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Real Travel

Ilan Stavans reminds us of the deep journeys, not packaged getaways.

Sunset Beach. (Chris Gin/Flickr)

Sunset Beach. (Chris Gin/Flickr)

For better and worse, it is a small world after all.  With the right cash and ticket, this time tomorrow you could be sipping umbrella drinks in Cambodia.  But real, deep travel, says my guest today, has become a rarity.  We hop on planes.   Breeze in and out of destinations near and far.

Complain if the beer isn’t cold enough, if the sheets aren’t crisp, if the wifi fails.  Real travel is not comfy, says Ilan Stavans.  It’s not tourism.  It’s a journey.  Maybe a pilgrimage.  A search.  A getting lost.

This hour, On Point:  I’ll still take a nice vacation.  But we’re talking “real travel.”

-Tom Ashbrook


Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. His recent New York Times essay, “Reclaiming Travel” is here.

Robert Reid, Lonely Planet’s US Travel editor.

Greg Sullivan, CEO  & co-founder AFAR magazine.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times “What compels us to leave home, to travel to other places? The great travel writer Bruce Chatwin described nomadism as an “inveterate impulse,” deeply rooted in our species. The relentless movement of the modern world bears this out: our relative prosperity has not turned us into a sedentary species.”

Rove “I remember the feeling only a few times in my life: overpowering euphoria. Once I got it while surfing in perfect conditions on my local break and caught my first barrel. The second time I was at Macchu Picchu, looking over a vista I had wanted to see my whole life and nearly killed myself getting to.”


“Don’t Drink the Water” by Brad Paisley

Horse-head fiddle player B. Bayarsaikhan Horse-head fiddle player B. Bayarsaikhan

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  • Jasoturner

    In my travels abroad, I make a conscious decision to spend plenty of time sitting in cafes and pubs frequented by locals, to take public transportation, and to try and dine in areas outside of the main squares.  While I may miss some of the sights, I feel that I gain at least a small taste of what life in these places is actually like for people who live there.  It is a most interesting and enjoyable experience.

    Coincidentally, I just heard yesterday that an acquaintance of mine did a tour of China.  $12 grand and fully orchestrated by a travel agency.  I’m sure it was a great trip, but I bet they never ate eggs cooked on the street and sat on milk crates while eating breakfast in Zhuhai.  Not saying one experience is better than another, but I suspect I was taken a little further out of my comfort (or at least familiarity) zone.  And for me, that’s a plus.

    It is fascinating how invigorating an “exotic” trip can be to the psyche, even long after we have returned.  Hopefully the panel discusses reasons they think this might be.

  • John_B_Boston

    …as an Irish Emigrant- I am forever insulted by Irish American ignorance of – the real life and history of Ireland -
    the music is a wonderful bridge – but please – you wont see Ireland from the inside of a Pub…
    …so before you leave your home country study the history of -the host country – talk to the old people -best done in remote places ….. and you will be rewarded with a unique depth of experience .. them bring this experience to the next generation here .. America is starving for its roots ..

  • Kat Morgan

    A great way to experience “real travel” is to hostel. There are hostels all over the world, even in the US. Some are privately owned, but there’s one chain that’s got a mission: “to help all, especially the young, gain a greater understanding of the world and its people through hosteling.” The Internal Youth Hostel Federation — hihostels.com — supports and promotes travel, not tourism. It’s a great way to explore the world and not have that cookie-cutter, checklist experience. 

    • Kat Morgan

      Typo: International Youth Hostel Federation, aka Hostelling International.

  • jim

    I have always tried to travel and learn something about the country I am traveling in.  My planned trip for this year will be a one-way trip to Costa Rica where we will then travel by local buses to Panama, Colombia and Equador.  I have found people around the globe to be much like we are with the same hopes and desires.  

  • http://profiles.google.com/phyllis.craine Phyllis Craine

    Don’t forget that this can apply to domestic travel within the US as much as it does to exotic international locations.

  • Vanessa

    Part of our inability to “travel” is that many have lost the ability to enjoy the journey.  By in large, most travelers are so focused on reaching point B that they plug in their GPS, and put on blinders to the rest of the world they pass by. In our digital world of immediate gratification, we tend to lose touch with the simple joy of having to find our way, having to meet the farmer who can give directions, of stopping at a strange restaurant in a town we’ve never heard of and enjoying the conversation and stories of strangers.  Many want to “see” the world, but have forgotten the joy of being “a part” of the world.

  • Ashley

    In September I’m traveling solo to Turkey for a few weeks seeking exactly what Prof. Stavans is talking about! Discovery, disruption, discomfort, excitement! I’m scared and I Can’t wait!

    • Stillin

       Safe passage to you Ashley! Tell us your tales. One of my students  did a year there for foreign exchange he fell in love with Turkey. A woman I know who’s been all over the world, loves Turkey most. And that student? He’s seen the whirling dervishes, he’s been swimming in the sea there…been smuggled into ceremonies by Turkish grandmothers and goes back all the time. Now he is an airline pilot, flight crew, with United Emerates.

