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Can travel make the world a better place?

Once you get past the giddy stages of trip planning – picking out where you want to go, imagining the amazing things you’ll see, making lists of the foods you want to eat – then you inevitably end up at the more mundane parts. I know very few people for whom creating a budget is a fun activity (and I question their sanity anyway), but I think we can all agree it’s something that needs to be done – especially if you’re one of the lucky people taking trips around the world rather than just setting off on a weekend road-trip.

But if you’re one of the people for whom the grander questions of life are interesting to contemplate, then perhaps you’ll like this one. What is the true cost of traveling the world? The question can be answered in terms of the environmental impact of travel, or the monetary costs of your expenses, or even the cost to the economy since you’re not working for whatever time you’re on the road. It’s harder to put some of these things into a spreadsheet, and there’s not necessarily a “right answer,” but it can be a fun philosophical discussion to have in a hostel dorm room.

And if you really want to get into the touchy-feely stuff – perhaps most appropriate (or at least best-received) after a few drinks with your new best friends at the bar – is it possible to promote peace through travel? We talked recently on this blog about how great it can be to stay in touch with people traveling, and that goes for people you meet along the way as much as it does people back home you already knew. So later on when you hear someone making disparaging remarks about the country where you’ve now got friends you keep in touch with, will you be more likely to speak up and contradict them? In its own little way, isn’t that promoting a little bit of peace?

In the end, whether travel really makes the world a better place, we do believe that travel makes each of us better people – and if we’re all better people, then the world is kind of better as a result.