The World Cup is a great travel fix

When columnists try to explain why Americans (supposedly) don’t care about the World Cup, they turn to the same old examples. They point out qualities of the game: Too low scoring, no commercial breaks to grab snacks, no hands allowed. I think the real reason that most Americans aren’t into the Cup is because most Americans haven’t traveled. I’d guess that the more you’ve traveled, the greater your odds of World Cup mania — because aside from cheering on your team, you’re also hungry for a hit of travel.

The World Cup is one big travel fix. A surplus of faraway places, from Ghana to New Zealand to Uruguay. Flags and anthems. A sea of travelers and hosts channeling their passion into costumes and dancing. Whenever the camera pans to the crowd, it’s a glimpse of bunches of travel stories waiting to be told.

ESPN’s multi-accented announcers make your living room feel like a pub. Then there are the matches themselves: Even on paper, they hit you with pairings of countries from an absurdist itinerary: Switzerland – Honduras. Serbia – Australia. Ivory Coast – North Korea?

So many of the little lessons and themes of the World Cup also apply to travel. Here are a few:

Some folks have an easier time on the road than others.

Even the best of friends can get into fights.

Prepare for a sensory assault.

The impact of foreigners is debatable.

“Cooler heads will prevail.” — John Harkes on ESPN

There’s always a surprise. Trying to predict two weeks in advance? Good luck.

The longer you stick around, the greater your reward.

Been getting your travel fix from the World Cup? Tell us how. Abroad with some good spectator stories? Share away.

Photo by Axel B├╝hrmann via Flickr.

UPDATE: After today’s win, ALL Americans are into soccer.

Posted by | Comments (5)  | June 23, 2010
Category: Africa, Notes from the collective travel mind, On The Road

5 Responses to “The World Cup is a great travel fix”

  1. Ted Beatie Says:

    Thanks, Brett! For the first time, you’ve made me want to travel somewhere for a sporting event.

  2. brian Says:

    I’ve traveled extensively, and I’m the son of a soccer crazed German immigrant. I still don’t care about the sport. Let’s not examine Americans’ antipathy for soccer with outdated, and often wrong, stereotypes.

  3. rumurphy Says:

    I travel quite a bit.. I was just in Peru for several weeks while the World Cup was on.. and I still didn’t get it (as a sport). It was great to see everyone so excited about it.. and so I understand the intrigue of it as a time for the world to come together.. but the sport is still unbearable to watch. I’ll watch the USA games (recorded with a half hour delay).. fast-forward through any part where I see the midfield line.. and just watch the offensive portions of the game and pray their’s a shot on goal.

  4. bretth Says:

    i saved for 3 years and spent 5 weeks in southern and south africa for the world cup. i am american and reveled in the chance to be part of the biggest party on african soil since the end of colonialism. for the first time africans invited the world, (the 64 games of the world cup are watched by a cumulative of 26 Billion people), to its doorstep, and did so in a fine manner. all the hype about crime and danger was either over blown or suppressed, or a combination of the two. i met so many different people from algeria to slovakia and lots of places between, not to often do people go to a world cup and delibrately attempt to lower the level of fun other people are experiencing. after all 32 teams start out with the same chances, and only one can go home champions. that means there are many people who are sad they didnt win, but still happy to have contributed to such an amazing event that only happens every 4 years. i would say this being my first world cup, im am planning to never miss one again, brasil, only 1420 something days away…