  • Jenniferdsantiago

    May of 2010, a friend and I went to the Dominican Republic. We spent one night with family, we visited family in the countryside, then went on to Santiago. We spent a day and night in this city. After that we rented a car and went 3 hours east away from all the resorts to the Samana coastline.  We traveled further east to find the prettiest beaches, and did the touristy things by visiting the Los Haitises national park and caves. (Which were visited by Christopher Columbus)

    We spent 5 days in Samana specifically to take Spanish classes. On the first day we hopped on a guys scooter and paid him to take us around. A couple days later we had our own scooter but saw this same man in town. By the end of those 5 days we were all at the same bar, and this guy was buying us a bottle of rum!

    It was amazing to come as a visitor and then feel that we became a part of the commuity by the end of the trip! The people of DR were all so nice. It was just an eleven day trip, and cheap too! (I spent about $1000 in total -flight, lodging, everthing.)

    I like to know what a place has to offer, and then just let the rest of the story unfold. (I couldn’t spend more than one day at a resort.)

  • Mike from Rutland, MA

    Traveling with the possibility of getting lost or stranded might be merely inconvenient if you’re single or with a friend/spouse.  But if you have kids along for the ride, who wants to hear the constant question “Are we there yet?”  And if you do hear that question, how do you answer it if you haven’t defined a destination?

    • JenniferDSantiago

       maybe just ask them right back if we are there yet…. ;) Eventually, i’m sure they’ll understand the trip is the journey not the arrival.

  • Jess in Boston

    When I was on vacation in Yellowstone National Park, I watched a family of 6 all sit around a table at lunch on iPads and iPhones, not speaking to one another. There they were, in the middle of one of America’s greatest natural gems, staring at a screen to get the latest Facebook updates from people a thousand miles away.

    I think unplugging and less meticulous planning would go a long way to help people reclaim the joy of travel. 

  • Call_Me_Missouri

    Most people can’t afford to travel like this because they MUST be back to their slave jobs on time.  This kind of travel requires flexibility.

  • Scooter Crone

    Each year I travel to the U.S. where I rent a big harley and tour wherever the less-traveled highways take me for two weeks with everything I need in the saddle bags, electronics-free.  I meet all sorts of nice folks as a older woman traveling alone on a big bike.
    Hours of no cars on high desert highways is my church.  Sometimes I take in a baseball game.  Then back on the road alone with 1.7 ltr., 760lb. bike–heaven!
    Scooter Crone of Cayman

    • LadyTraveler

      I like to travel alone to countries of a different language, etc., with minimal planning.  I noticed that most tourists, esp. Americans, go around in a bubble spectating their surrounds instead of being WITH or IN the place and moment.  They consume it with photos and race on to the next sight.

  • Maura Snow

    Travelled to South Korea for our son’s wedding to a young woman who is a native of Ulsan.  Our son had recieved the approval of her parents by learning to speak Korean and formally asking their permission for the wedding. 

    I was honored to participate in their wedding ceremony which opened with the mothers of the bride and groom, wearing Hanbok (traditional Korean ceremonial clothing) enter hand in hand.  Mrs. Kim and I shared only the language of a smile.

    We visited in the homes and hang-outs of natives of South Korea.   We were impressed with the speed on the bullet trains and the WIFI on all the subway cars beneath Seoul.   We were disoriented, often benevolently laughed at, chagrined by the extent of our ignorance, and overall delighted with the experience.

  • Emily

    I’ve been saying this for years. I’m a 34 year old Spanish teacher and I have a lot of students that talk about how much they travel, how many countries they’ve been to, etc. When I probe deeper, I find that travel and visiting to them means cruise ships with structured day trips. They claim “everyone speaks English.” Well of course they do: you’ve only ever seen the tourist traps! When I was 20 I spent the summer doing a mini-Peace Corps-type program in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. I show the pictures to the kids and those that have been to the silly beaches and tourist traps are amazed that there is anything beyond those cookie cutter hotel walls. I cannot imagine a more boring “vacation” than lounging around on a beach or boat sipping the same so-called Polynesian drinks my local Chinese restaurant slings. How shallow and vacuous! I can’t afford to take vacations, but if I could, I’d be in a city or the deep countryside doing something interesting. I think I learn more from sitting and listening to the radio or surfing the net about countries than anyone who pops around to different beach resorts does. Plus if I want a spa-beach day, there’s a day spa down the road that can offer me all that for a fraction of the price and no jet lag, including giant pictures of beaches, so it doesn’t take much of an imagination to visualize being someplace else. Not that I can afford a day spa, either.

    • JenniferDSantiago

      You mentioned not having much money. I went to DR, Santiago, La Vega, then onto Las Terrenas, Las Galeras, and SamanA.  I was there for 11 days, and spent about $1000 bucks, with flight and lodging. (In places like SamanA, you actually do better letting the gua-gua driver find a hotel, then trying to find lodging from here on the internet before you go….)

      Anyways, it was a great trip. I got to the go to the beach, take spanish classes, learn about dominican nature and history, but the thing that really did it for me, were the people. I feel the dominicans are so nice, hospitable, and generous.

      (You can totally take an awesome trip, even on a meager budget.)

  • Juanita O.

