With the value of the US dollar plummeting why go abroad as an American? Five travel destinations in America for Americans.
The glory days of international travel for Americans who sling dollars around like they’re going out of style are rapidly disappearing. Rising oil prices have driven the prices of flights up. The weak dollar means that lingering around foreign cities for months doing nothing in particular is just not as tight as it used to be. After all, it’s tough to be arrogant and broke at the same time. The Portuguese do it and come off as a lot of stinkers.
Fewer Americans abroad comes as a relief for European travelers who weren’t ever happy about losing attention-getting contests to brash, smiling, loud and vacuous backpackers. One thing the Euros will miss, however, is the high-handed sport of blaming imperialism on the Yanks.
Brit at the Bolivian restaurant: “Every time I see a McDonald’s I want to burn it down. And don’t even get me started on Monsanto.”
And surely the Dutch backpackers will feel nostalgia for not having anyone to address with: “Do people hate you when they find out you’re American?”
Where to vent all that lost empire envy with the Americans gone may be the debate of the decade in hostels everywhere from the Gold Coast of Australia to the Himalayan streets of Kathmandu. Road Junky’s advice to the Old Worlders is to relax and just go along with that guy from Dubai who wants to buy your ticket on the helicopter tour for you. You might be obliged in certain ways afterwards but no one at home need find out.
The rest of this article is for Americans who still need to get their travel fix, but now with a limited range. The answer is to keep travel local. How local? Real local. Here are five cheap and easy travel solutions for travel in a recession:
1. State Parks
Every state in the United States has a state park. Drive to it. Pitch a tent. Get a hiking map. Walk around a lot. Admittedly, it might feel like something is missing so some creativity is required. To recreate immersion in foreign language you might run Berlitz instructional audio on repeat on your mp3 player. Burn a lot of plastic to get the Latin American feel, or set up camp directly behind your running car’s exhaust to capture the environment of the Chinese city. Ask the check out girl at the market to charge you double the price for your cans of beans to remind you of the feeling of getting ripped off as a rich American.
You may be in a more party-oriented mood. Since it’s way too pricey to get to the Caribbean Islands instead go to the island city of Austin, Texas. Like Key West, Florida, you can get there by driving! Austin is a great city full of freaks, artists, musicians and Stevie Ray Vaughan statues. Getting around is easy. People drive on the right side of the road. The locals speak American, except for the Mexicans who speak Mexican. American beverages like Budweiser and Coca-Cola are widely available. One word of advice: a common trick of untrustworthy locals is to offer to take you to their hometowns on the nearby islands of Waco and College Station. Refuse these offers at all costs.
Canada is a little known part of Minnesota. While expensive to visit (they have their own currency which is stronger than the US dollar), Canada has a vast array of pine forests, fresh water lakes and clear rivers to marvel at. It’s pretty big so you’ll need a car, and if you prefer to see cities when you travel it might not be the place for you – Canada is not known to have any large settlements. The locals are a weird bunch, too, they’re always pointing out their superior health care system and trusting way of life, and some of them even speak French. If you are real savvy you can even fund your trip to Canada by purchasing meds (these are sold at stands on the side of forest roads along with beef jerky) and selling them once you get back home.
4. Central America
Central America is a big travel secret that Road Junky is determined to reveal. It’s just like Cinque Terra, the paradise in Italy for which we have Rick Steves to thank for enlightening us about. Central America is the next destination for doctors, law students and bankers to brag about having seen this summer. It’s cheap: savory tacos can be found for as little as one peso, or about one dollar each. Since it’s part of America, no passport is needed for Americans to visit. You can drive there – and here is a golden tip for how to do it: stop along the way at hostels, pick up Europeans, and have them foot your gas bill. Travel activities include behaving badly and subsequently having to bribe your way out of arrests, fighting off traveler’s diarrhea, and being woken up at 2 AM by crowing roosters.
5. Travel in your Home Town
It’s a little known fact that Graham Greene’s last unpublished travel novel when he died was set in his home town of Berkhamsted. Yes it can be exotic to explore where you live in the same way as if it were Cusco. It’s all in the mind. Start off by dressing the part. This means going full force with the khaki pants with detachable legs, money belts, backpack, and hiking boots. Find a vacant lot not in your backyard, pitch a tent there, and make it your base. Walk around a lot. Meet locals by entering shops and asking them about their culture while vaguely explaining you’re not from around here. Bring your mobile phone along but only use it to answer calls from the new local friends you make. When you’re done, post your photos to flickr.com and write about the best places for travelers to go. Arrange to give a lecture with slides at the bookstore.
Happy travels! Go Steelers!