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 Seven Reasons to Travel

By Larry Bleiberg
The Dallas Morning News,
January 5, 2003  

It's easy to stay home.

As a new year begins, travelers face continuing economic uncertainty and security concerns. Many wonder if it's worth the expense and challenge of venturing to unfamiliar places.

Just in time, Arthur Frommer, the man who helped invent modern travel with his book Europe on $5 a Day, has the reasons we must set aside our doubts and go see the world. "Travel is not mere recreation," he said a few weeks ago at a conference in New York's Hudson River Valley area. "It is not trivia. It is education and perhaps the most important education." Mr. Frommer, 75, had returned from his first trip to China just 36 hours before speaking. He was fighting jet lag, but the former lawyer made a clear case. Travel teaches seven important lessons, he says.

Read his list and feel the pull of the road.

One: Travelers learn that all people in the world are basically alike.
We all care about family and protecting our loved ones, Mr. Frommer says. During his trip to China, he and his wife met an elderly woman. She didn't speak English, but when she saw the Frommers' gray hair, she insisted they wait while she ran to get something. She returned a moment later with pictures of her grandchildren.
He recalls sitting in a mud hut years earlier and hearing a young African mother confide her wish to learn to read. She wanted to understand government pamphlets about health care so she could protect her children. "Aside from all the exterior differences, we all share the basic urges and concerns," Mr. Frommer says.

Two: Travelers discover that everyone regards himself or herself as wiser and better than other people in the world.
Once while visiting Amsterdam, Mr. Frommer spoke to a friend the day after a nationwide telethon had raised 60 million guilders (about $27.5 million) for cancer research. "Only in Holland!" the friend bragged. Mr. Frommer resisted a smile.
"When you travel, you get rid of smug chauvinism," Mr. Frommer says. "All people believe themselves the best."

Three: Travel makes us care about strangers.
A famine or disaster isn't distant, abstract suffering if you've visited the region. "We become concerned for other people," Mr. Frommer says. "Travel makes it impossible to pay no heed to others."

Four: Travel teaches that not everyone shares your beliefs.
In issues small and large – from child-rearing to politics – a traveler learns there are many ways of thinking. "You become a larger person when you confront your opposite," Mr. Frommer says.

Five: Travelers learn that there is more than one solution to a problem.
Whether it's the surprise of learning about Asian medical practices in Hong Kong or seeing Scandinavia's liberal social policies at work, a traveler discovers that there are many ways to address an issue.

Six: Travel teaches you to be a minority.
While traveling in Africa, Mr. Frommer was keenly aware he was different. Even African-Americans are minorities in Africa, he says. Finding yourself suddenly the odd man out is healthy and eye-opening, Mr. Frommer says. "You become fully aware of whatever racist impulses exist in your own subconscious."

Seven: Travel teaches humility.
"You become a quieter American as a result of travel, and in my opinion a smarter and even, perhaps, a more-thoughtful one," Mr. Frommer says. Travel, he says, is something we all must do. "It is key in developing a civilized society."

It's worthy goal for a new year. May 2003 open new horizons for all of us.

Larry Bleiberg is Travel editor of The Dallas Morning News.
E-mail to Larry:

Dear Larry,
Thanks for the article on why to travel - I really enjoyed it. The reasons Frommer states are so valid for me, and I would add "making life-long friends." I am a member of Friendship Force of Dallas, part of an international organization whose members in the 350 clubs worldwide stay in each others' homes as part of club exchanges. Our motto is "A world of friends is a world of peace." We get to know people from other countries and cultures by living with them and experiencing their world. And they get to know us and others around the world. After 9/11, our American members were showered with letters and e-mails of sympathy from our friends around the world. We are no longer those Americans over there, we are their friends. They know us and they grieved with us. I invite you to visit our webpage (I am the webmaster) at www.friendshipforcedallas.org. If you are willing, I would like to include your column (with credit to you of course) on this page. Hoping for an affirmative reply and looking forward to more interesting articles in the Travel section, I am sincerely,
Mary Mary Williams

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