    I have visited Egypt twice, and each trip was so unlike the other, I may as well have been to two different planets! 

    My first trip in 2008 was to spend a month studying Arabic at a small school in a residential neighborhood of Cairo, sharing an apartment with two other students.  The culture shock I felt was huge.  I was so mentally and physically aware of living in a culture that initially felt so unrelatable to anything I had ever experienced before that I was shaken to the core!  My month there was hot, sweaty, dusty, dirty, confusing.  But my contact with the average Egyptian – buying groceries, attending a concert - became the greatest bridge to understanding them.  I have not been the same since.

    Then last year I took a packaged tour with a dozen other Americans in which we visited all of the major pharaonic sites of upper Egypt. A guide smoothed every step of our way; he solved any and all of our problems.  I felt like I was living in a cocoon. When we returned to dirty, sweaty Cairo, it all felt so antiseptic.

    Which trip would I repeat?  The first, without hesitation!!


  • VirginiaRick

    …but I don’t want to eat grasshoppers!

  • ToyYoda

    I use to work as a consultant in the hedge fund industry and I had to travel to various financial centers around the world: NYC, London, San Fran, Hong Kong, etc.

    Although, I wouldn’t call it traveling.  I would spend 2 months to a year in each city.  I love it because when you spend that much time in a city, I felt like a native, and that’s the kind of experience I want.  I love to do what the natives do and so I pay a preimuim for it.  And so going to a dentist’s office to get my teeth checked in a city and country I didn’t know was just as exciting and even preferred over seeing a tourist site!!

    And when I became sick of the city, it would be around the time when I would leave.

  • Mickeyribaudo

    Going on vacation somewhere and deciding to stay. Get a job to support yourself. Wash dishes, play music in the street, teach English, whatever it takes. This will give you a glimpse into the culture you will not otherwise get.

    • Stillin

       Isn’t this what youth did years ago…before they were planning their lives out at 14 in junior high, the courses for college planned in high school….man they are missing out on life experiences that are priceless.

  • Yaxpac222

    Learning to allow oneself to experience the disorientation that is true travel is a skill that must be learned – the student exchange experience – especially in high school living with a local family, embedded long-term in the culture – can be a catalyst for this – youth are open-minded enough to accept the experience for what it is

  • J__o__h__n

    He’s scolding people for not really traveling and he went to McDonald’s?

    • Jenniferdsantiago

       It was his last dollar, and then he stayed for 3 months with a family — a staycation, like the other posted said.

      -or being an actual traveler. No money = no traveling.

  • Caitlin

    The Austrian architect Camillo Sitte, once wrote that when he first arrives in a new city, he looked for two things- the highest viewpoint and the best meal. It has become my travel mantra, though best does NOT need to mean most expensive. The best meals might be found on the street, think Currywurst in Berlin!  

  • JamesDee

    have to say that the type of travel Mr. Stavans is describing has been
    experienced in my own life by taking mission trips. Not only did we stay with
    the local population in their own homes, but we also learned to work together
    with people who approached difficulties from a completely different
    point-of-view. These trips have been a life-changing experience and would
    recommend doing it at least once in a lifetime.


    On another note: I can’t STAND tourist traps. Don’t get me
    wrong; I wouldn’t mind a villa overlooking a natural seaside, but when resorts
    begin buying up local land and turning into their own playground, it infuriates
    me… even more so when I learn that local businesses were forced out simply to
    make way for typical “5th Avenue” type boutiques.


    I’ll never forget my trip to Hawaii. From the moment we
    landed in Maui, I wanted to (literally) run for the hills. I remember walking
    down the main avenue and thinking: “wait a minute, I can get this in New
    York!” Compare that with the natural coves of North Shore and camping
    under the stars on the big island and I finally found what I was looking for: a
    connection with the island.


    Give me a shack on the beach over a resort on the
    (artificially manicured) hills any day!

  • docmac1000

    Traveling is an individual experience and you can get as much or as little from it as you desire.  I’m tired of “professional” travelers telling me that my cruise is not real travel.  I have limited time, and limited funds so I do what I can.

  • CathyS

    The call to prayer from the Blue Mosque made me close my eyes and recall the magic of hearing it on my first morning in Istanbul many adventures ago. Scores of calls to prayer later, I still find the sound a portal to an exotic world that sparks my imagination. It is not fear it elicits but wonder.

  • BG

    I studied abroad and traveled as a teenager in Europe– I had very little money and basically bought whatever train or plane ticket I could afford. I stayed in hostels or in the homes of relatives of friends, and talked to everyone I could. I went on long walks with locals to see the sights and hear the history. I never bought a guide book. It was among the best experiences of my life! 

  • Michele Erbrick

    We have had several travel experiences here on the east coast. Twice in Maine, with only one place for lodging each time, just exploring out from there every day. Once our only destination was to see my husband’s grandfather. After our visit we drove down the coast from PA to GA, exploring and finding lodging along the way. One night it took until 2 AM because little did we know everyone from the cities in NC go down to the shore on the weekends. We had to drive hours to find a place for the night.

    Now our kids are grown, and our future ‘travel’ plans are retiring for a couple of years and getting a motorhome, and just taking off with no destination in mind. Hopefully we can see the US before we have to enter the workforce again.  

