How researching destinations opens up doors

When I tell others about my desire to visit, say, India or the Middle East, they often recoil with a mix of horror and disbelief. It’s odd that the places I most want to go are the same places that my best friends describe as– direct quote here– “literally the last places I’d want to go in the world.”

How can good friends who have so much in common have such differences of opinion over their travel wish lists? Part of the reason, certainly, is a matter of personal taste: “Some are fond of the preacher; others of his wife,” as the old saying goes. Some drink Pepsi, others like Coke. Some are dying to spend six months in India, while others are content with a week in CancĂșn.

But certainly there’s more to it than that. There’s so much misinformation out there about the “rest of the world”– be it India, the Middle East, Africa, Central America, you name it. When I returned from Morocco, I was asked if I ate mud and slept on dirt floors. Similar questions have been asked about every “third world” place I’ve been: What kind of disgusting foods did they have? Did you ever talk to the people who lived there? How’d you avoid the locusts?

Questions like these, though curiosity about one’s trip is always appreciated, demonstrate that, to put it bluntly, most people have no idea what they’re talking about.

Even travelers are guilty of the same sort of ignorance. For the longest time, for example, I had no interest in going to Russia. It seemed bleak and utterly unappealing. But then I began reading Russian authors, then their English-language newspapers, then I picked up the Cyrillic alphabet. Now, I’m a full-fledged Russophile, and can’t wait to get over there.

What’s the lesson in all this? One word: research. I found Russia uninteresting because I didn’t know anything about it. After learning even a little of its history and culture, it was like new doors suddenly opened.

So go ahead. Invest some time in making the world a bigger, more varied, more dynamic place. Look at that map on your wall, and find somewhere you’ve never been and never wanted to go– Uruguay, Tajikistan, El Salvador, wherever. Dig up some pictures of the country, read an article or two about it, see if they have any English-language newspapers. After thirty minutes, I admit, you still might not want to go there– but it probably won’t be because the place is uninteresting.

Posted by | Comments (2)  | April 25, 2008
Category: General

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