With Sarah Palin's alleged lack of knowledge about whether Africa is a continent or country, some accuse the news outlets of nitpicking. You know, because it wouldn't really matter if a world leader didn't know what the world actually looked like.
Yet for me, what's just as troubling is the Palin-type philosophy on travel that says it's somehow pretentious to leave one's corner of the world -- and elitist to think there may be something out there beyond our own 'greatness.' This is an ironic sentiment at best.
In fact, I travel because it makes me to accept there are things out there I don't know. Travel activates parts of ourselves that might otherwise remain dormant; it also relieves fears, and promotes understanding.
Thankfully, the election of Barack Obama has been met with a warm reception globally and there is a light at the end of the tunnel of our diminished reputation around the world.
But we can't put all the responsibility on our leaders -- we also individually have the opportunity to help shape what those abroad think of Americans. One of my favorite quotes has been "The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land" (G. K. Chesterton).
Yet, I wondered what some of my contemporaries would say about the importance of getting out to see the world. And by that I mean, ahem, the real world -- not all-inclusive resorts and kitschy tourist traps. (Besides, not many can afford those right now, anyway.)
So I rounded up some of the best travel bloggers and online travel publishers around the world and asked them why they think travel, in fact, matters. Here's what they had to say:
"Citizen diplomacy is the way to world peace."
- Pam Mandel from Nerd's Eye View
"Travel is the best education. Nothing opens our eyes more. How can we be global citizens without traveling?"
- Wendy Perrin from Conde Nast Traveler's Perrin Post
"Life is an adventure! Travel enriches, expands, touches, educates, delights, and connects like nothing else. To know the earth, its people and beauty, one must go."
- Jeanne Dee from Soultravelers3
"Travel is learning, and learning is a worthwhile use of time. We all have a finite number of days, months, and years left on earth. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking there's no rush, but actually there is. I urge people not to wait to travel. Go now."
- Jamie Pearson from Travel Savvy Mom
"For children travel matters because it is a part of their education. They need to learn about different cultures and new languages."
- Darren Cronian from Travel Rants
"Traveling allows you to press the 'pause' button on your own life and go experience someone else's for a while. Everyone needs a dose of humility, and nothing makes you more humble than seeing just how big the world really is. And because after so long, telling someone in a foreign country you're American [now] makes them smile again."
- Christine Cantera from Miss Expatria
"It expands our horizons and increases our understanding of both the world and ourselves. Develops inner confidence in oneself."
- Alex Berger from Virtual Wayfarer
"Travel opens your eyes, your mind and your heart to the people and places which fill this world."
- Michelle Duffy from WanderMom
"I travel because in this modern globalized world, one can't understand it without experiencing new cultures and new places. If we are to move past the divisions of history and get along, we have to have cultural understanding. We can't put walls up. Traveling helps tear down the walls that lead to misunderstanding and conflict."
- Matt Kepnes from Nomadic Matt
"Traveling to unfamiliar places makes me see that there is a lot of beauty in the world -- landscape, people, art and culture. Taking care of it becomes important."
- Kimberly Kradel from Artist at Large
"When I travel I never feel like I need more of anything, except for travel itself. It is the triumph of experience over stuff. Best of all it has the same affect on my children, who are clamoring for another trip to Paris for Christmas."
- Mara Gorman from Mother of all Trip
"Memories of the spontaneous transcendent events that happen during a cross-cultural experience remain vivid for all the years of one's lifetime."
- David Chamberlain of Exquisite Safaris Philanthropic Travel
"Imagine taking a break from your road trip through Jordan. You pull off in a small town, distinguished only by a bright blue Mosque set against a backdrop of sand-colored homes and desert. You pull some pistachios out of your trunk and set off in search of a cold drink. At the small family owned shop, barely open during the heat of the day, you're greeted... not with suspicion, but with joy. The owners refuse your money (you leave a small gift in return) and you are invited to meet the whole family and share your stories over a warm meal. Could you write off all Arabs as angry, intolerant, American haters after that? I'd guess not."
- Debbie Dubrow from Delicious Baby
These folks are clearly passionate about what they do.
With the state of the economy, travelers are looking for a way to get the most for their money and find the best deals. The agility and speed of information coming out of travel bloggers and online publications provide a wealth of not only destination information, but ways to save a buck and experience local culture.
So, where will you go on your next trip?