Risks and pleasures of international travel


MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday, July 12th, 2018. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Well, summertime means travel for a lot of people, and for some it means trekking to exotic locales around the globe. The U.S. actually runs a trade surplus when it comes to international travel. One hundred twenty million Americans have a passport, and in 2018, over half will use them to cross borders.

REICHARD: WORLD Magazine senior editor Mindy Belz is a seasoned world traveler and she’s just back from an overseas trip. She wrote about the risks and the pleasures of such travel for the upcoming July 21st issue of WORLD. She’s here now to offer some tips and a bit of travel philosophy for our benefit.

Mindy, I think it was Christopher Columbus who said, “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” So how might we bolster up our courage to travel internationally?

MINDY BELZ: It’s a great question, Mary. Sometimes you just can’t prepare for what might happen and I think one of the keys to enjoying travel is enjoying the beauty of that, enjoying the beauty of the unexpected, enjoying the surprises and recognizing that they sometimes even the challenges to travel become the hurdles that we grow by and one of the reasons that we travel in the first place. A lot of times people spend a lot of time on Trip Advisor or other travel sites but they don’t spend enough time actually connecting with real people. And Christians have a great way to do that through the network of their local churches. Many churches have missionaries or organizations they support in places that you might want to travel. And those are great ways to connect with people overseas and in a sense have someone on the ground before you even get there.

Mm-hmm, good ideas. But sometimes, Mindy, you just can’t prepare for what might happen once you arrive somewhere. I’m thinking of the riots this week in Haiti, for example, or unrest in Nicaragua.

BELZ: That’s right. And I actually talked to someone in Nicaragua who’s had long-time work there and had to call off all of her short-term mission trips for the summer. Very, very hard decision, but walking through that decision with her is a valuable lesson for all of us. Naomi Heidorn looked at the State Department travel advisories but she also took a lot of stock from what local people were telling her. And she followed the news closely. And that helped her see that where her teams were going to be working was really a compromised place.

And you’ve observed changes around the world that affect travelers a lot. Can you give examples of that?

BELZ: Yeah, I mean it’s interesting to think back, you know.  In the article I talk about back in Roman times you could travel from Baghdad to London without crossing a border. And we don’t live in that kind of world anymore. We live in a very fractured world. And that same journey now means crossing about ten borders. And so it’s really important to recognize that the world we live in is a changing world. Americans still have as one of their favorite overseas destinations, Europe. But Europe for instance according to the State Department is tagged yellow now and that means exercise increased caution when traveling in Europe. It’s not unusual to see a tank sitting outside the Colosseum in Rome and to see a really beefed up military presence in places that we think of as acceptable and common tourist destinations. So for all these reasons I think the world is not a big bad world but we want to be smart travelers when we go out into it.

Let’s tap into Mindy, the philosopher. How might we think of travel?

BELZ: That’s a great question. One of the things from doing a lot of overseas travel in conjunction with my work and going to a lot of hard places, to be honest, I love finding water in the desert. I use that metaphor because I’ve spent so much time in the Middle East. And quite literally when you get somewhere where someone’s ready with a cold drink, especially if it’s a familiar Coca-Cola bottle or something, It’s just this wonderful moment of feeling you have a piece of comfort, a little piece of home. But I think that it’s possible to have those moments everywhere. And to really enjoy both the difference, it’s the reason for traveling, that we learn things, that we experience different cultures, different languages, different food. And then to appreciate when we see our commonality, just the way in which everyone everywhere is human, everyone everywhere has the opportunity to be maybe nasty, but maybe kind. And the kindness of strangers is just a really beautiful thing about travel.

Mindy, let’s end with where in the world you’ve just been?

MINDY BELZ: Well I just finished a really interesting trip and a trip that my family and I have been planning for a long time. We spent two weeks traveling in the Middle East. We had plenty of people who told us we were crazy to be planning a trip like that. But we decided to be bold and to go for it. And we had just a fabulous time. We did experience the kindness of strangers. I’ll give you just one brief story that my daughter lost her cell phone in a restaurant. We weren’t sure if it was lost or stolen. We just happened to meet some people that lived in that neighborhood and they actually invited us in to see the World Cup. And they found out about my daughter’s lost phone and they knew the people who owned the restaurant. They badgered them for days until we got her phone back. We don’t know all that went into that but it was just a wonderful piece of seeing how the world is connected and how the kindness of strangers paid off. And so, going is a challenge and takes a lot of planning and obviously a lot of saving for most of us. But I think the pay off is so worth it.

Mindy Belz is senior editor for WORLD Magazine and a world traveler.  Thanks, Mindy!

BELZ: Thank you, Mary.


(Photo by Chris Yunker/Creative Commons) A view of Rome

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One comment on “Risks and pleasures of international travel

  1. Paula Garcia says:

    Oh, to be old enough to recognize that there is truly nothing new under the sun. We passed through the Rome airport in 1978 and this Midwest girl was surprised to see armed soldiers on duty.

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