[This is part four of the changing the world in 5 easy steps series]

I’ve come to the conclusion that a great deal of the worlds problems come from people making assumptions about other people’s motives and opinions. And when those people are entire populations of countries that problem compounds quite a bit. A while ago I was talking to a guy, an American, who had a hell of a lot to say about what Europeans thought about Americans, and thus even more about how Americans should act towards and treat Europeans as a whole. This guy fancied himself quite the expert on global relations because he’d been stationed in Germany while in the military and had lived there for about 3 years. Here’s the thing – that was almost 30 years ago and he hadn’t left the US since. However, in his circle of friends he was the most traveled of them all so naturally he was the authority and knew what he was talking about. The only problem is that I, an American who has spent a lot of time in the last 2 years outside of the US, knew he was wrong on just about every single point.

I don’t consider myself an authority on any kind of international relations, but I’ve been places and met people and at least have some first hand experience. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t have that and so it makes it very easy for someone – a biased friend, a news agency with an agenda, or a government trying to push policies – to put forth bad info as truth and people eat it up. When you’ve been somewhere and seen it with your own eyes and talked to the people it makes it much harder for you to swallow an ill informed stance about it. And this doesn’t just apply to Americans – I know Europeans who have traveled to every country that borders theirs but never been on a plane and yet consider themselves well traveled. The world is a big place and there’s a hell of a lot of it most of us have never seen. That’s why I think one of the best things you can do for you, and for the rest of us, is pick a place you haven’t been and go there.

Now I can hear the groans already about how it’s not that easy and how trips take time and money and most people just can’t pull something like that off. I call bullshit on all those arguments. Google for ‘cheep flights’ or go to your favorite airline or travel site right now and take a look at the fares. If you are in the US you can get to almost any major city on the planet for a long weekend now for under $500. If you sign up for alerts for a city you are dreaming of visiting I’d guess there’s a good chance that in the next 30-60 days you’ll get a fare offer for under $300 round trip. It’s stupid how cheep it is to fly right now and something you shouldn’t pass on.

But cost aside, I’d argue that spending money on travel is pretty much the best choice you can make. As I mentioned in the previous entry in this series most things you spend money on get old, break, need upgrades, get out grown, or expire. Traveling is an experience that can never be taken away from you. No mater what happens to you for the rest of your life you will have always had that experience and it will stick with you forever. And most likely you’ll learn something about someone else, somewhere else, which is good for everyone of us.

[Note: This is the second time I’ve written this entry, and this version is about 1,000 words shorter than the first. The problem is I lost the first version in a browser crash, including all of the notes I had for it. I feel like I’m forgetting a lot of the stuff I wanted to say here but I’m sick of sitting on it and annoyed by the loss of the first version so I’m running with what I have. Please feel free to contribute any thoughts on this in the comments and I’ll do the same if I recover any of the other points I wanted talk about in it.]

Previously: Part 3: Stop buying crap.