20 Things I've Learned From Traveling Around the World for Three Years

Gary Arndt is the man behind Everything Everywhere, one of the most popular travel blogs in the world, and one of Time Magazine’s “Top 25 Best Blogs of 2010.” Since March 2007, Gary has been traveling around the globe, having visited more than 70 countries and territories, and gaining worldly wisdom in the process.

Today, I’ve asked him to share some of that wisdom.

Enter Gary

On March 13, 2007, I handed over the keys to my house, put my possessions in storage and headed out to travel around the world with nothing but a backpack, my laptop and a camera.

Three and a half years and 70 countries later, I’ve gotten the equivalent of a Ph.D in general knowledge about the people and places of Planet Earth.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned…

1) People are generally good.

Many people are afraid of the world beyond their door, yet the vast majority of humans are not thieves, murderers or rapists. They are people just like you and me who are trying to get by, to help their families and go about living their lives. There is no race, religion or nationality that is exempt from this rule. How they go about living their lives might be different, but their general goals are the same.

2) The media lies.

If you only learned about other countries from the news, you’d think the world was a horrible place. The media will always sensationalize and simplify a story. I was in East Timor when the assassination attempts on President José Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão occurred in 2008. The stories in the news the next day were filed from Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur, not Dili. It was all secondhand news. I was in Bangkok during the political protests this year, but you’d never have any idea they were happening if you were not in the immediate area where the protests were taking place. The media makes us scared of the rest of the world, and we shouldn’t be.

3) The world is boring.

If there isn’t a natural disaster or an armed conflict, most places will never even be mentioned in the news. When is the last time you’ve heard Laos or Oman mentioned in a news story? What makes for good news are exceptional events, not ordinary events. Most of the world, just like your neighborhood, is pretty boring. It can be amazingly interesting, but to the locals, they just go about living their lives.

4) People don’t hate Americans.

I haven’t encountered a single case of anti-Americanism in the last three-and-a-half years. Not one. (And no, I don’t tell people I am Canadian.) If anything, people are fascinated by Americans and want to know more about the US. This isn’t to say they love our government or our policies, but they do not have an issue with Americans as people. Even in places you’d think would be very anti-American, such as the Middle East, I was welcomed by friendly people.

5) Americans aren’t as ignorant as you might think.

There is a stereotype that Americans don’t know much about the rest of the world. There is some truth to that, but it isn’t as bad as you might believe. The reason this stereotype exists is because most other countries on Earth pay very close attention to American news and politics. Most people view our ignorance in terms of reciprocity: i.e. “I know about your country, why don’t you know about mine?” The truth is, if you quizzed people about third-party countries other than the US, they are equally as ignorant. I confronted one German man about this, asking him who the Prime Minister of Japan was. He had no clue. The problem with America is that we suffer from the same problem as the rest of the world: an obsession with American news. The quality of news I read in other parts of the world is on par with what you will hear on NPR.

6) Americans don’t travel.

This stereotype is true. Americans don’t travel overseas as much as Brits, Dutch, Germans, Canadians or Scandinavians. There are some good reasons for this (big country, short vacation time) and bad ones (fear and ignorance). We don’t have a gap year culture like they have in the UK and we don’t tend to take vacations longer than a week. I can’t think of a single place I visited where I met Americans in numbers anywhere close to our relative population.

7) The rest of the world isn’t full of germs.

Many people travel with their own supply of water and an industrial vat of hand sanitizer. I can say in full honestly that I have never used hand sanitizer or gone out of my way to avoid contact with germs during my travels. It is true that in many places you can get nasty illnesses from drinking untreated water, but I don’t think this means you have be a traveling Howard Hughes. Unless you have a particularly weak immune system or other illness, I wouldn’t worry too much about local bugs.

8) You don’t need a lot stuff.

Condensing my life down from a 3,000 sq/ft house to a backpack was a lesson in knowing what really matters. I found I could get by just fine without 97% of the things I had sitting around my home. Now, if I purchase something, I think long and hard about it because anything I buy I will have to physically carry around. Because I have fewer possessions, I am more likely to buy things of higher quality and durability.

9) Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive.

Yes, if you insist on staying in five-star hotels and luxury resorts, travel can be very expensive. However, it is possible to visit many parts of the world and only spend $10-30 per day. In addition to traveling cheap, you can also earn money on the road teaching English or working on an organic farm. I’ve met many people who have been able to travel on a little more than $1,000/month. I met one man from the Ukraine who spent a month in Egypt on $300.

