Travel in Western Europe, the US/Canada, Australia/New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, the UAE, and Other Developed Countries
¨In the developed world, hundreds of millions of us now face the bizarre problem of surfeit. Yet, our brains, instincts, and socialized behavior are still geared toward an environment of lack. The result overwhelm on an unprecedented scale¨
The post below is the second of a two-part series. The first part is about travel to third world (emerging) countries.
My Experiences Traveling in the First World
When I first taught a course on traveling and living abroad, I quickly realized that many of my students were only interested in living and traveling in Western Europe. (Particularly Italy and France). When I would mention how much I loved Latin America and Asia, they looked at me like crazy.
In retrospect, I tried to convince my students that Asia and Latin America were better for travel than Europe for a long time.
Then, I decided to spend time in Italy and France to keep the classes relevant to my audience.
Even though I went to Italy and France with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, I ended up falling in love with Italy and France. When I could travel nearly full-time in 2011, I uncovered a fondness for Central Europe, Germany, and the Balkan states. Over time, I discovered that I like traveling to developed countries and third world (emerging) equally well but for different reasons. This is why I recommend that all Fifty-Plus Nomads with enough time to travel worldwide should experience both traveling in First World countries and the third world.
Perhaps, most surprisingly, I went to Quebec to learn French in 2011 and felt incredibly comfortable and happy in Canada. (So much so that I spent nine summers in Montreal).
I also loved seeing how other English-speaking countries, especially Australia and New Zealand, compared to the US. (There are many more differences than expected).
4 Pros of Traveling in the First World
There are also some excellent reasons for traveling in the First World, including:
- The diversity of places and people you’ll experience traveling in First World Countries is impressive. Denmark is vastly different from Italy. Each province in Italy was a different country at some point with a unique dialect, culture, and history. While many aspects of life in the US and Canada seem similar, it does not take much effort to discover significant regional differences in both countries. (On a recent trip through the Southeastern US, I discovered the richness of African American culture and history. Visiting Quebec and the Maritime Provinces, I learned so much about their intriguing mixture of British, French, North American, and Indigenous cultures).
- Many large First World cities, like Sydney, Toronto, Los Angeles, and London, have restaurants and tourist sites reflecting their multicultural population. (More than half of all residents of Los Angeles County, for example, do not speak English in their home. You will hear a language other than English spoken in nearly half of all Toronto households).
- First World Countries do an excellent job organizing their tourist sites and activities. Many tourist sites display extraordinary interpretation techniques and are very user-friendly. In the US and Canada, many guides are volunteers at places that get so few tourists that you feel like an honored guest. In Europe, almost every tourist site has extremely informative and complete audio guides.
- First World Countries have museums, tours, and attractions appealing to every type of interest. In the 2000s, I had a class and wrote a couple of magazine articles about tours in California. Among some of the trips include:
- Increasingly, First World Countries have become more accessible financially. Thanks to the strong US Dollar, travel in Western Europe and Canada is anywhere from ten to forty percent less expensive than visiting the US. (When I first went to Europe and Canada regularly in 2007 they cost anywhere from ten to fifty percent more than in the US). Besides, with the burst of shared economy companies like Uber and Airbnb, it is cheaper to travel inexpensively and comfortably in First WorldCountries than in the past. (Thank God, we are no longer dependent on high-cost hotels and taxis).
- First World Countries have many of the world’s most fascinating sights. Throughout this blog, you will find photos of my favorite places including Frank Lloyd Wright sites in the US; dinosaur sites in Alberta, Canada; desert and mountain National Parks in the Western US, Canada, and Australia; and some of my favorite cities (Los Angeles, Chicago, Montreal, Barcelona, Berlin, Vienna, Melbourne, Washington DC, etc.).
- The First World has incredibly diverse natural environments. In a matter of a couple of hours of travel in many regions in these countries, you can see deserts, mountains, plains, and in a few cases, even jungles. The US and Canada have the world’s most incredible network of rivers, lakes, and other water resources. In a few hours of many cities, you can be entirely isolated from the rest of the world.
- I have met some amiable and helpful people traveling in First World Countries. It is easy to meet people and make friends, especially if you stay in hostels or rent a room in someone’s home.
- It is fun to learn about your ancestral homeland. I enjoyed seeing Denmark and Germany after hearing the story about my ancestors’ lives in these countries from my grandparents.
3 Cons of Traveling in the First World
While traveling in First World Countries is very comfortable, familiar, and enjoyable, it has some definite drawbacks, including:
- Just deciding to visit Third World Countries is an easy way to save money. Everything costs 30-70% less than in First World Countries. Many people from First World Countries travel to Third World Countries because it can be cheaper than staying at home. In the US and Western Europe to travel cheaply, you have to be willing to either:
- Explore alternative travel options like volunteering, exchanging, and studying.
- Plan your vacation so that you implement a variety of cost-saving techniques throughout your adventure.
You May Need a Car to Get Around
- Many First World places are not easily accessible except in a car. I have spent time without a car in many cities in the US and Canada and found it both frustrating and costly. Buses are rare and finding the right bus route can be irritating. (Even in relatively large cities like Orlando, Florida), Taxis and Ubers are expensive for long-distance travel and maybe rare in rural areas. It can be challenging to find tours to visit many sites.