    No package plans for us. Travel equals freedom for us :)

  • BAS

    One of the calls of travel for me has been the thrill and disorientation of not knowing what is going to happen next.  Senses become heightened w/ self preservation and curiosity, finding similarities and differences in new territory and cultures.

    Best of all it’s the perspective on the partialness of our own place in the big picture that both fulfills and daunts; it feels so strangely right. It’s a way of getting access to something we know deep down but have a hard time remembering/ feeling in familiar and habitual experiences.

  • James Guggina

    My favorite way of traveling is on a bicycle. You experience a place completely, all the sounds, smells, sights, and the weather as well. The speed of travel is just right, slowly pedaling through a landscape. On a bicycle you are vulnerable, and much more approachable by the locals. Unexpected things always happen, and a bike tour always turns into an adventure, whether you fly to a foreign land or pedal right from your front door.

  • Barbara Waldorf

    Real travel to me is about risk. Our modern objects cushion us from the edges of life, where there is so much to be discovered. My travels through India, Nepal and Tibet have taught me to not know, reach out and be interested in whatever is offered.

  • BHA in Vermont

    20 years ago I read an article in Cruising World written by a couple who were sailing the world. They spent a month on an island in the South Pacific. The cruise ships came every Tues and Thurs. And every Tues and Thurs all the locals put away the boom boxes, traded their shorts and logo T-shirts for ‘traditional dress’ and the tourists were delighted to visit and buy handcrafts from the natives still living as they as they did 100 years before.

  • Jbobd in Nassau

    Please have your guest comment on the concept of “all inclusive” vacation packages. Here in the Bahamas, guests at facilities offering such miss the best of what’s available.

    • BHA in Vermont

       That is for sure.

      22 years ago we went on our honeymoon in Akumal on the Yucatan Peninsula not too far north of Tuulum. We stayed at a ‘small frills’ resort, in the 1 level concrete (including the bed platform) duplex. Saw lots in our rented Beetle, spent a night outside Chichen Itza so we could spend a day at the site.

      On the way home there were people talking near us on the plane. The ONLY thing they saw outside of their “all inclusive” resort was the road between the airport and the resort in Cancun.  

      Thanks, but NO thanks!

    • Kayjay

      Indeed.  I used to never have much money, but we always stayed away from the “cheap” all-inclusive vacations.  To us it seemed a very mind-numbing thing to do.  It’s just not who we are.  Some people are just too tired (they say) to do much more than drink and lie on the beach :-(  To me staying a week at the same resort is such a waste of time….. there is so much world to see and such little time!

  • Samantha

    Safety, is my number 1 concern when traveling somewhere new.
    As a young female I realize that there are a lot of places that are simply not safe to travel to alone.

    What if you get robbed? Kidnapped? What if you get sick?

    • Jenniferdsantiago

       I keep on the look-out for friends who’d make good travel buddies. (We ended up going to DR for 11 days.)  I agree that being a lone female in some places cause me to be alarmed.

      just bring ppl along with you! ;)

      • Missionimpossible

        Or a group, or gang, or armed security, or an army.

        Y’all will never connect until you give up your fears.  A little common sense goes a long way.

    • Stillin

       It’s like vacationing on alert..it’s not for everybody…but your senses have to heighten so you can avoid those things above…if you go to the what  if part of the brain…think ahead and have your solutions…it’s kind of survival travel but honestly, once you do it, you always find good people and yea, it is dangerous too some places.

  • Allison H

    While the type of travel Tom
    and Ilan are talking about sounds lovely, they seem to be ignoring the
    rather significant point that their solo travel experiences (I’m
    thinking of Tom’s experience in Borneo in particular here) may have been
    uniquely possible because they are men. While as a single female I
    would love to be able to ‘get lost’ anywhere in the world, my first
    priority must always be safety, especially in foreign places where the
    culture has different attitudes towards women than I am used to, and
    where the culture barrier might very well exacerbate a cross-gender
    situation into one that would be more dangerous. While I’m sure that
    some men run the real risk of violence when they travel abroad alone,
    having to worry about being raped or assaulted (or, very sadly, being
    kidnapped and forced into part of the global sexual slavery trade) is
    not something I think they routinely worry about. While I share Ilan’s
    distaste for packaged resort travel, it is at least an option that is
    guaranteed to have a level of safety built in for the single female

    • Jenniferdsantiago

       true, I think having a female comentator would have been very helpful.

  • Joe in Massachusetts

    About 30 years ago I traveled in Asia for over a year.  Among the things that have stuck with me:

    - What it really looks like when a country doesn’t have infrastructure
    - A five year old child in charge of caring for his infant sister
    - The fellow in Jordan who offered me a place to stay, saying “You’re Jewish aren’t you?”
    - How culturally familiar people in Tibet seemed compared to the people of India.
    - The bizarre juxtaposition of religious zealots of so many different faiths in Old Jerusalem.

    What I barely remember:

    - Touring the Taj Mahal
    - Two weeks on the beach in Thailand
    - Just about every tourist attraction

    • KayJay

      I am smiling at this!

