Millions of Americans travel the world without ever leaving home. They fly to self-contained resorts, stay in chain hotels and eat at American chain restaurants. Others enjoy the pampering of cruise ships and the cookie-cutter shopping mall ports of call selling Chinese-made goods on assorted Caribbean islands. Sounds like a great way to get away from it all.

Has life at home made them afraid of meeting someone who’s not like them? Or of someone who is just like them? Are they afraid of the unknown? Or just so exhausted from trying to survive the American economy that they just want to get away from day-to-day drudgery and not have to think?

My take? It’s all of the above, but mostly the fear that permeates American culture.

I’ve seen young women who safely travel around the world by themselves – Latin America, South Africa and many other places. They use common sense and return home with knowledge, experience and a worldview you can’t get from the internet or TV.

I’ve stopped counting the number of people who ask me if I read US State Department bulletins about different countries I visit. I consider these warnings close to useless. For the most part, they appear to be prepared by people who know that they might be in trouble if some tourist gets in trouble for being stupid. If you pay attention to the news and to your immediate environment you’ll have better – a definitely more timely – information.

Want to experience the real world?

Or do you want to stay home and watch Fear News?

It’s expensive to travel to places where it’s just like home [i.e. Western Europe]. It’s affordable to go beyond your comfort zone, learn “please” and “thank you” in another language, and use a guide book as a point of departure, not a bible.

I remember watching English-speaking tourists in one very friendly, peaceful country, wanting to visit the local volcano. They paid what was by local standards an outrageous sum to a local “guide” who paid their fare on the city bus and then showed them the self-guided trail with multi-lingual signs at the volcano’s rim. He did wait for them at the bus stop so they’d feel comfortable coming down the mountain.

In another country a trip to visit and spend money at a local women’s weaving coop for “only” $50 US consistently sold out. To get there on your own, using local transportation, cost the equivalent of $5 US.

Are these rip-offs?

No.

Fearful people are willing to pay a price for perceived security. In their foreign travel plans as well as their domestic defense industries.

When we encounter something new, do we react with fear or respond with curiosity?