You may think that you travel a lot because you have already been to Bali and to Australia. Or, if you are American, you may think you have seen the world after your trip to Rome and Paris. Even I sometimes believe that I have already seen quite a lot of countries for my young age.
But we are all wrong.
Even though you have the photo of yourself in front of the Eiffel Tower or the Pyramids in your Facebook profile, you’d be surprised to find out how many people in your neighbourhood have seen much more of the world than you have:
You may not even notice the old geezers sitting on a bench in the park and you would laugh if I told you to go to a retirement home to hear some great travel stories, but many men of our grandfathers’ generation have seen more of the world than we ever will.
When he was not even 20 years old, my grandfather invaded Poland and spent some horrible years in the Soviet Union, probably doing horrible things, followed by imprisonment in Yugoslavia. To my big disgrace, I still haven’t been to Poland or to Russia, even though it would be much easier for me travel there now, and at a much lesser cost to the civilian population in these countries.
Other grandfathers have been to Egypt, to Libya, to Japan, to Burma or Singapore. In a time span of a few years, they may have seen several continents, crossed oceans, dropped out of airplanes and deciphered codes. If you think that your bungee-jumping in Australia was the coolest thing to do, think again.
If you don’t have a heart, you may disregard the refugees in your town. If you have a heart, you may pity them. But talk to them! After having travelled through all of Latin America and Mexico to reach the USA, or after having escaped Somalia on a walk through the Sahara desert and a dangerous journey in an unfit boat in the Mediterranean, they have travel stories to tell that you won’t be able to beat.
Some birds see more of the world than most humans ever will.
The fruits in your supermarket may have come from farther away than you will ever venture. This may not apply if you are in New Zealand yourself.
In 1910, the Romanian geographer Dumitru Dan and three of his friends set out to walk around the world. His friends died on the way, one of opium poisoning in India, another one in a mountaineering accident in China and the third one from gangrene after crossing Alaska. The full circumvention was put on hold due to the outbreak of World War I, but Mr Dan eventually completed it in 1923, thirteen years after leaving Romania.
He obviously did all of this without a mobile phone, without internet, without GPS and without Couchsurfing. If he could do it a hundred years ago, what prevents you from doing it now?