We travel in unknown places because, no matter how comfortable we are at home, there’s a part of us that wants—that needs—to see new sightseeings, take new tours, obtain new traveler’s checks, buy new souvenirs, order new entrees, introduce new bacteria into our intestinal tracts, learn new words for “transfusion,” and have all the other travel adventures that make us want to French-kiss our doormats when we finally get home.
Of course, traveling is much easier today than it used to be. A hundred years ago, it could take you the better part of a year to get from New York to California, whereas today, because of equipment problems at O’Hare, you can’t get there at all. Also, in the olden days a major drawback to traveling was the fact that much of the world was occupied by foreign countries, which had no concept whatsoever of how a country is supposed to operate. Many of them did not accept major credit cards. Sometimes the people would not understand plain English unless you spoke very loud.
A few of these countries—it’s hard to believe this was even legal—did not have television in the hotel rooms. So as you can imagine, traveling was often a harsh and brutal experience. In one case, a group of innocent American tourists was taken on a tour bus through a country the members later described as “either France or Sweden” and subjected to three days of looking at old, dirty buildings in cities where it was not possible to get a cheeseburger. It reached the point where the U.S. government was considering having U.S. troops, with special military minibars strapped to their backs, parachute into these countries to set up emergency restaurants. Fortunately, however, most of these countries eventually realized the marketing advantages of not being so foreign. Today you can go to almost any country in the world and barely realize that you’ve left Akron, Ohio, unless of course you are so stupid as to go outside the hotel. “Never go outside the hotel”: this is one of the cardinal rules of travel. Another one is: “Never board a commercial aircraft if the pilot is wearing a tank top.”
These are just two of the many vital nuggets of information you’ll find throughout this book. Another good thing about this book is, it doesn’t mince words. The problem with most so-called experts in the travel industry is that they are—no offense—lying scum. These people want you to travel. That’s how they make money. That’s why they’re called “the travel industry.” So naturally they’re going to tell you whatever they think you want to hear.