Until I entered the blogosphere I truly believed that I was well traveled. As an undergraduate in college I studied abroad on three separate occasions on three different continents and before I reached the age of 21 I had visited 14 countries on five continents. In the five years since I graduated from college, I’ve added two new countries to my list of nations visited (soon to be a third later this week) along with some repeats to perennial favorites (Mexico and France) as well as some fantastic domestic vacations (Hawaii, Disneyland, Chicago and Asheville). During this time I also got a master’s degree, got married and morphed into adulthood (the latter being for better or worse).
Excluding my great-uncle who has been to every continent, it would be fair to say that among my circle of family and friends, I’m the next best traveled. Both my parents and maternal grandparents certainly traveled a lot but it was mainly European countries. I was the first to go to Central America, South America and Asia. D and I know a woman who, prior to her honeymoon to Cancun, Mexico, had never been outside of the United States before. She came back from Cancun, one of the least authentic Mexican places in my opinion (that is in the touristy areas, downtown Cancun is an entirely different matter), swearing to never traveled outside of the United States again. When there all she craved was hamburgers and other typically American food (what’s ironic is that she and her husband stayed at an all-inclusive resort where exotic gourmet dining is usually not the norm). She didn’t have an abysmal time or experience anything traumatic, she just didn’t like being outside of her somewhat provincial comfort zone, a sentiment shared by many people. So yes, compared to this woman, I know that I am quite the world traveler.
When I come across blogs whose owners have been to more countries than I can possibly keep track of in my head, I’m simply amazed. Eighty countries makes the 16 countries I’ve visited seem inconsequential. I read posts on their trips to such exotic locales as Burma (Myanmar), Namibia, and Easter Island and while I don’t want or mean to, I become highly envious. But then I remind myself of the situations of these individuals, some unique, some less so, that allow them to travel as much as they do. They do not live in the United States and so travel to countries in Asia, Africa and Europe is not nearly as costly or as far a distance. These expatriates live in parts of the world that grant absurdly large amounts of vacation time where taking two, two week long vacations along with other trips throughout the year is possible. They also reside in cities where budget airlines are above par and actually travel to more than just domestic destinations. True and true, I will always be jealous of the life of the expat (thanks Papa Hemingway) and wish one day I could return to it.
The other half of these mind boggling countries visited blog owners are the perpetual backpackers-those who according to their blog’s logos “have sold all of their worldly possessions so that they could travel the world.” I’m all for traveling the world but from my personal perspective, I’m not in favor of giving up the shoes on my feet that I sold to child just so I could “keep on traveling.” I suppose simply put, I’m too much of a prima donna (at least from a traveling perspective, I’m pretty down to earth otherwise) to only travel for months on end with what can fit into a backpack. No, it’s not that I can’t travel without my hair styling accouterments like a hair dryer or flat iron (I use neither by the way) or a favorite pair of Jimmy Choos (which I don’t own). While there are days I would like to throw caution to the wind and just pick up and travel, at the end of the day (day being a figurative term), I’d probably still want to have somewhere to come back to, whether in the states or abroad, somewhere that was at least home to me.
Even taking into account the two types of demographics that constitute the 80 plus countries these individuals have visited, the bigger picture remains that very little of the world is “off the beaten path” anymore. So while I certainly feel envious when I see blog posts on the ruins of Angkor Wat and pictures of the wildlife at Ngorongoro Crater, I know that these bloggers are not alone there; in fact some blog posts and guidebooks I’ve read say many of the world’s most stunning and historic attractions are being inundated with tourists, some to the point that their preservation is at stake. In some blogging circles, the same geographical route one blogger is undertaking has been undertaken countless times before him or her. One hundred years ago, traveling on safari to Africa, going to the Far East, hiking in South America, was exotic and unimaginable to the masses. Those that went on these journeys were true Indiana Jones types. Not to discount the traveling exploits of today’s wanderers, but there is very little of the world left untouched by traveling exploration other than places deemed too unsafe or dangerous. It’s for this reason that I not only blog about travel but also cooking since I feel food is one of the most important facets of travel; it’s vital to truly experiencing a country, to understanding a culture, not to mention it can also provide one of the most long lasting memories you’ll ever have.