10) Culture matters.

Many of our ideas for rescuing other countries all depend on them having similar incentives, values and attitudes as people in the West. This is not always true. I am reminded of when I walked past a Burger King in Hong Kong that was full of flowers. It looked like someone was having a funeral at the restaurant. It turned out to be people sending flowers in celebration of their grand opening. Opening a business was a reason to celebrate. In Samoa, I had a discussion with a taxi driver about why there were so few businesses of any type on the island of Savai’i. He told me that 90% of what he made had to go to his village. He had no problem helping his village, but they took so much that there was little incentive to work. Today, the majority of the GDP of Samoa consists of remittances sent back from the US or New Zealand. It is hard to make aid policies work when the culture isn’t in harmony with the aid donors’ expectations.

11) Culture changes.

Many people go overseas expecting to have an “authentic” experience, which really means they want to confirm some stereotype they have in their mind of happy people living in huts and villages. They are often disappointed to find urban people with technology. Visiting a different place doesn’t mean visiting a different time. It’s the 21st Century, and most people live in it. They are as likely to wear traditional clothes as Americans are to wear stove top hats like Abraham Lincoln. Cultures have always changed as new ideas, religions, technologies sprang up and different cultures mingled and traded with each other. Today is no different.

12) Everyone is proud of where they are from.

When you meet someone local in another country, most people will be quick to tell you something about their city/province/country that they are proud of. Pride and patriotism seem to be universal values. I remember trying to cross the street once in Palau, one of the smallest countries in the world, and a high school kid came up to me and said, “This is how we cross the street in PALAU!” Even crossing the street became an act to tell me about his pride for his country. People involved in making foreign policy should be very aware of this.

13) America and Canada share a common culture.

This may irk Canadians, but we really do share a common North American culture. If you meet someone overseas, it is almost impossible to tell if they are American or Canadian unless they have a particularly strong accent, or they pronounce the letter “z.” It is easier to tell where in England someone is from than it is to tell if someone is from Denver or Toronto. We would probably be better off referring to a “North American” culture than an “American” culture. What differences do exist (Quebec being the exception) are more like differences between states and regions of a similar country.

14) Most people have a deep desire to travel around the world.

Not shocking, but every day I meet people who are fascinated by what I do and how I live. The desire to travel is there, but fears and excuses usually prevent people from doing it. I understand that few people can drop what they are doing and travel around the world for three years, but traveling overseas for even a few months is within the realm of possibility for many people at some point in their lives. Even on an island in the middle of the Pacific, people who would probably never leave their home island talked to me of wishing they could see New York or London for themselves one day. I think the desire to explore and see new things is fundamental to the human experience.

15) You can find the internet almost everywhere.

I have been surprised at where I’ve found internet access. I’ve seen remote villages in the Solomon Islands with a packet radio link to another island for their internet access. I’ve been at an internet cafe in the Marshall Islands that accessed the web via a geosynchronous satellite. I’ve seen lodges in the rainforest of Borneo hooked up to the web. I once counted 27 open wifi signals in Taipei on a rooftop. We truly live in a wired world.

16) In developing countries, government is usually the problem.

I have been shocked at the level of corruption that exists in most developing countries. Even if it is technically a democracy, most nations are run by and for the benefit of the elites that control the institutions of power. Political killings, bribery, extortion and kickbacks are the norm in many places. There is little difference between the Mafia and the governments in some countries I’ve visited. The corruption in the Philippines was especially surprising. It isn’t just the people at the top who are corrupt. I’ve seen cops shake people down on the street for money, cigarettes or booze.

17) English is becoming universal.

I estimated that there were at least 35 native languages I would have had to have learned if I wanted to speak with locals in their own tongue. That does not include all the languages found in Papua New Guinea or Vanuatu or regional dialects. It is not possible for humans to learn that many languages. English has become the de facto second language for the world. We are almost to a point where there are only two languages you need to know: whatever your parents speak… and English. English has become so popular it has achieved an escape velocity outside of the control of the US and UK. Countries like Nigeria and India use it as a unifying language in their polyglot nations. Other countries in the Pacific do all their schooling in English because the market just isn’t there to translate textbooks into Samoan or Tongan.

18) Modernization is not Westernization.