    • Jasoturner

      Really good comment.  I have better memories of getting bagged (unfairly) by the transit police on the Prague metro and on a Krakow bus than I do of visiting the Louvre.  Not that the Louvre isn’t worth seeing…

  • Steev

    The tourist industry – organized & otherwise – tends to give travelers exactly what they were expecting. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa I watched tourists (black and white) buy up tons of mass-produced caricatures of African handcrafts made by tourist-oriented artisans. Hotels in the Dominican Republic feature Mexican Mariachi bands in their restaurants, on the idea that tourists can’t tell the difference between one Latin country and another, even though Mariachi is very un-Dominican. Package tours keep you hermetically separate from anything genuine. 

    • Stillin

       Yea it always looked like rich people hanging out with other rich people but like homogenized…like suburb to suburb…”all inclusives” make me think, all the people are there for the same thing, a drink, a tan, and no problems.

  • Brent

    We Americans are so lucky. Wherever I go in the world people do and want to speak English. Get out and see the world.

  • Dave Cope

    Grew up as an expat in Saudi Arabia, a country which prohibits outsiders from visiting unless you work there.  My father being the adventurous type took us on expeditions throughout the Arabian Peninsula exploring Madaen Sala, the Rub al Khali, and trains that Lawrence of Arabia blew up a hundred years ago.  We called it deep-desert camping because or caravan of vehicles would be 500 +miles from the nearest rode, equipped with extra fuel, water, and spare parts.  Most of the land and history is untouched an undocumented.  When I came back to the states at the age of 16 I was dismayed to learn that the typical American vacation involved an RV or a cruise where the outcome was totally predictable.  I yearn for the days when we sped around the desert finding neolithic artifacts and bedouins that had never met a caucasian. I have some stories that Indian Jones couldn’t top.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rachel.weinstein2 Rachel Weinstein

    I was in the Peace Corps.  Been there.  Done that.  Give me a chaise lounge with a pina colada on the beach :)

  • Corey

    This seems a hairy area for judgment because so many people’s travel coincides with their vacations, and that can introduce conflicting mindsets. Sometimes people travel to have adventure and experience something alien to their known life and world, but other times they are just trying to escape their standard environs and all the daily tensions and stresses associated therein. While I (and most of your listeners, it seems) generally place more value on the former, the latter is critical for some. Everyone finds their own mix. Travel companies are probably (in many cases) just providing all the creature comforts their customers might demand: it’s up to travelers to not let themselves get buries in those comforts.

  • Debbie Rosen

    In 1978 I quit 5 years of teaching and took a 3-month trip across Asia, from London to Kathmandu, in a truck, camping out every night, with 18 people. It included going through Iran and Afghanistan. Deciding to do this was like diving off the high diving board — never did anything like it before, never even had heard of Kathmandu before! Trekked in Nepal, traveled further on my own throughout Southeast Asia, came back home 8 months later experiencing intense culture shock re-entering the US (after experiencing no culture shock traveling — loved and embraced every minute!)

    Ended up working in the adventure travel field since then, 32 years! I’ve been lucky to have traveled all over the world — sat with the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda (all this in the 80s, before these became big tourist destinations) took another overland trip for 4 months across Africa, danced with the Pygmies in Central Africa, spent 2 weeks on non-roads (dried up river beds) across this wild rainforest in CAR where we had to cut trees to make bridges to cross creeks that were just too deep, and more amazing experiences.

    These trips changed my life totally. Growing up my family never took us anywhere. It’s so important to take risks and follow your instinct. There is nothing like “Real Travel”, going beyond your comfort zone and seeing the world.

    • Stillin

       I’m a teacher, art, I would like to do those things.

  • Louise

    In 1994, my husband and I shipped our 1960 Land Rover from San Francisco to London. We then drove to France, down through Spain, to Morocco. We continued on through West, Central, East Africa, all the way down to South Africa. We spent over a year camping, exploring, digging our car out of mud and sand. The trip changed our lives; it was beyond amazing. Now, with children we try to share this spirit of adventure. They know that when we travel “things will happen” and we will be out of our comfort zones. We’ve been chased by elephants, eaten insects, and climbed snow-covered volcanoes. We are travelers, not tourists, as our son likes to say. You can’t find these experiences at Disney.

    • Stillin

       oh my god fun city!

  • Joanhannah2000

    In 1981 I took my first solo trip across country from Cape Cod to Washington state.  It was a profoundly transforming experience. When I reached the Columbia River I felt like the pioneers must have felt: I made it!!
      Since then I’ve taken many trips across country with my pet
    rabbits in tow to New Mexico and AZ, and again those trips
    made me feel freer than if I’d stayed at home

  • Susansmf

    Terrific show. I am lucky enough to be retired & able to do this kind of travel & love it, but at 70 I have always sought out new adventures. I find there are many, many more young people from all over world able to do this kind of travel these days than when I was young. But prob. majority of people esp. my age are too fearful of change, differences, etc. I have always said what I like most in
    life & travel is learning something new esp. about myself.

