Posted by: crustynomad | February 6, 2008

Should people tour their own country before going abroad?

This question has to be qualified as it depends very much where you come from. Someone from North America is likely to have a different view of that of someone in Western Europe, South Africa or Australia. Geographic location and scale of your home country can dictate whether it needs extra attention compared to the rest of the globe.

Generally speaking you would think it would make more sense to explore your home country first and learn about your personal identity but there is one factor that makes this an incorrect assumption: Age.

I live in Great Britain and am 39 years young. I have to say that with the exception of North West Scotland there is very little of this group of islands that I have yet to see. True, there are undiscovered spots such as coastline and islands, historic building and scenic views, lakes and forests that I haven’t visited yet but it’s unrealistic to see them all. I do though have the flavour of the country having travelled to every English and Welsh county and the majority of Scotland’s.

What have I done beyond these shores? Not much to be honest. I have yet to leave continental Europe with the only stamps on my passport being from France, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Spain, Yugoslavia (as was) and Greece. That’s very nice but when you plot them on the map you realise just how little you’ve seen. What’s more, European cultures are not too dissimilar and that’s what travel is supposed to be all about – understanding how others live.

Back to the age thing…

If I’d decided to travel the world at 20-25 I wouldn’t have the commitments I do now. No young family and mortgage to support. No career and pension plan to worry about. Time constraints are not an issue so I would have no worries but which direction to head next – ‘I’m away for a year after all!’

I had the opportunity to do exactly that 10 years ago this month. My friend asked me to go on a round the world trip with him and I was very tempted. I would’ve had to have sold up but it was possible as I had no ties but I eventually declined because I was six years into a mortgage and I had a decent job I didn’t want to lose. I also didn’t fancy going back to square one 12 months later.

Do I regret this? Yes and no. I would’ve have loved to have shared my friend’s experiences. He went to the Australian outback, Mt Everest base camp, Bangkok and Thailand. He travelled across the US on Greyhound coaches and met some fabulous people – it sounded wonderful.

The reason I say ‘no’ is because within a matter of weeks of my decision not to go I met my now wife and within 18 months she had moved in, we’d got engaged and married and had our first child. How could I regret that?

You never know what life is going to throw at you so all you can do is make your judgments the best you can.

The reason age is the deciding factor of deciding when and where to tour is simply because you can do so much more when you are younger. You have energy and freedom and nothing seems impossible. Take the world route first and become a more rounded human being. Only then should you grasp the fabric of your own country which will make you realise who you really are.

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