¨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¨
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 would look at me like I was crazy.
For a long time, in retrospect, I tried to convince my students that Asia and Latin America were better for travel than Europe.
Then, I decided that 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 had the chance to travel nearly full-time in 2011, I uncovered a fondness for Central Europe, Germany, and the Balkan states.
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).
Pros of Traveling in Developed Countries
There are also some excellent reasons to travel in Developed Countries including:
- The diversity of places and people in Developed 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 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);
- Developed 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.
- Developed 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:
- a private, world-class Japanese art museum in the middle of a cattle farm;
- a guided visit to a tortoise sanctuary; and
- fascinating visits to a guitar factory, a windmill farm, and a castle in the middle of Death Valley; and
- Increasingly, Developed 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 in shared economy companies like Uber and Airbnb, it is cheaper to travel inexpensively and comfortably in Developed Countries than in the past. (Thank God, we are no longer dependent on high-cost hotels and taxis).
- Developed countries have many of the world’s most fascinating sights. Throughout this website, 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.); and
- The US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have 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 Developed Countries. It is easy to meet people and make friends, especially if you stay in hostels or rent a room in someone’s home; and
- 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.
Disadvantages of Traveling in Developed Countries
While traveling in Developed Countries is very comfortable, familiar, and enjoyable, it has some definite drawbacks including:
- Just deciding to visit Emerging Countries is an easy way to save money. Everything costs 30-70% less than in Developed Countries. Many people from Developed Countries travel to Emerging 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, or
- 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 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. It can be challenging to find tours to visit many sites;
- Renting a car, however, is relatively inexpensive and easy. Though it can be difficult for North Americans to get used to the small roads in Western Europe. Besides, many European rental cars have manual transmissions; and
- 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 Developing 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 in Developed 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 in Developed Countries and look forward to exploring more of this part of the world.