This is the golden age of travel. This is one of the best times in human history to see the world, but it can’t, and won’t, stay like this forever. Travel now, because it’s not going to get any better than this.
First, let me explain why this moment in time is so great for traveling, specifically from a first-world, English speaking perspective. (Although I do think it’s great for just about everybody, it’s
Ball Gown robes de mariée just particularly advantageous to travel these days as an English speaker).
1) You Can Access All of Human Knowledge If You Get Online
Between mindless tweeting, Facebook exhibitionism, and the fact that it seems mostly to be a repository for pornography, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the internet is right up there with the wheel and the printing press as one of the most important human inventions. Ever. I don’t need to go through the list of how the internet has changed the world, but I do want to address how it has made the day to day business of travel much easier.
First of all, you can plan pretty much any logistics online. Train, bus, and plane schedules are all online, and even if you’re in a place that is rural or third world enough not to have those kind of schedules readily available on the internet, you can quickly find any number of travel blogs or wiki travel articles that can answer any of your questions. When you are traveling, and have a question, you can access the entire human knowledge base to find the answer. Not to mention the fact you can buy necessary items and equipment, have them sent to you, and monitor your bank accounts.
And you can run a business from anywhere. That’s the big one (at least for us).
You Can Demolish Homesickness
You can also mitigate, if not eliminate, the travel-dampening effects of home sickness. You can use social media to keep your friends and family updated on your travels, and you can participate in any of the conversations that are happening back home in your social circle. You can download movies and music, you
Robe demoiselle d’honneur rouge can watch sporting events online, you can decide precisely how much or how little you want to participate in the cultural conversation happening thousands of miles away.
The internet also allows you to participate in any conversation. Although it’s far from perfect, Google translate can be a lifesaver. And there are already voice activated translation devices available on smart phones; before long they will be seamless and accurate.
You can also Skype with anyone, which is not the same as being with someone, but it’s pretty damn close. (Unless you’re usual interactions with that person involve touching, cuddling, making out, having sex, or challenging each other to thumb wars.)
3) Increasingly, the Internet is Everywhere
The internet is, however, only as good as your connection. And thankfully, internet access is spreading to just about everywhere. Granted, it’s a lot easier to find in some places than others, and if you’re into traveling in an extreme way, you may look at a dependence on internet use while traveling as some sort of weakness. But that’s the point, you don’t have to travel in any particular way these days. The fact that the travel spectrum is so wide, and can accommodate so many kinds of people, is part of the reason why we are living in traveling’s golden age.
The internet may not be brand new, but up until recently calling the term “The World Wide Web” was as inaccurate and exaggerated as calling the championship for baseball in the United States the “World Series.” According to internetworldstats.com, there were 356 million internet users in December of 2000. As of September 2011, that number is 2.18 billion, which is still well below half of the human population. But the exponential nature of the increase is hard to ignore.
4) If You Can Speak English, You’ll Be Fine
The mass dissemination of internet access also contributes to the increasing use of English as the means by which the world communicates. I’ve met many non-native English speakers in my travels who tell me that exploring English language websites and watching English YouTube clips was one of the primary means by which they become conversational. English is the language of the internet, certainly, but it has increasingly become the world’s common language. I don’t need to drive this point home, we all realize it, and it’s no coincidence that educated native English speakers are bilingual at much lower rates than educated speakers of other languages. The fact is, if you speak English, there’s just not that same imperative to learn another language (although Brits and Aussies might want to learn how to actually speak English correctly…. Don’t get pissed, I’m kidding. Any by pissed I mean….) You don’t need to learn another language if you can find people who speak English whenever you travel, often without much difficult.
The whole world is trying to learn English. In Medellin, Colombia I saw small storefronts billing themselves as English Academies on nearly every corner. English language ability is a ticket into the global marketplace, a fact that many countries realize, which why nations like South Korea spend money on huge national English learning drives as a matter of economic security.
The spread of English doesn’t just make it easier to travel, although it does do that. If you’re speaking English in places where it isn’t spoken very often, you will have people come up to you, excited for the opportunity to practice. And now that George Bush isn’t in office, as an American, I don’t have people hear my accent and come tell me that I am a terrible person because they don’t like my president. Say what you want about Obama, but his administration has done a fantastic job reducing the number of drunk assholes who shout unprovoked political obscenities into the faces
of U.S. citizens, as well as the number of American citizens pretending to be Canadian.
The growing market for English education also presents a very cool opportunity for native English speakers as ESL teachers. English language fluency is a commodity, and it’s one you are bequeathed at birth, or shortly thereafter, as a native speaker. With just a little education, you can use that commodity to pay for world travel. That is a huge opportunity; throughout history you needed multiple language skills to travel. Now you can only have one, and it’s not a just survival skill, but a marketable one. Of course this won’t last forever. Once everybody learns English, then it’s kind of over.
5) The World Is Connected Economically and Politically Like Never Before (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Globalization)
We all know that the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of Communism ushered in the era of globalization as the world increasingly became one marketplace with one guiding economic ideology. Well, I don’t want to get too deep into the political ramifications of this, but the end of the cold war also allowed much of the third world to develop their own democratic institutions free of both U.S. and Soviet influence and meddling.
Look at South America. Say what you want about Chavez, but that whole continent is Democratic, where just a generation ago it was ruled by Military strongman and juntas, including its major powers, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. (Argentina was at war with Britain not that long ago.) And Colombia was almost a failed narco-state. Now all of those countries are relatively peaceful, with rapidly developing economies, and exploding tourist industries. The Middle-East is probably as dangerous as ever, but the Arab Spring could result in safer, more open societies that will become travel destinations. (Although, maybe not.)
This continued trend toward democracy and capitalism among developing economies is good for the traveler, because say what you want about capitalism, it does tourism pretty well. As countries trade they become more interconnected and it becomes easier to travel there. Combine that with the explosion of low cost airlines, and it’s easy to see that the world is smaller than it’s ever been. (And yes, people who flew in the sixties, people used to dress up for airline flights and the stewardesses were hot and the food and drinks were free….but only a tiny amount of people could afford it. It was a luxury item. It’s better today.)
Increasingly, the world is producing a global culture. Unlike the one-way cultural imperialism of the 1990s, increasingly trends and art and ideas are traveling not only from the first world to the third, but vice versa. (Although, unfortunately, it’s still mostly a one way conversation). I have an Indian friend who has been in the U.S. for a year, and we can talk about movies, music, and TV that came out a decade ago. There is a global culture emerging. It’s beautiful, and it will promote peace and unity and global interdependence, and it will eliminate the dichotomy of us vs. them that has given birth to war and hate for far too long.
But it’s going to make travel really boring.
Globalization is increasingly connecting the cultures of the world together in one global conversation. But culture is not static, it’s fluid and constantly changing, and the more people come together, the more small pockets of individual culture consolidate into larger cultures. When everything is connected, and everyone has access to the global marketplace, including medicine and education, human suffering will go down. I’m not rooting against it: it’s a good thing. But make no mistake, local culture will increasingly be eliminated and more and more places will be described with that dreaded and self-hating moniker that every backpacker (including myself when I backpacked) uses to denigrate places that have the audacity to have been discovered before he or she got there. You know what I mean: touristy. (You know how hipsters are annoying because they hate bands that people have heard of? Backpackers are the hipsters of travelers.)
So travel now and take advantage of globalization’s pre-homogenous wave, and ride it as long as you can, because it’s going to break soon.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.