When talking travel and living abroad, whether it’s with an old friend or a complete stranger, it’s rare to find a person with no desire to explore new places and see the world. Yet, so few North Americans actually take the plunge and throw themselves into a new culture and discover the meaning of life outside their own border.
OK, there are lots of people who make the jump, but nowhere near the majority. Considering how easy it is for Americans/Canadians to get a visa, it should be surprising how many choose to stay safe (and bored) in their homeland…sometimes even just their hometown!
Why is there an entire channel dedicated to travel if most of the country is terrified of it…oh wait, that makes sense. The guys having lots of dates usually aren’t the ones with a Playboy TV subscription…
I’ve scoured the corners of Middle America and Prairie Canada and uncovered the 5 biggest fears causing grown men and women to shake in their boots and stay far, far away from any airport with “International” in its name.
If a combination of fear and laziness has kept you from applying for your passport, keep reading. I hope I can help to ease your uneasiness.
As for the laziness, well, follow me on Facebook and I’m sure my “brag posts” and photos will eventually motivate you to make it happen.
Totally Untrue But Way Too Common Travel Fear #1:
If you don’t speak the native language you’ll end up starving, homeless and possibly covered in your own urine anywhere outside of the USA
Believe it or not, the educated guys and gals in just about every major city on earth are learning or have learnt English. Bonus: They practically salivate at any chance to practice it. People throughout South America pay mucho dinero to have a regular hour-long conversation with a native English speaker. Finding a random one on the street who’s willing to talk is like hitting the jackpot for them. Same in Asia and Europe. I’ve heard stories of girls sleeping with guys in Taiwan just so they could practice their English.
*Warning* Results may vary. Guys, don’t book a ticket on this urban legend alone!
There have been multiple times when I speak to a native in Spanish and they only respond to me in English… by choice! They are intrigued by other cultures and it helps your cause in meeting new people. Even if I’m in a country where I can physically pass as a native, as soon as I open my mouth and my accent is discovered, everyone around me wants to know where I’m from and what I’m doing here, etc.
I have lived in Germany for 3 months and while I recognize a lot of the words and can unconsciously understand them, I don’t speak any actual German other than yes, no, please and thank you. I did OK with my 4 words…actually I did much better than OK.
Totally Untrue But Way Too Common Travel Fear # 2:
Everything is expensive when you are abroad
Prices for goods, accommodation, and entertainment are going to be different no matter where you go. Different being the key word. Let’s compare Madrid to Miami: Entrances and drinks at popular night clubs may seem pretty steep, but excellent wine is rather cheap… and you get a free small snack with EVERY drink ordered at a bar. Can’t beat that, right? In Buenos Aires, the clothes and shoes are expensive and, generally speaking, of pretty bad quality. But wine and bottles of Tequila at clubs are very cheap, and you can get a 5-star steak dinner for 20 bucks.
Let’s be honest: if you are “vacationing”, you spend money. People tend to throw extra money around on nice dinners, souvenirs, or that one theater show the guide book said you MUST see. If you’re a Canadian doing those same activities in Vancouver, I promise you would spend even more money.
The trick is to live “like a local”. Instead of staying in a hotel, find an apartment on Craigslist and rent a room (avoid AirBnB if you want to stay on budget). Don’t take taxis if there is a bus or subway available. Buy your exotic fruits, meats, and vegetables at the local supermarket and take that opportunity to ask the cashier where his/her favourite restaurant, bar, theatre, beach, etc. is located. Chances are, they will lead you to decently cheap places and you will end up having a much more authentic experience. Win-win situation, right?
Initial flights will be expensive. Most likely, you will have to take a hit on that. But if you’re smart about it, that expense can be made up for by savings on alcohol, entertainment, or accommodation. I’m quite sure you can live just about anywhere on Earth on the same budget as long as you’re willing to compromise a bit and adjust your lifestyle to suit the local prices. For example, in Germany I drank a good amount of (great) German beer, and had a lot of eggs, dairy and sandwiches at home. All these things were priced VERY cheap there. Now I am in Italy and it seems dairy and eggs are more pricey, but Olives, Tomatoes and Cheeses are a better deal. It’s time to eat Italian.
