Someone once defined "Work" as "The time spent between vacations earning money to finance them." I'd have to agree. Personally, I start having withdrawal symptoms if I'm not on an airplane at least once per quarter. And I'm still upset at whoever started the vicious rumor that Kathy and I stayed home last quarter (we did not!) We took a trip this quarter, and we've got tickets for another trip next quarter too!
People tell me travel is a waste of money. "After all," they say, "just think of the things I could buy with that money: Harleys, Speed boats, Cars, Computer toys, Magic: The Gathering cards (Hey, everybody's got their vice!)" He who dies with the most toys wins, right? But I tell them this: When you grow old and die, the only thing you can take with you is your experiences. You can't take a Harley with you to the grave (believe me, people have tried!) Everywhere I've gone, I've met dozens of old, retired people who tell me, "See the world while you're young. Don't wait until you're too old to enjoy it like me."
Besides being good for the soul, my travels have taught me many things, and I thought I'd share a few of those things with you.
Travel taught me that the USA is a very young country. In this country, if you walk into an antique store, you see things that are 50 years old. In Europe, they laugh at that: antiques are 500 years old. And in Egypt, they laugh at that: antiques are 5000 years old.
Travel taught me that Americans take a lot of things for granted. For example, the USA has the best and cheapest meat in the world. Everywhere else in the world, meat is very expensive, and not very tasty. (But I hear there's a sale on Brittish beef jerky these days!) And if you want fresh meat in Llasa, Tibet, you have to follow the stream of blood in the street back to the sidewalk where they slaughtered the yak! I'm not kidding; I actually saw this.
Cheap gasoline is also taken for granted. In most countries, gas is 2-3 times more expensive. We also take our telephone system for granted, and our cheap and consistent electrical power. In China and asia, nearly every city uses different outlets and voltages. And power outages occur roughly every hour there.
Another thing we take for granted: Not being shot at or blown up. A week after our trip to Isreal and Egypt, the train we took from Aswan to Cairo was shot at by terrorists, killing one person and wounding several others. Meanwhile, Israel has experienced a resurgence of terrorism, and is now happily lobbing bombs across borders where I once stood and looked at the pretty little signs that say: "Danger: Land mines!" Even Paris and London have seen terrorist bombings since we've been there. (Hey, maybe someone's out to get me! Remember, just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.)
Sure, the scenery, monuments and history are cool. But my favorite thing about traveling is watching the people and learning about our differences and similarities. What I've learned is that people are basically the same all around the world.
Once I was on a train in Germany, and started up a conversation with the guy next to me. He asked me where I was from and what I was doing there. I told him I was from Minnesota and was on vacation. He gave me a weird look and said, "What are you, crazy or something?" When I pressed him for more details, I learned that every year, for the past 10 years, he saved his money all year long for a vacation at a resort near Lake Mille Lacs in Northern Minnesota! This reminds me of "Perry's First Law of Fishing" that states that no matter where you put your boat in, you have to fish on the other side of the lake.
Many people say to themselves, "Some day I'll do some traveling." I used to say that too. Then I met a guy in Hawaii who was 35 years old and dying of leukemia. He said, "You're lucky because you still have time. I waited too long to make my dreams come true, and now I've only got a few weeks left to see the world." My advice is: Listen to those Nike Shoe commercials: Just Do It!
Despite all the weirdness and danger, I still love to travel, and will keep traveling abroad until I either get shot or blown up. My goal is to see the rest of the world while I'm young enough to enjoy it. Then when I'm old, maybe then I'll see the United States (or what's left of it!) The song "Anywhere I Roam" by Metallica ends with the words: "Carved upon my stone: my body lies but still I roam." I like that.