I recently had an epiphany that there’s a vicious conspiracy among infrequent travelers to get those who actually enjoy exploring the world to curtail or completely cease their journeying.
According to the International Trade Association and U.S. Commerce Department of Commerce/International Trade Administration somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of the U.S. population left the country last year, primarily for business purposes. And that’s on the high side. It’s completely understandable if economic circumstances keep people close to home. But when the vast majority of the American population is composed of those who won’t get out of their geographic comfort zones, there’s a much stronger force than personal finance at work. Just shy of a third of all U.S. nationals own passports, and two-thirds of those go unused.
Again, economic hardship notwithstanding, a significant chunk of the 80-85 percent who didn’t leave the U.S., exhibit a kind of hive mentality, where they believe any sort of travel is fraught with some bizarre combination of frivolity and peril. And the hive mind reared its ugly head during my recent career transition.
The moment anything changes in my life, the reflexive response from various and sundry busy-bodies is an almost-universal “You won’t be traveling as much anymore.” I’m talking without fail, like it’s an automated response.
They might as well be saying, “You won’t be you anymore. Have fun with that.” Or, “you’ll have to get used to not breathing.”
Whether they realize it or not, that’s what they’re saying because traveling is so much a part of who I am. My wife, Craige, and I have prioritized it in our lives. It may not be everyone’s priority. Actually, it’s not most people’s priority when you look at the aforementioned stats. And that’s perfectly fine. We don’t judge. Everyone’s got their own set of priorities. Some like buying fancy, sparkly, speedy cars every few years. We bought our Honda Civic more than a decade ago and it’s still running fine, getting us from A to B. We haven’t had to make a payment on it in over five years.
Some like big, fancy houses. While we frequently lament the fact that we’ve outgrown our one-bedroom condo, a trade-up for us is going to be a two-bedroom domicile. (Sorry, prospective visitors. If you’re coming to town, chances are you’ll be staying in a hotel.)
Home theater system? We do love our flat-screen TV, but it’s nearly nine years old and we’re going to try to squeeze a few more out of it before it finally craps out. We’re well aware that the technology that exists today is far superior to that of 2006, but we’re much more interested in investing in experiences than in “stuff.”
We’re also well aware that our family situation is not the same as others and we fully recognize that our lives will be augmented exponentially when the two of us become three. But we’ll deal with that when the time comes. I can tell you, however, that travel will still be a part of our lives and we hope to share with our little bundle of
debt joy, that sense of wonder at this gigantic world that we have.
Oh, and as far as the financial cost of travel: Don’t worry about us, we’re fine. And go worry about your own bank accounts. Keep your beaks out of ours.
I get it. Not everyone likes to travel and that likely won’t change for those who don’t. So let’s make a deal. I promise I won’t chloroform, kidnap and strap your ass to an airplane seat, if you won’t try to mentally shackle my foot to the ground. If those terms are unacceptable to you, then this is what I have to say to you and the rest of those who are a part of the Conspiracy of the Go-Nowheres: