The other day I had a conversation with a fellow on the train. I ride the train to work most days, and will occasionally chat with fellow passengers. This fellow said, "I don't see why I would want to travel overseas, when there's so much to see here in the USA."
He has a good point. There is plenty to see here in the US. I live in California, and within a few hours you can be in the desert, the mountains, on the beach, in a big city or in deserted canyons. The natural beauty of Arizona, Utah and Colorado can't be beat. There's a lot to see here all right.
But in some ways it's all the same. Everywhere you go there's a Denny's and a Starbuck's and a McDonalds and a KFC. The wealthy people drive big new cars, the poor people drive big old cars or ride the bus. Every town has a Main Street and a Broadway and the fruit looks the same from coast to coast.
When you go south of the border, into Mexico or Central America, you see a different world, where there is no minimum wage, where welfare is not guaranteed, where the fruit is local and seasonal. Where graffiti is not just claiming gang territory but makes political statements. Where not everyone speaks English, but your bad Spanish is listened to patiently, and people want to help.
Not better in every way, but very different. Why travel?
To get perspective on the world, on the lives of others, on our own lives.