Greetings, all you young Cancun-loving college students.
As Spring Break – and better yet, summer – begins to show its glorious light, young minds inevitably turn away from school. For many, dreams of MTV pool parties in Acapulco combine with vacation package deals to provide an easy, expensive, inebriating experience. For some, this is ideal, as it requires little to no effort or mental stimuli and does not increase one’s understanding of this complicated world in any way.
But some of you may want more. Come on, admit it, you also watch the Discovery Channel. Well friends, it is time to get off the cruise ship, stop making excuses, and actually experience the great diverse world that awaits.
I have traveled to many different places all over the world, and in many different ways, so my advice is based on diverse experience. I know what it is like to travel with a group, with family, with a significant other, as an exchange student and by myself. Based on that experience I would like to encourage everyone to step out on their own, ditch the all-inclusive and enjoy the real world – it’s not so bad, I promise.
First, to dispel some myths about world travel:
“It is too expensive!”
This is the most notorious myth because many people make it true. A trip to western Europe in July will always be outrageously expensive. However, a trip to South or Central America – barring places like Costa Rica and Belize – or most of Asia and Africa, will probably cost less than staying here. When combined with low-season airfares and a few shoestring strategies, travel can be remarkably cheap.
“It is not fun or cool to travel alone.”
Get this straight; you will hardly ever be alone unless you make a point of it. There are loads of other independent travelers everywhere you will likely go, and they all want people to hang out with, so definitely don’t count on being lonely. Also, travel buddies are fun for a while, but nothing beats the freedom of having to make zero compromises and really doing whatever you want.
“It is dangerous.”
This is the most ridiculous myth of all. You are just as likely to get mugged in L.A. as most “risky” place around the world. It can, of course, be quite dangerous if you are unaware and careless, but that is the same anywhere. War zones should generally be avoided, and women should take extra caution. It is really just about using common sense and being aware.
I guarantee that a half-hour drive on the 101 is more life-threatening than a week in Chiapas “rebel territory.” Much of the hype is based on isolated incidences or media manipulation; the likelihood you will meet serious harm is slim.
Independent travel is cheap, fun, and safe. Hopefully this short discussion will encourage some of you to make the most of your time off and consider an independent journey.
Kat Young is a senior anthropology major.