    • Isernia

      As a 75 year old myself, I concur with what you say about the adventure of travel.  Besides learning new things with travel, it does foster the broadening notion that life outside the USA is often most attractive, more life-enhancing than is now-a-days found here. (Of course, I speak of traveling to First World countries or quickly developing ones…where I suspect self-planned trips take place.)

  • JZ

    Currently planning a 3700 mile road trip right now which will start on Saturday from RI to Indiana, to northern Quebec and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The drive through the more remote parts of the Atlantic Provinces will be an incredible experience. So much to see in North America. Last year at this time drove the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. In the future, I hope to drive one of the most remote roads in North America: the Trans-Labrador Highway.

  • KayJay

    Whenever I travel, I end up getting the kind of extreme travel experience that most people plan and spend money for, and yet never get.  I think it’s a mindset and a willingness to just take it as it comes, even when one has a pre-determined city-monuments-sightseeing list.  It starts with people being afraid of everything, from food-related illness to crime….. if one can free the mind from such negative thinking, perhaps one can approach people and places in a different way that is so rewarding!

  • Nc

    I love the idea of “real travel.” It brings out the little boy’s sense of adventure, and I want to be Indiana Jones all over again. But just like these home improvement shows on TV, with homeowner budgets of…I don’t know…500K for their renovation or new house somewhere. What the heck do these people do? How can they afford to buy the house, do the renovation, or in this case, “travel for real?”


    Nathan in central Illinois

    • Stillin

       If you plan a year ahead, and stay at a guest house, you can travel to a lot of cool places cheap. I have been to Trinidad for carnival, everybody should experience this once before they die,and it’s about 700 ticket, 1000 for your cheesy room. Eat cheap and you’re good to go. The 1,000 is a bed and sink. I like the street food, but really, you can do this cheap. A lot of places all over the world have a celebration at carnival time, which ends on Ash Wednesday…rooms cost more but you get to participate if you want and see a lot of interesting people.

      • Jess in Boston

        Not everyone can afford $1,700+, cheap as that might sound to some. I agree with NC. It’s a nice concept, and don’t we all wish we could backpack like adventurers on an Odyssey, but it’s not always possible due to finances or situation. 
        But adventure can be found even in local explorations and domestic travel. If everyone trekked across Tibet it would be just as much a tourist trap as Virginia Beach. Instead of planning each day well in advance, choose a date of destination and let the fun come from the journey of getting there. Instead of making all the restaurant reservations ahead of time, choose a few nights to wander around and find something off the beaten path and interesting. Just planning a little breathing room into your vacation, wherever it may be, can bring the excitement of travel back.

        • Stillin

           well actually, I don’t have a cell phone and what I used to pay for monthly cell covers my yearly vacation. I find the 1700 that way. For airfare, food, swimming , and the biggest party on the planet, I actually think it’s cheap. Also, I don’t drink, so the money I save on booze goes towards my vacation too. Actually, all I do up here is ride my bike, run my dogs, cook, paint and draw..none of which cost anything. There is nothing to do here, so I still say 1700 ? yup. cut your cable tv for a year, you’ll have  it.

    • Mangotraveler

      I get frustrated too. But I’ve done some “real travel” for pretty cheap. For instance, I can go from Boston to Guatemala for less than $400 in the off-season, and Spanish language schools there offer a week-by-week “home stay” with a family including a room and all meals, plus 3 hours a day Spanish language tutoring and some group activities  like salsa classes or volunteering with local kids. Because of the exchange rate and the different standard of living, it costs about $150 to $180 per week – yes week, not day. For me, this was the real thing. Just google “Spanish language school Guatemala” to learn about some options, or choose one recommended by the Lonely Planet guidebook. I also stay in hostels, even though I’m 65. My partner and I plan about $35 a day to cover room and meals for both of us when we’re in Guatemala, and about $50/day in Mexico. Much cheaper and there are bugs in your rooms. Lonely Planet is a big help in our planning. If you’re between apartments and don’t have to pay rent that helps. Just store your stuff and take off. Good luck, I hope you find a way to travel.

  • Neenytyo

    Oh travel. I have traveled alone, as a woman, many times. Every time I am a little scared, out of my comfort zone, but in the end it’s always a blast. If everyone did this kind of travel once, I think the world would experience a change in consciousness…which is what it brings. 

    • JCA

      Agreed Neenytyo! And for women afraid to set out alone, try the Camino de Santiago, a walking pilgrimage through Spain. You’ll meet others, guaranteed (about 1/2 men; 1/2 women—of all ages; even in their seventies!). And it’s relatively inexpensive. Many feel as though their lives have changed after the Camino experience…

      • Stillin

         funny you should mention this trail…isn’t called the el camino or something like that? My daughter and I say let’s do that trail…just have to go it’s haunting me.

    • Isernia

      I have an acquaintance that always travels alone and shares her experiences at the end of each day by writing  a “diary” entry which she e-mails to her friends/relatives and to herself.  On her return home, the entries become a travel journal so she can recall all her adventures. (At the age of 77 this is without question a great memory device for her.)

      • Stillin

         That’s cool. I do not use a computer or any social media when I am traveling. I don’t even take pictures, and here’s why. The place I go to is so poor I could be robbed for my camera. Secondly, I am there to experience the travel and then I write about everything in lined paper notebooks daily as a ritual. I have many nice experiences ruined by people “recording” things with cells and ipads and I hate it.

