International Travel

Written by Rachel Arieff
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International travel is fun, educational and exhilarating. That fact has remained the same over centuries, ever since Marco Polo's famous accounts of his travels on the Silk Road into Asia. Of course, the Western world from which Polo came knew virtually nothing of the people, cultures, or terrain of Asia. An Italian traveling deep into the Asian continent in the 13th century was truly traveling into the unknown, taking incredible risks by today's standards.

The world has gotten a lot smaller over the last 800 years. With the advent of jet planes, television and the Internet, the world seems to be shrinking at an exponential pace. Yet traveling has never lost its magic or mystery. Sure, technology can bring us close to countless different worlds with images, video and sound. However, no gadget has thus far been able to replace the excitement of actual, in-person international travel.

Issues in International Travel

For international travelers of the 21st century, it pays to be informed. The world is riskier than it was ten years ago, to be sure ... and yet it isn't. There will always be countries that are dangerous to travel to, "hot spots" that governments warn against visiting. However, we can't let this keep us from enjoying life and seeing the world. Daily life in our hometown runs its risks, too; statistically, we're more in danger of losing our lives driving to work than through traveling overseas. Do we shut ourselves in our homes, worrying about what will happen if we go out? Of course not.

The truth is, it is far cheaper, safer, and more convenient to travel internationally than to live in many U.S. cities. The key is to be informed and alert. Many books, videos, CDs, DVDs and websites provide detailed information, updated regularly, on a plethora of international destinations. This includes not just tourist attractions, but local culture, current events, and the current social and political climate. Any good guide will include traveling safety tips, as well as advice for that specific area, such as what to do and what to avoid, where to go and where to steer clear of, and why.

International Travel Alternatives

Travelers have become more savvy and adventurous, venturing outside the traditional tourist norm of luxury hotels. International travelers have for decades included Peace Corps volunteers, missionaries, and government employees. However, a new development is volunteer tourism, wherein, at a discounted price and with guaranteed security, tourists travel to exotic locales, often in developing countries, and help with local aid projects. They can also expect a richness of interpersonal and multicultural experiences that is simply not possible with typical luxury tours.

Another popular type of international travel is ecotourism. Ecotourism appeals to the conscience of travelers who want to see the world, but who want their presence to have a positive rather than negative effect on the people and environment. Ecotourism brings travelers from all over the globe to the world's most priceless environmental habitats--many, such as the Brazilian rain forests, under threat of extinction. The profits typically go into conservation projects that help the native land and people.

It's Never too Late to Travel!

Even if you've never been outside your own country in your entire life, it's never too late to start. Retirees are the perfect example of this. There are many cases of retirees, for example, who seize the opportunity to finally realize their lifelong dreams of international travel. They make some of the most eager and adventurous travelers around! However, "adventure" means different things to different people.

For some people, just getting on a plane is an adventure. The wonderful thing about modern travel is that you can determine what kind of adventure is best for you. However, traveling internationally is always an adventure in itself, especially when non-English speaking countries are involved. If you don't know the language of the country to which you will be traveling, consider taking a course to learn the basics of that country's language.


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