I’m an American and I love to travel. The farther away and the more different from my everyday life, the better. I also love traveling within my country and discovering new cities, national parks, and the cultural differences that make this nation diverse and interesting.
One trend I’ve found to be a bit distressing among the members of the various online travel groups I belong to as well as with some friends of mine who live in other countries is the notion that it’s not safe to travel to the United States, or that foreign travelers are unwelcome.
Please, please, please don’t think that’s true. The news is full of all of the awful things happening in the world and yes, awful things do happen in this country. The current political climate might also suggest to some that they might be less than welcome here in the U.S.A., but I hope to convince you otherwise.
I’m not going to get into politics too heavily on this blog, because although my opinions are quite strong and I could rant all day long about the things I think are wrong with our current approach to both domestic and foreign policy, I will refrain. This is a travel blog and I’m here to talk about travel.
I’ve heard people from other countries say that they are afraid to travel to the U.S. for a myriad of reasons. One reason is that they are afraid they may not get in (fair enough, our visa policies can be tough and I apologize for that even though I have no control over it personally). However, many others have expressed concern over things like gun violence, terrorism, or just a general feeling of unwelcome from Americans. These are the fears I am here to dispel.
First of all, the United States is an absolutely huge country of over 300 million people, spanning 3.8 million square miles (that’s about 6.1 million square kilometers). In land mass, it’s the third largest country in the world, second only to Russia and Canada. To further illustrate the massive size of this country, the distance between Los Angeles and Washington D.C. is greater than the distance between London and Baghdad. Think about that for a moment. Would you postpone a trip to London because of something bad happening in Baghdad? I think not.
Further, the geographic and cultural diversity of this nation is so great that it can feel like you’re in an entirely different country when you go from region to region. For instance, as a Californian, I’m accustomed to the culture of the West Coast. We’re a large and populated area with a large amount of diversity (racial, ethnic, religious, you name it). We tend to lean liberal in our politics for the most part, and most of us are far more interested in artisinal cheeses, outdoor concerts and craft beers than guns and red meat (although I won’t deny that red meat also has some pretty adamant fans here on the West Coast). Things are never black and white, so there are certainly some guns and red meat fans here and there are certainly aficionados of artisinal cheese in the rural areas of this country, but you get my point. I’ve experienced more culture shock traveling from region to region in my own country than I have traveling abroad to places like Europe and Australia.
I’m not here to knock anybody’s likes and dislikes or way of life, but rather I wanted to illustrate that the United States is a diverse place! You’re going to get a very different experience and meet very different people depending on where you choose to go. That’s not to say there aren’t friendly people all over the country, because there certainly are! I have met delightful people all over this country in every state I’ve visited. Yes, there are some people who “hate” everything and everyone, but I assure you they are in the minority and you likely won’t encounter them. Even if you do encounter them, they will likely just say something rude or stare at you and then move on with their lives.
But what about mass shootings?
I can’t deny that these things do happen. However, the way I’ve heard some people talk about it, there are bullets flying all over the place and we can’t go anywhere for all the bullets. This simply isn’t the case. I’ve lived in California all my life (albeit, yes, a state with the strictest gun control laws in the country, and getting stricter all the time), but the only times I’ve ever even SEEN a gun in my life are 1) in the holsters of police officers walking around, 2) that one time I was convinced to go to a shooting range, and 3) when we cleaned out my great-grandfather’s house after he died and found some old as dirt hunting shotguns, which my parents struggled to figure out what to do with. Oh, I guess in museums too. I went to a Civil War museum in Tennessee one time and they had a bunch of Civil War guns on display. Does that count?
I am out and about at all times, and not just in gun-controlled California. I travel all over the country, including to “red” states where there are a lot more guns and much looser gun laws. Still didn’t actually see the guns. I mention that I’m often out and about because if I can travel around this country all the time, go to concerts, movies, crowded festivals, etc. all the time and never have issues, I can assure you…neither will you.
Shootings are, of course, something that I do worry about in the back of my mind, but the odds of it happening are incredibly rare, despite how common they are mentioned in the news. Yes, there are a lot of shootings in the United States, but with a population of over 300 million and a land mass that’s only slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. If you need a little more reassurance, there is a 0.00000143% chance of getting killed in a mass shooting, purely statistically speaking when looking at the country as a whole, but those odds decrease even further if you are in an area with stricter gun control, less crowds, that sort of thing. So although they do happen and they are horrible when they do happen, the odds of you actually experiencing this when you visit the United States (yes, even in gun country) are so incredibly low that you really shouldn’t be using it as a reason to cancel your trip to the Grand Canyon.
The internet…I love it, but I also hate it.
Ah, the internet. It makes this blog possible. It also makes travel a lot easier, allows us to connect and make friends with people all over the world, and provides us with access to an incredible amount of information about anything and everything we could possibly want to know.
It also allows anything that’s happening anywhere to become “big news”. What used to be some awful thing somebody did in some tiny town somewhere in the middle of the country that might warrant a mention in the local newspaper and not even make state news, let alone national or world news is now smeared all over the internet and offered as an example of how horrible we Americans all are and as yet another example of what a horrible nation full of horrible people we are. Well, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of hearing people who have never even been here talk about how awful we all are, how hateful we all are, how stupid and ignorant we all are….enough! How can you possibly form those opinions if you’ve never actually even visited the United States or gotten to know Americans? (And I’m not just talking about American internet trolls…I mean real Americans who have better things to do than taunt people on the internet…from their parents’ basement).
I guess what I’m saying is please…come. Visit us. You are welcome here, and you are safe here. Just make sure the particular destination you’re choosing is a safe one (there’s a lot of places I won’t go, either.). If you’re going to be in my neighborhood, I’d love to give you tips or maybe even share a coffee. 🙂