Traveling is done for many different reasons. Some travel for work; others like to go to the beach and do nothing but sip on margaritas and tan for days at a time. For people like me, we go to new places to learn about different cultures and ways of life.
It doesn’t matter if you travel across the country or across borders; you will find differences everywhere you visit. When traveling I like to learn about the history of the city I stay. I love museums and historical sites. As cliché as it may be, the Empire State Building, St. Louis Arch and the Golden Gate bridge were inspiration to travel to those cities for the first time.
Of course, when going to such places I like to live as the citizens do. I like to take part in ball games, art shows, or music festivals. It is important to visit the typical sites that make individual cities stand out. But you never really understand a community’s culture until you take part in it as if you were born and raised there.
This can be hard when you cross borders as there are often language barriers that make it obvious that you are a tourist. But I still give it a world class effort and find the places that aren’t in the “tourist areas.” I have been to Cancun 7 times and some of my favorite places are in areas that most tourists never travel.
What amazes me most about different cultures is the cost of living. For example, in Mexico you can find a nice house for rent for next to nothing. But when minimum wage is less than $5 a day, it seems impossible to afford even the smallest of homes.
Just last summer I took a trip to Texas. I found a nice little bar that was located literally in the middle of nowhere. I figured it would be a good spot to find locals and therefore I would learn more. I sat down at the bar and waited for the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation.
This cute old man was more than happy to engage with me. We talked about everything from how he found himself in Texas (followed a love affair!), to what he does to keep himself busy in such a small town. He actually seemed to be happy there and appreciated the hometown feel where everyone knows his name.
But what he said he liked most to my surprise was the deregulation in electricity. I was taken back. But this is what I love about traveling. He let me know that you can compare electricity rates in Texas. I asked him to explain that a little more. He said that on average citizens are saving more money on their utilities; they aren’t forced to go with a specific company. There are numerous sources for energy and you can pick the one that offers the most savings. With this comes competitive prices from all companies and it seems no one is getting screwed.
I asked him why this was the best thing about Texas. He said that he follows the economy and the environment very closely. He is concerned with the greed in this country and many others. He is proud to live in a place that uses some logic. So it isn’t true that everything is bigger in Texas. Their utility bills are actually much lower.
Traveling can be insightful no matter what you decide to enjoy. I simply prefer to use my time away from home learning about others. A people watcher by nature, I guess this really isn’t a surprise. But this is my way; it doesn’t have to be yours. Travel is good for the soul. You don’t have to do it my way. Just do it!