- Renting a car, however, is relatively inexpensive and easy, especially in the US and Canada. Though it can be difficult for North Americans to get used to the small roads in Western Europe and to driving on the left in the UK, and Australia/New Zealand. Besides, many European rental cars have manual transmissions.
- While overall, Western Europe lives up to its reputation for high-quality public transportation. I have been surprised by how little public transportation is available in some places, especially Southern Italy. On the other hand, I have found that traveling by bus and train between large cities in the US and Canada is often better and less expensive than depicted by the media. (Note: I had meager expectations in the first place).
- Traveling in First World Countries can be very lonely. Large metropolitan areas can feel isolating. Generally, you need to find a common interest with people if you want to break the ice.
- In my experience, my most frustrating experiences took place traveling in First World Countries (especially my own country, the USA). Many of the people who work in hotels and other tourist-related industries are so obsessed with following strict rules that they are virtually unable to solve problems. (Many of these people want to solve customer problems, they are just hidebound by their companies’ often inane policies and procedures). Nowhere is this truer than with immigration and customs officials and airline personnel in the US and Canada. (So much so that there are airports that I avoid just because of bad past experiences). This situation saddens me because twenty years ago, travel-related personnel in the US were overwhelmingly helpful and accommodating.
Despite these troubles, I love to travel to First World Countries and look forward to exploring more of this part of the world.
Want Some Information About the Differences Between Traveling in First World and Third World Countries?
Some Additional Posts About Lessons that I Learned During My Sixteen Years Living and Traveling in Western Europe, the US/Canada, and the Third World
- Learning Vacations: The Best Kept Travel SecretMy favorite type of group travel is learning vacations. No aspect of group travel has so influenced who I am as a person and how I view the world.
- 15 Tips for Finding the Best Guided Multi-Day Tours Worldwide for Long-Term TravelersOne of my biggest surprises in traveling around the world for five years was how much I enjoyed guided multi-day tours. It is nice to have other people deal with arrangements. Many of the tour guides are incredibly knowledgeable and friendly. My fellow travelers were usually kind and interested in learning.
- Couples Traveling Long-Term Together: Does it Hurt or Strengthen Your Relationship? (Under Construction)Under Construction
- My Temporary Home Base During Travel in Montreal: 10 Reasons I Loved Coming Home During My Five Year Trip Around the WorldDuring my round the world travels,, I was glad to spend tree months every year at a home base in Montreal. Not only did I grow very fond of Quebec and Eastern Canada but it was fun to just do day-to-day activities with friends.
- How To Avoid Travel LonelinessWhen I was traveling around the world as a young man, I frequently got lonely. When I was able to travel around the world again long term, I deliberately participated in group tours, cruises, volunteering, and learning vacations to avoid loneliness. It worked wonders for me.
- 3 Tips for Justifying Long-Term Travel: An Unexpected ChallengeI was surprised how often I had to justify my existence when I traveled around the world. Here are some tips in case you find yourself in the same situation.
- Paying More than Locals As a Foreigner: How to Deal with and Avoid ProblemsWhen I was younger being charged more for things than locals used to piss me off. Now I simply acknowledge it as part of traveling and living in third-world countries. I find the less it bothers me the less I attract aggressive vendors, too.
- Culture Shock: The Greatest Challenge for Long-Term Travelers and Expats?By far the biggest issue I had while traveling around the world as a younger man was culture shock. It even resulted in me making some major decisions, most of which I regret in retrospect. In my experience, many people suffer from culture shock while traveling around the world or living abroad but most don’t even know they are suffering from culture shock.
- Backpacker Syndrome: Why Travel Burnout is Usually Part of a Nomadic LifestyleEvery long-term traveler regardless of the budget will occasionally suffer from backpacker’s syndrome. I deal with it by slowing down, staying in my hotel for a day or two, or scheduling some new activities.
- Travel Church Overload Syndrome: When You Just Can’t Stand Seeing Another ChurchDuring my five years traveling around the world. I occasionally suffered from mild travel burnout. Only once did I succumb to church overload syndrome because over time I have learned how to appreciate churches. However, church overland syndrome used to bother me frequently and it seems commonplace among other long-term travelers.
- Independent Travel: Advantages and DisadvantagesDuring my five years traveling around the world, I spent about half my time traveling independently and the other half on group tours, cruises, volunteering, and learning vacations. I love the freedom to explore things in depth that comes with independent travel. However, I find exclusively traveling independently to get exhausting and lonely if done for months at a time. I also love the diversity of experiences.when I mix group and independent travel.
- 8 Advantages and Disadvantages of Third World TravelEveryone who can travel worldwide should visit countries in the developing, third world, and the developed world (Western Europe, USA/Canada, Australia/New Zealand, etc.). This post outlines the advantages and disadvantages of third-world, emerging country travel.
- 7 Hidden Pros and Cons of Traveling in the First WorldOne of my biggest surprises when I traveled around the world for five years was how much I loved traveling in the First World (USA/Canada, Australia/New Zealand, Western Europe, Singapore, Japan, the UAE, etc). Until I began to travel around the world for a long term, I always thought the developed world was less interesting than in the third world. Now I find both equally interesting and enjoyable.
- Round the World Travel: My Top 4 LessonsI learned four lessons from my five-year journey around the world: 1) Mix group and independent travel; 2) Travel to varied parts of the world; 3) Avoid travel burnout, and 4) Have a home base.