Happy Trails To You

baloonsby Nancy Bestor

It may be hard to believe but a new year is once again upon us. I can remember thinking when I was a kid that the year 2000 seemed light years away, but 2014? I can’t imagine my brain even thought that far ahead. Travel sure has changed over the years (not unlike the color of my hair), but certain things about travel have remained constant in my lifetime—and maybe even longer.

We can still get from one side of the globe to the other in less than a day. It took people in the 1800s months to get from what is now Kansas to the Pacific Ocean via the Oregon Trail.  And I don’t need to mention what they did or didn’t get to eat along the way. I’d say we’re pretty fortunate that today we can get from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia in 15 hours, with a tray of chicken or pasta to boot!

Using our passports to explore foreign countries is still the best way of understanding other cultures, eating new foods, and meeting people completely different from oneself. Yes, we can read about different places in a book, but given the opportunity, the best way to experience somewhere is by plopping yourself right down into that spot, wherever it may be.

Although quite a few jaded travelers and even some guidebooks may tell you differently, there are still an infinite number of unexplored places in our world. Sure, places like Cambodia may not be as tourist-free as they once were, but you can play the adventurer at Angkor Wat with thousands of others, then travel to any number of towns a short distance away and find yourself surrounded only by Cambodians. Even touristy cities have spots where the locals go. If you can find those, you might just skip the tourist sites altogether (and that’s okay!).

A smile still goes a long way. People in all parts of the world, including those cities known for snooty locals or hurried businessmen, regularly take time out of their lives to help travelers in need. All you have to do is ask, preferably with a smile on your face—as people respond to kindness. We’ve had everyone from well-dressed business folk to some whom we initially judged as suspicious stop us on the street, not to try and take advantage of us, but to offer us help when we looked lost.

I plan to embrace the positives of travel and much, much more in 2014. I know there are plenty of negatives, but with these rose-colored glasses on, I’ll try not to see them.

Happy New Year, and bon voyage in 2014.