“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely . . . Broad, wholesome, charitable views of life cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s life”
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page”
I have yet to find statements about travel that I agree with more.
You have probably heard tales about the French and their disdain for Americans. Stories of French rudeness toward Americans are a staple of travel lore, even featured in film and literature. Surely it must be true. But my 28 years of traveling in France and other places have taught me differently. Sure there is the occasional discourteous European, just as we have our share of jerks in America. But my experience tells me that in Europe it is the Ugly American who is ill-mannered, insensitive, swaggering and offensive.
Now that I have blamed you for all your travel troubles, let me explain. Europeans like Americans very much. They love to talk with us, love our freedoms, are very generous with their hospitality, but do not envy us. They do not think we have the answers to all of life’s problems, nor do they think our way of life the one true way. They quite like their culture and social systems. But far too often Americans travel through Europe with a holier-than-thou approach to the local culture, thinking they have the best approach to everything from table manners to toilets. With their nose in the air and disparaging comments on their lips the Ugly American struts through Europe, effectively shutting the door to understanding, learning and appreciation. If busloads of this kind of person inundated your home town every summer I think you would be hard pressed to maintain your hospitality. So it can be in Europe.
I believe in vigorously fighting the Ugly American! When you travel in Europe, leave any notion of superiority at home. View everything in Europe not as “better” or “worse,” but only as different solutions to life’s common problems. They have gotten along with their toilets for years and have conserved an awful lot of water in the process! You needn’t get on your high horse over that one!
Don’t travel if you expect and demand things to be like they are at home. Go to Provo on your vacation if that is going to be your attitude! You have traveled to France to experience France for heavens’ sake! Why did you come here if you want it to be like Utah?
The most satisfying things can happen on a trip through Europe if you travel with an open mind, leave behind your notions of superiority, and embrace the cultures that you find there. As they say, “when in Rome . . .” Don’t spoil your trip with your own lousy attitude.
Here is something else to consider. When you travel things will go wrong. The train will be late, the room will be disappointingly small, the weather will be hot, you might get sick for a day or two. Well, that’s just life! Accept the fact that in life things don’t go perfectly and roll with it! Don’t let the little disappointments of travel get to you! Let’s say your camera gets stolen. You now have a choice to make. You can sit and cry and whine and curse the Italians and sulk and complain to everyone around you. Or, you can buy a cheap replacement, sit in the Roman Forum, and realize just how fortunate you are to be soaking up 2,500 years of Western Civilization. The choice of attitude is yours.
Don’t travel if you are an Ugly American. Don’t travel if you can’t stand it when things go wrong. But if you can change YOU, and not expect Europeans to change to please you, then you are in for the time of your life!