A little travel music

Four little items, all travel-related. Make of them what you will:

  • Four out of five Americans don’t have passports. That means they’ve never been outside the country, except possibly to Canada or Mexico. For that matter, some Americans who have passports don’t use them. Travel broadens the mind wonderfully–but then, I’d guess a significant percentage of Americans (and much higher percentage in some other countries) never travel more than a hundred miles or so from where they were born.
  • We’re all tourists–as at least one travel writer has said, breaking down the snobbish distinction between (mere) tourists and Travelers. Unless you’re actually going to live in another country, it’s an arbitrary distinction. The rest of us our tourists, whether we wear the silly clothes and offend the people we visit or whether we try to enrich our lives by seeing what’s there to be seen and appreciating the differences in people and places.
  • True story: A California couple—a California couple!–was turned away when they wanted to board the plane to fly to their cruise in French Polynesia. One of the two said: “Nobody told us we needed a passport to cruise French Polynesia.” (Actually, I find it extremely unlikely that any cruise line cruising French Polynesia doesn’t have explicit statements in its brochures and travel packets that passports are required–most of them require you to send in your passport number before tickets are issued–but it’s possible that the travel agent didn’t explicitly read those instructions on the phone.) I wonder where in the U.S. this California (California! As a native, I’m stunned…) couple thought they were going on a nine-hour east/southeast flight?
  • “That’s the men’s room, Margaret.” I wrote that down in my little notebook one evening on Crystal Harmony, somewhere in Alaska, in one of the public spaces. And yes, Margaret–a wee bit older than I–was headed into the inappropriate facility. It took three times, but her companion managed to steer her toward a more suitable room. I thought there might be a story there, but maybe not…

[Alternate name: Clearing out the “blog possibilities” notebook.]

4 Responses to “A little travel music”

  1. rochelle says:

    I’m feeling a little less rube-ish after seeing your 4/5 statistic, Walt. I don’t have a passport, and probably wouldn’t have a need for one unless ALA goes to Canada again. Ican’t help but guess that passport ownership is tied to socioeconomic status? As a jr high and high school kid, I was invited several times to participate in exchange student programs, but there was no way my parents could afford it, even with scholarship help. Now my kids are that age, and the 14 year old has asked about Japan. And, since I don’t make much more (and maybe even less) than my construction worker dad, there’s no way I can consider it. At 12 and 14, neither of my girls has been on an airplane, and neither have been farther than an eight-hour drive from home.

    Jenny’s post about ditching ALA had me thinking about what I get out of my membership, and I just figured it out: Most of my travel experience is due to my involvement in ALA. Without regular conference attendance, I would probably never get more than a few hours’ drive away from home either.

  2. walt says:

    Rochelle makes a very good point. While my wife and I have become more frequent travelers/tourists (which has slowed down recently), that didn’t happen right away. Indeed, I’d have to say that ALA conferences were the initial way that I saw something other than the Pacific Coast… (and speaking at conferences is still responsible for most of the states I’ve visited, I believe).

    One rite of passage is getting a passport. Another is renewing it, meaning you’ve at least had the option of traveling internationally for a full decade.

  3. Alan says:

    I think that travel could be limited by lack of money, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. I flew from Seattle to Brussels for $139 r/t once in the summer because of a computer error I found on Expedia. Then the hostels are cheap. I’m about to spend 10 nights in Belize on the beach for $35 per night. There are ways to travel inexpensively if you really want to travel. Please, please consider stretching to find a way to send your kid to Japan. I never left the U.S. until I was 27.

  4. Alan says:

    PS I have been to French Polynesia for $300 r/t. The catch was I had to fly on Christmas Eve redeye to Christmas day! No big deal. Much better than staying in consumerland for the holidays. And Tahiti and Moorea were more than worth the price of the tickets and the passport.