really? Are Americans that naive to think that anywhere that isn’t America is that evil? While yes, the sex industry is booming in Taiwan it doesn’t mean that just because I go there I will be abducted. Or for that matter, that we can’t pay our own way and would be forced into selling ourselves to make ends meet. Taiwan is a beautiful country and while every country has problems with sex trafficking, it should never keep you from visiting. Plus you’d be surprised how much sex trafficking goes on in the USA, look it up, I dare you.
1 “You are so lucky.”
This is the worst thing you could ever say to anyone that travels frequently. While yes, I am fortunate that I was raised in a family that encouraged me to follow my dreams, I did not win a golden ticket, no one handed me the life I live and no I am not rich and my family doesn’t not pay for my travel… I work. I work very hard in fact in order to travel. No one gave me this life, I fought for it thus I am not lucky. If it had been my dream to be an accountant and went to school and worked really hard for a good accounting job would you tell me I was lucky? I didn’t think so and my career choice is no different. Anyone can travel, however Americans choose not to. If you want to get out and see the world you can. Just find a way, book a ticket and do it!