SAFE TO TRAVEL

March 11, 2015

Jaslyn McCarthy

o-TRAVEL-facebookNew York, the city of dreams, the city that never sleeps. This city is never dull, full of different vibes and some would say it has a pulse of its own. Many of us have a dream to one day visit this spectacular place that’s full of interesting people with buzzing personalities and witness the madness of them trying to commute from A to B. There’s nothing like coming out of a Broadway show at midnight and soaking up the atmosphere of NYC as they say, or hearing a taxi cab drivers life story on the way back to your apartment. Life is nothing but a dream when you visit the city of New York.

Every year, thousands of people move to the Big Apple from all parts of the world to make their dreams come true. But many of us simply just want to experience the city for a few weeks at the most. There were 54.3 million visitors (international and domestic) to New York City in 2013 according to the NYC statistics page. But why? All it is is a concrete jungle that generates billions of dollars a year due to the fact that one of the busiest streets in the world has more advertisements in ten minutes on huge screens than every ad break put together of an AFL season on channel 7, this ‘street’ is Times Square. Mind you, with all this money the city still struggles to keep their infrastructure from crumbling around its inhabitants and keeping the streets from smelling like dead animals, not to mention how dangerous it becomes at night time. Did you know you’re more likely to see a loaded gun in the US than Egypt?

After reading New Yorker’s opinions of their home town, it has confirmed the rose-tinted romanticism that fill many average first world citizen’s ambitions to travel to this city were unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong, there is good in New York City, but the USA is a big place with many other points of interest not only in beauty and nostalgia, but historically speaking too.

Travel means sometimes having to go out of your comfort zone and witnessing the less ordinary, along with these things should come new experiences and new knowledge. But how many times have we gone to a popular city and not even learnt a word of their language? For example, how many people go to Paris for a few days and come back knowing some phrases or words in French? It was saddening after I had visited the Arab Emirates and realised I did not hear Arabic spoken in any of the hotels or shopping complexes. Nearly everybody who worked there were international and they used English only. This is unfortunately becoming the reality for many large cities that attract many tourists. While it’s good to feel comfortable and safe, is travel becoming a bit too safe?

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When we have finally saved enough money to make international travel become affordable and we go to the travel agent, they are more than likely to suggest mediocre, common places that are visited by a majority of ‘travellers’ unless we ask for a specific destination. The Flight Centre website doesn’t even show any results when you request holiday packages or flights in Ethiopia or Bhutan, c’mon guys we don’t all want to go on a 28 day tour of Europe (twin share).

Asia is right on our door-step and consists of countries full of culture, beautiful ancient sites and humble residents that we just seem to ignore in order to fly an extra 14 hours and spend an extra ten thousand dollars to visit the man-made human jungle of London where in the first 30 minutes of walking through the city you are likely to spot at least 30 of the same brands or sites you’ve seen in Melbourne. You’ll meet interesting people but how many of you are willing enough to walk up to a stranger and chat? Let alone in a foreign country, but even in your own country. We are drawn to sites such as The Eifel Tower or The Tower of Pisa due to marketing and advertisements. ‘Come to Italy and see a tower that’s leaning, but still standing!!!’ It doesn’t even lean that much anymore guys, and why not do something like see a French film in Paris at one of their beautiful, old theatres. Even If you don’t understand French it would still be a great experience and something that’s more affordable than some other activities.

All of these countries have so much more to offer than just their main attractions or capital cities, it’s a shame that a minority of people feel the want to venture out of globalised capital cities where they feel safe.

Due to advertising and marketing we have seem to have lost the real meaning of travel and what it’s all about. Why do we want to go to these big cities that we know nothing about? And deep inside our brains we know that going there won’t teach us much about them either unless we go out of our way to learn which many of us don’t. A holiday is going to a location and sitting on the beach for 12 days straight, but travelling is different.

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Travelling is about being open-minded, not about going to a dozen countries in two months and then forgetting what was where. Trust me, it happens. One day someone tried telling me Bath was in Italy after spending a month ‘travelling’ Europe. There’s a romanticism about all the cities I have spoken about which basically is non-existent for the majority of people that finally go there. People say that LA has a pulse, but who’s to say that Baghdad doesn’t either? Everyone experiences different feelings and thoughts when they indulge on overseas travel, but I don’t understand why places such as Paris, London, NYC, L.A, Venice or London are the most visited destinations around the world. Many of these cities have a high cost of living, are quite dirty in reality and have an atmosphere that’s nothing like they show on the movies.

We are so conditioned as consumers to make sure we enjoy our time spent in these places that many of us won’t admit it’s not as great as they all make it out to be. Travel isn’t outgoing when you’re going somewhere that has so many similarities as back home that you don’t feel the slightest bit uncomfortable. I’m sure there’s many of you who love some of these cities and that’s great but all I know is that they’re not on the top of my list and won’t be until I learn something about them and have a reason to see their famous landmarks in the flesh, not just for the sake of crossing them off a generic and sometimes vacuous ‘bucket list’ that many of us seem to have.

– Jaslyn McCarthy

 

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