My journeys abroad started in 2005 when I studied abroad in Australia. In 2007, I backpacked and studied yoga in India. In 2008, I returned to Australia to work and volunteer abroad. Between 2014-2015 I lived in Hannover, Germany. To say the least, I have seen many parts of the world and have seen some interesting changes throughout the world.
So what’s the one reason why I should travel abroad NOW? Simple. GLOBALIZATION. I’m an American and proud to be one, but when I travel and live abroad, I want to escape America. I want to escape the stress, connection to the virtual world and the fast food/chain restaurant-centric culture.
When I returned to Australia in 2008 I saw more “American” things enter the culture. I noticed mainly through fashion where men wore basketball jerseys and either basketball or baseball hats.
During my travels in India, I spoke with many elder locals who were worried about their youth desiring to live a western lifestyle. They were afraid that their culture would be lost and blinded in the world of materialism. In 2010, I looked at my Mumbai friend’s Facebook page and noticed a large outdoor shopping mall. They posted pictures of themselves eating at KFC, California Pizza Kitchen and shopping at Timberland. Naïve, I posted, “Hey where are you on vacation?”
They replied, “Mumbai. Still here.” WHAT!? This is Mumbai? The same place where I experienced all these authentic things. Why the hell is a western outdoor shopping center and California Pizza Kitchen in India?
Moving on, we now have Europe. I love Europe and all its authenticity from mom-and-pop bakeries to handmade and hand painted artifacts. But, Europe too is hit with globalization. Traveling to the United Kingdom was a culture shock as (in my opinion) cities like London and Edinburgh are very similar to the United States.Corporate coffee shops, cell phone shops on every corner, trendy corporate shops - each and every place is losing its roots.
I went to a food truck festival in Hannover and several of the trucks offered “California-inspired” cuisine. Many of my US friends claimed that they would travel to Europe when they are retired and can “sit on a bus tour” as Europe is "boring and made for old people." But, why? Europe is best explored on foot and in 30 years, everything will look as globalized and American as apple pie.
And, its not just American companies that are taking over, but Europe has an influx of EU-globalized companies. It’s now harder than ever for a small business to survive compared to the local chain bakery, bio-store or coffee shop. I’ve written about it before, but everything and everyone will continue to look the same as the same H&M shirt sold in Lithuania is found in Germany.
Politically, the world is changing - FAST. We share resources, internet and outsource jobs, but the more integrated the world gets, it'll become one big melting pot.. The more multi-cultured the world gets, the less interesting places can become because cultures lose connection to its ancient traditions. The world will become global and anyone who's traveled can tell the distinct difference between young and old-rooted cultures.
It leads to the question, what is multi-culturism if each place loses its own culture? India won't be the same without Holi festival (Could you imagine throwing candy corn instead of tikka powder?) and Paris will loose its charm without locally-owned cafes. These stigmas that we have on every culture are the very essence to what makes each place special or unique.
One day I am sure I'll ask myself, "Why sit on a plane for 14 hours and spend $2,500 on a plane ticket when you can do, get and experience the same thing in your home country?" It'll be difficult for me to only stay in my home country, because I do not remember or recognize the American culture at times. I feel like everything revolves around work, stress, Starbucks and a fear of guns- is that really our culture? It's so different compared to when I was a child, and I know people feel the same about their own country. How do I know this? It's because they told me!
So if you want to experience authentic cultures from any nation around the world, travel NOW. Not in five or fifteen years, but now.
As an American, it probably bothers me more as when I move or travel abroad, I want to be immersed in that country’s culture and not experience the same pizza and coffee that I can get at home. I, and many others, hope that each country can maintain its culture, but in the end no one knows the future.