South America Isn’t Europe

My kids, Andy (23) and Jackie (20), are heading for South America. And, for the next 17 days, Jackie will guest-host my blog, with daily reports on their adventures in Peru, Argentina, and Brazil.

Why a South America trip on a European travel blog? Four reasons come to mind:

The spirit of our work at Europe Through the Back Door is to inspire people to turn their travel dreams into smooth and affordable reality by equipping themselves with good information and an expectation to travel smartly. As Andy and Jackie venture south of the equator, I hope you’ll join me in following their adventures. They are unescorted, don’t speak Spanish, have virtually no international travel experience outside of Europe, and will use non-Rick Steves guidebooks as they follow their wanderlust. They plan to travel both smart and well. They’re basically doing what any of us could do (though likely with a lot more late-night clubbing tossed in).

A photo from my Asia Through the Back Door days.

Enlarge photo

I’ve long said that Europe is the wading pool of world exploration and that many of my favorite destinations and experiences are beyond Europe. Ages ago I wrote a guidebook called Asia Through the Back Door by simply adapting my Europe tips to my experience traveling in the Far East. For me, Europe was a fun and easy first stop to making the world my friend. As we follow these youthful adventures through Jackie’s candid reports, I hope we can envision ourselves taking the experience and confidence gained in Europe and using it (with a youthful vigor) in more distant corners.

I hope Jackie’s hosting of my blog will also cause parents to consider the value of young people gaining self-confidence and a broader world view by venturing beyond our borders — whether that be Europe or into more challenging places. As any parent knows, it’s both scary and exhilarating to see your children outgrow accompanied trips and fly away on their own. I’m betting this trip will be a rite of passage, and Andy and Jackie will come home with a better understanding of both themselves and the world around them.

Finally, I have a patriotic motive for turning my blog over to Jackie. My theme this season — inspired by all the Quran-burning, foreigner-fearing, anti-intellectual legions in our country — is this:  “Fear is for people who don’t get out much.” Given the mesmerizing power of our media, it’s understandable that elderly Americans might be riddled with paranoia. (Observing my parents and my friends’ parents, I have a theory that people who can’t work or don’t have DVRs are limited to watching TV live, and 24/7 news is always there for them.) But even young people are susceptible to the fear-mongering that’s wracking our great nation. It’s my hope (but I could be wrong) that Andy and Jackie’s experience will help inoculate them to this new and virulent strain of pest in our society. And it’s also my hope that travel adventures can help us all better recognize the good and the joy in our world and then — rather than fear it — celebrate it.

With that, I’m going to step back and give the bully pulpit to my daughter. South America, here we come!

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