  • Stevetheteacher

    Most of my father’s family left Cuba before the revolution.  My father spoke fondly of his memories of the island, but did note the high degree of segregation/racism at the time. 

    I spent time in Havana, the area that the family is from, and traveled from one side of the country to the other.  Much of the time, I spent in people’s homes.  All who I met, from the die hard communists to the dedicated dissidents, treated me as close family.  Having a mixed race family, it is not uncommon for us to encounter stereotyping here in the US.  In Cuba,  I  felt that our mixed race family was more the norm than the exception.  All in all, I never felt so “at home.”

     I found that Cuba is not the brutal dictatorship that it is made out to be in the US, nor is it the workers paradise.  I would recommend such travel both for those who condemn socialism as well as those who promote it as an alternative to capitalism.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I missed most of this show, so this is very much a tangent, or it could be.  A few sentences on virtual travel and language.

    It used to be I could travel where I knew enough of a language to explore, and I had a handful of languages, not fluent, but enough to communicate; I recall in a Czech restaurant resorting to “I’ll have what she’s having” (no reverb with Nora Ephron there, but a menu moment of crisis).  However, now traveling by internet, I’m finding I want to know a bit of Polish and a bit of Urdu.  I can imagine needing a bit of many more languages, Hungarian, Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, Portuguese, on and on and on.  I travel with my fingers, but there is always the thought of jumping live into the nonvirtual world.   An example of wanting to be present, um, linguistically, was when I watched a debate conducted on TV in northern Pakistan, which was almost entirely simultaneous, heatedly simultaneous, the two candidates that is, until the “analyst,” who looked a bit like Walter Cronkite, was totally given the “floor” to size things up.  The host had had no moderating effect whatsoever.   Sometimes he spoke and it was three at the same time, not two.  But it would sure help to have the maximum understanding of comparative politics, these days.  Languages — open sesame.   Bring on Pimsleur.       For starters, Americans need a command of a number of alphabets.  I’m glad for every scrap of Cyrillic and Greek I know,  and the Russian grammar I know helps in Polish, but as I pointed out to one of these Eastern European friends, from Lodz, I don’t know how to use any Polish words with diacritics, since my keyboard doesn’t shift the way his does.     We are fortunate in the extreme that so many people globally know quite a bit of English.  But we need to return the favor as much as possible.  Haven’t you noticed how much of the shorthand slinging we do in social media depends on somewhat hidden meanings?, and the connectivity achieved is not a handshake but a shared recognition of something not immediately obvious in the words.   People play online using that which is indiscernible to outsiders, and that is fascinating to watch, but automatic translation services won’t catch it.    

    • Isernia

      No wonder your contributions to this site are so literate, thoughtful and meaningful….you are a linguist !  Your observation about “shorthand slinging” in social media depending on hidden meaning is most interesting.  I just got off FACEBOOK with a political message I was trying to make obvious, not subtle, to my “friends” of the opposite political ideology.  Hidden meanings do not work when corresponding to the dense……though they do to the perceptive and intelligent ones.  

      • Stillin

         I think your comment on hidden meanings could be an interesting topic in regards to communication. I myself like things straight up and direct…and my husband and I had a fiesty 25 year marriage with that style. Other people prefer that round about line two way of correspondence…I think it would be a great show.

  • Kim

    Geez, yeah, remember the good ‘ol days of raping and pillaging? Really guys? Did you not listen to the little bits of reason Robert Reid tried to bring to the discussion? 

  • Mike Card

    Yawn.  More trust-fund babies with too much time on their hands.

    • Sldavis01

      Honestly, it’s often cheaper to go to “real” places than to take a package tour to an all inclusive resort. My bf and I like to rent houses from VRBO and HomeAway which are cheaper than a hotel. In addition you save money on food and get the experience of going to the local market to buy it. It’s so much fun to see how the people really live and not just the Pretty Front that the resorts want to show you.

      • tjontheroad

        many people don’t realize that travelling can be very cheap. couchsurf, camp, ride a bike. food and visas are your biggest expenditures. the world is yours. start walking. 

    • Stillin

       Disagree. I am no trust baby as I teach and support all my kids and myself on that one small income. We live cheap so we CAN  travel. When you teach, the trade off is time. My house is cheap, I don’t spend money much, and so travel is the big thing each year…that’s a condescending remark…I am sure you don’t mean it.

    • Kristin Brinner

      Totally not true.  I was the first caller on this show, and talked about my husband and I driving from San Francisco to Argentina.  We spent several years saving up for our trip, and then traveled on about $70/day (for the 2 of us).  We met MANY other people on the road who were taking similar journeys, and not one of them was a trust fund baby – if travel is a priority for you, you can make it happen.  

      • Samsara

        That’s great, but your post doesn’t include a recognition that even this kind of low budget travel is only possible for Americans because of a level of privilege impossible to imagine for most people in the world. 