Totally Untrue But Way Too Common Travel Fear # 3:
Foreigners hate Americans
A common fear is that many foreigners hold a grudge against Americans and can even be hostile towards them. I haven’t heard this fear verbally expressed a lot, but I think it lingers unconsciously in a lot of folks. Before going further with this, let’s be honest for one second: Americans tend to talk loud, typically can’t dance and have a habit of getting super wasted (super quickly).
Now you either just read the last paragraph and thought, “Ugh… completely annoying!” or “Dude, sounds like a great night out to me!” And you will find that foreigners will also form either thought A or thought B. Sure, some of the guys in Costa Rica don’t appreciate the Canadian spending money and hitting on their women, but you’ll find jealous men (and women) anywhere on Earth, including your hometown. Many foreign cities thrive from tourist circulation and will welcome you with open arms.
Hamburg, where I was just living, was bombed into rubble during the second World War. Within the 3 months my roommate has had two people comment along the lines of “It was a lot more beautiful of a city before you bombed it”. Personally, no one had said anything to me…although I really wish they would have so I could go into a little history lesson. Having spoken to over 100 locals I have found almost everyone to be extremely friendly and do their best to speak English to me.
I will admit, when they find out I am Canadian people are even nicer, but they were still kind when they assumed I was an American. Again, you find ignorance everywhere. Just as there are hicks hating on immigrants or minorities in the US, you can meet the odd idiot anywhere who is angry at his own situation and takes it out on whoever he can. This is certainly no reason to stay home. People in America hate on redheads all the time… does that mean gingers shouldn’t leave the house? 🙂
Totally Untrue But Way Too Common Travel Fear # 4:
If something goes wrong abroad you’ll have no insurance coverage, and even if you do, the service will be terrible
This is one of my favourite excuses not to travel, especially for Americans! Let’s break this down a few ways. First, fear of illness or injury should be a reason TO travel and to “seize the day” and have no regrets if something does happen down the road. Second, health care is quite cheap everywhere in the world… except North America.
This means emergency travel insurance is usually less than $40/month if you’re supplementing existing coverage.
That said, many health insurance plans include some form of worldwide coverage. What if you’re American and don’t have health insurance back home? Well, insurance and medical care will be cheaper in every other country that exists, so you’re better to be abroad if something does happen!
About one month ago I met an American girl at a bar. After conversing for a little while, we got on this topic. Apparently while visiting a friend in Buenos Aires she came down with something nasty. The origin was thought to be from some unwashed spinach, but you never know with these things. Point being, she eventually had to go to the doctor. She was able to make an appointment at a private clinic, get checked out, and get all the proper health care attention she needed within one day. And only ended up paying about 25 USD for everything! Try accomplishing that in America.
Totally Untrue But Way Too Common Travel Fear #5:
You will be missing out on your friendships and the activities happening at home
Yes, there will be amazing parties, funny stories, weddings, birthdays and births you will miss.
Personally, I have more than enough parties and funny stories wherever I am; and weddings and babies tend to make me nauseous. But for some people missing these events is point against travelling and/or living abroad. On the other hand, being out of the country is a pretty legit excuse in everyone’s book for not physically being there for those moments. So when you can book that one special 5-day return flight or set up that one skype session or send that one “sorry I couldn’t be there in person” birthday video, it goes far above and beyond. It’s what pushes friendships to grow.
Being away is a great way to filter the true friends from the I-hang-out-with-you-because-you’re-within-close-proximity friends.
In Conclusion And All That
Obviously these fears were at some point grounded in reality. Someone’s cousin was punched for being American, then the police came and didn’t speak English, and the hospital screwed up their stitches leaving them with a permanent scar….
But more than likely the cousin was a moron. I’ve been travelling for almost a year straight and haven’t had a single close call, yet alone an incident. I’ve never been to a doctor or hospital (a dentist twice), and have had no fights.
Oh yeah, and I like to drink and my friends can testify to my ability to say very offensive things very loud. Like playing Risk on a quiet train in Germany and saying something like “Ah you got greedy and fought wars on too many fronts…I will take back Europe now. Don’t feel bad, you’re not the first German to lose a war. It may be a genetic thing”.
Was I punched for that one?
Actually, I got a kiss.
– By Dan Johnston