This week I was updating my website in order to list all the countries I’ve been to and I just realized that the grand total is 60 (the last new country I visited was Palestine btw).
Now, I’m not the type of person to pay attention to country counting and I don’t really think that this is an accomplishment in any sense of the word (after all, there’s no difficulty at all in boarding a train/bus/airplane) and yet, this number really makes me be grateful for how privileged I am.
Nevertheless, it is important for everyone to understand that even though sometimes your nationality *might* be against you, the struggle and sacrifices you’ll face will only make you stronger.
If you want to travel…travel. It’s as simple as that. However, it’s important to understand that there’s 3 very big reality checks that will hinder your dreams of freedom and here’s how you can overcome them.
Reality check #01: Sometimes, your nationality is against you
As a Mexican, I am very blessed by the fact that we have very good international relationships with most Latin American and European countries. The only “hard-to-get” visa for us is the one for the United States of America and that’s only because of the bad image that illegal immigrants from our country have given us. And I totally understand that, I really do.
But how about people from other Third-World countries located in other continents? It might surprise you to know that, until recently, citizens of Peru and Colombia required a visa to visit the Schengen area of Europe and another separate visa for the United Kingdom!
But hey, my dear Latin American reader, you should feel privileged. Why? Because there are people who have it worse than us: Citizens from African and Central Asian countries.
Take a quick look at Visa Mapper and type any African or Central Asian nationality. You’ll be surprised and depressed, trust me.
Reality Check #02: Geography and supply/demand are against you too!
Citizens from big and decentralized countries such as Mexico and the United States of America find it very hard to travel abroad because of the geography of their countries, which stretches a big chunk of the continent left to right as well as the fact that there is a lot of variety to be found within their borders.
Did you know that Mexico has 32 Unesco World Heritage sites? That’s the biggest number of all the Americas (North and South) and ranks at sixth place in the whole world (after Italy, China, Spain, Germany and France). Not bad, uh?
But hey, that’s not fair! Australia and Canada are as big and their citizens travel a lot! Yes, but remember the word I put emphasis on? Decentralized countries. Out all of the Canadian travelers I encountered, most were from one of the big three cities: Toronto, Montreal (East Coast) and Vancouver (West Coast). Same with Australia: Sydney, Melbourne (East Coast) and Perth (West Coast).
Quick, name the three most important cities in the USA! You’re probably thinking of either the East (NYC, Boston, Washington D.C.) or the West Coast (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle) but did you know that most of the population of the country lives in the Mid-West? It is the same case with Mexico, we have many main cities such as Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Cancun and Guanajuato and yet, the majority of the population lives far away from those areas.
For the average citizen, traveling abroad is very financially difficult since, chances are, that he/she doesn’t live anywhere near the major international airports of their country and has to pay the cost of getting to such airport in the first place!
And because supply/demand is the one that rules the market, you’ll be surprised to know that a round trip between Acapulco and Mexico City costs 60 USD by LAND. Yes, the same amount it takes for buying FOUR Ryan-Air tickets to country hop between Spain, France, Ireland and England.
Reality Check #03: Your income is not good enough!
The main rule of Travel Economy is simple: Income – Cost of Living = Savings.
So, what happens when you live in a First-World Country? Your cost of living is insanely high, yes, but so is your income. In Third World Countries is the opposite, the cost of living is extremely low and such is the average income.
No surprises here, but then, what happens when a person who works on a First-World country decides to use his/her savings on a Third-World Country? His/her money stretches and allows him/her to live a very luxurious life for a very low price.
When a Third-World person travels abroad to a First-World Country, the opposite happens. My best advice for Mexicans who want to actually save a lot of money is for them to work for a long period of time in a First-World Country (for example, check out how to apply for a working holiday visa for Australia) or to start their own company with foreign clients, there’s no other legal way, basically.
But hey, how about vacationing in another developing country? Good idea and I absolutely agree with you, my hypothetical reader. However, there is one small problem: We, as humans, always tend to crave for something extremely different.
When I was advising a Mexican friend of mine on how to optimize her savings for her Round the World Trip, I suggested her to spend at least two months exploring South America. You know what she said? “No way, I’ve saved this much money to see something very different from Mexico! South America feels too similar to me”.
This is a very bad misconceptions that most Mexicans (and probably Central Americans as well) have about South America. Just because we share the language and (a little bit of) post-colonial culture doesn’t mean that we’re similar.
Not at all! Some of my favorites places are located in Peru and Bolivia, and of course, who can forget about Brazil and Argentina?
Maybe this “travel elitism” of preferring on going to Europe and USA instead of exploring the rest of Latin America is what’s stopping most middle-class Mexicans to travel abroad and see the world.
They save money and get into loans to visit Disneyland with their children for one weekend instead of using that same money for visiting Peru for one whole month.
But hey, to each his own. There’s no better way of traveling, not at all. I’m not here to judge your travel decisions, I’m here to inspire you to travel more and hey, YOU CAN DO IT. I believe in you and I invite you to believe in me too. Let’s make travel a reality!
The first step? Commit to travel. Don’t treat it as a hypothetical situation (“someday I’ll visit Paris and…”), no, treat it as something that can and will happen (“when I visit Paris this 2015 I will…”), once you have this right mentality you’ll begin to visualize and feel your trip.
Before you’ll realize it, you will begin to make small sacrifices each day, I mean, who needs that soft drink anyways? Water’s good enough!
Can you feel it? Travel is just around the corner and it’s calling your name. Time to pack your bags and go through that boarding gate for your next destination!