  • Rita

    I recently returned from 3 weeks in Brazil, a high-school graduation gift for my daughter (and myself). Part of the trip was visiting a friend, but the rest was, indeed, travel.  We did spend time at the beach, but also went hiking in the Chapada Diamantina national park and participated in the festival of Sao Joao with music and dancing – and we didn’t even know it was going on until we arrived in Salvador!  A wonderful trip which has my daughter hoping to take a semester abroad in Brazil and perfect her Portuguese skills.

  • Corey Samuels

    I was lucky enough to live in Israel for nine months after high school. I studied half the time and worked on a kibbutz for the other half. Being there for so long allowed me to really connect with Israelis (and a few Palestinians) and experience what they experienced throughout the year. It was very different experiencing the Jewish holidays in Israel versus America. I also spent two weeks hiking around the north of Israel and hitchhiked a lot and slept in very random places. It Qa an awesome experience and I did not feel at all like a tourist, but I was still traveling the whole time.

  • tjontheroad

    Hike the highlands of Irian Jaya. Ride a horse alone in Mongolia. Sail the South Seas. Been there, done that. Who wants to kayak the Ganges w me?

  • JJ

    Made a feature film when I was 24 in 2006.  Drove cross the US on I-80 with a half scale patriot missle atop an american flag van (during the Bush Era too!).. Also – canoeing through the Amazon Basin in Ecuador with a special forces vets!

    My small film is called “World’s Best Dad” and took me to some great film festivals!  Great topic!

  • Isabella Chime

    I loved backpacking for two months thru INDONESIA!  It is an awesome country for a traveller.  Sunrise over Kelimutu (blue, green, red crater lakes); Komodo dragons and barking deer on Komodo Island; fascinating dance and shadowpuppet performances in Ubud, Bali and great movies shown on a boat in Kuta Beach; Sunsets and snorkeling off the Gilli Ts was so beautiful; climbed Mt. Bromo in Java and attended a breath-taking cremation ceremony; eating Nasi Goreng and finally eating a Durian!!!!! Loved the call to prayer sounds five times a day and the smell of teak wood.  This travel experience I keep near and dear to my heart!  I am ready to travel again.  Any ideas or interest?

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  • Isernia

    “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”  St. Augustine

  • Bob Hatcher

    I took 5 months off to go around the world. I see the world very differently now, am much more tolerant of other cultures and viewpoints. Rick Steves put it well: Everyone should travel before they vote.

  • http://twitter.com/HeatherLynn117 Heather Dawn Lynn

    I don’t keep a travel journal; I take pictures to remember specific details or capture a grand scene. I don’t expect to learn some great life revelation from travel; being in the moment is a great freedom. I don’t want to appropriate someone’s culture and make it all about my own self-enlightenment. I’ve never done a cruise or a tour package, either, but the downside of ‘real’ traveling is you do get lost and can end up spending A LOT of money and time getting back on track. Also, traveling alone, I’m much more wary of getting scammed. I encourage exploring on your own, but always budget for when money and time get short. It will happen. The first caller did something similar to what I did, and being flexible really is key to having a good, long term travel experience. And extra money for that moment when you’ll definitely need it.

  • Samsara

    I was glad during this show that Tom kept commenting about the level of privilege it took for people to indulge in the travel experiences that they called up to talk about. Americans can be so self-congratulatory about global travel, especially if it’s low-budget or educational, without recognizing that it actually takes a tremendous amount of “capital” – financial, political, socioeconomic & cultural – to leave your country of origin and go somewhere else. Most of the world couldn’t even get a visa to travel to the U.S., but Americans can go practically anywhere. But, then, most of the world could never afford a plane ticket to the U.S., never mind that Americans can travel to their countries and hang out for months on end cheaply. Travel can be productive, sure, but as Americans we some of the most privileged people that have ever lived that we can indulge in it the way we do. 

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Aug 28, 2014
Photos surround the casket of Michael Brown before the start of his funeral at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014.  (AP)

The message that will last out of Ferguson with New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb.

Aug 28, 2014
Some of the hundreds of earthquake damaged wine barrels cover and toppled a pair of forklifts at the Kieu Hoang Winery, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A powerful earthquake that struck the heart of California's wine country caught many people sound asleep, sending dressers, mirrors and pictures crashing down around them and toppling wine bottles in vineyards around the region. (AP)

Drought in California, earthquake in Napa. We look at broken bottles and the health of the American wine industry.

Aug 27, 2014
The cast of the new ABC comedy, "Black-ish." (Courtesy ABC)

This week the Emmys celebrate the best in television. We’ll look at what’s ahead for the Fall TV season.

Aug 27, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, as Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, center, looks at them, prior to their talks after after posing for a photo in Minsk, Belarus, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP)

Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s leader meet. We’ll look at Russia and the high voltage chess game over Ukraine. Plus, we look at potential US military strikes in Syria and Iraq.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

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Why Facebook And Twitter Had Different Priorities This Week
Friday, Aug 22, 2014

There’s no hidden agenda to the difference between most people’s Facebook and Twitter feeds this week. Just a hidden type of emotional content and case use. Digiday’s John McDermott explains.

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Our Week In The Web: August 22, 2014
Friday, Aug 22, 2014

On mixed media messaging, Spotify serendipity and a view of Earth from the International Space Station.

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