Just because people use electricity and have running water doesn’t mean they are abandoning their culture to embrace western values. Technology and culture are totally different. Japan and South Korea are thoroughly modern countries, but are also thoroughly Asian. Modernization will certainly change a culture (see #11 above), but that doesn’t mean they are trying to mimic the West.

19) We view other nations by a different set of criteria than we view ourselves.

On the left, people who struggle the hardest for social change would decry changes in other countries that they view as a result of globalization. On the right, people who want to bring democracy to other countries would be up in arms at the suggestion that another country try to institute change in the US. In both cases, other nations are viewed by a different set of rules than we view ourselves. I don’t think most people around the world want the help or pity of the West. At best, they would like us to do no harm.

20) Everyone should travel.

At some point in your life, whether it is after college or when you retire, everyone should take an extended trip outside of their own country. The only way to really have a sense of how the world works is to see it yourself.


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If you’ve ever fantasized about taking time off to globe-trot, I would highly recommend Rolf Pott’s Vagabonding. It is one of only two books I took with me when I traveled the world for 18 months. Outside Magazine founding editor Tim Cahill calls Vagabonding “the most sensible book of travel related advice ever written.”

I recently partnered with Rolf to release the exclusive audiobook for Vagabonding. For more on this incredible book, click here.

Odds and Ends:

Vegetarians vs. Meat-Eaters:

My recent guest post from Robb Wolf created something of a religious war between meat-eaters and vegetarians. The comments — 816 and counting — got ugly fast.

Whether you’re a die-hard meat-eater or plant-eater, I highly recommend watching the below video of Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals. He is a brilliant writer, and we were actually in the same class at Princeton. Take some time or let it run in the background as audio — the following discussion is worth it:

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with over 500 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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462 Replies to “20 Things I've Learned From Traveling Around the World for Three Years”

  1. Awesome post, Gary. It’s great that you dispelled some of the “myths” about the world outside of the U.S. I was especially pleased to hear that you can find the internet almost everywhere. 🙂

    – Eric

    1. I have to say…I’m usually skeptical about blogs in and tend to believe the majority of them are the innate ramblings of individuals who can’t write. With that said, I thoroughly appreciate you breaking this trend and posting interesting and cogent pieces. Much of what you wrote was incredibly helpful and insightful. I especially enjoyed your comment about there not being as much “Anti-American” sentiment as we’re led to believe. Granted, there are times when you will run into people who have a chip on their shoulder in regards to the U.S. (this was especially true when I was in Europe during the Bush years) but for the most part people are open minded and will take you as serious as anyone else, regardless of your nationality.

      Anyway, with all this said, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me some advice on traveling alone outside of the U.S. and the advantages and disadvantages it affords an individual? I’m asking because I plan on embarking on a year long journey somewhere outside the country but have never traveled for length of time alone.

    2. I’m sorry but I have to sgtrongly disagree about the world’s view of Americans.

      I have done alot of travelling and only on a few occassions have I met cultures and people who like Americans the first that comes to mind is Holland. Alot of countries/cultures like American money as you Americans are famous for being over generous with their cash.

      For example the last time I was in Morocco so many people asked me if I was American, when I said no they shout ‘good’ and spit inside their shirts! I have had people assume I was American and spit at me whilst walking down a street minding my own business.

      I could spend a long time reeling off countries that dislike Americans but that is not the point i’m trying to make here.

      Americans truly are largely an ignorant country and I suggest sir that you would like to believe people like American people but from a non-American the hatred I have seen all over the world towards your people and culture (and it seems behind your back and perhaps because you are ignorant to it) is huge and relatively universal.

      Sorry to have popped your ‘American bubble’ but I assume you do not believe a word I have said and thus proved the point I am trying to make!

      1. we are team america, world police…but I know most people outside the US are more intrigued by the actual person and can look past the fact that the country has done some wrongs in the past…people are generally good. That is still and will always be true. All is not lost for Americans abroad. The author knows this and is trying to help people get past the fear of anti-Americanism

        1. Danny i agree with you. Mostly people have this thiniking as they dont travel. They juust hear from people and start believing.

          Travelling is important think that people should do.

      2. While I can’t say much for the existence/non-existence of anti-American sentiments abroad, there is a point to be said about American ignorance. True, your German acquaintance couldn’t tell you who the prime minister of Japan is, but:

        a) neither could a lot of people (Americans just as much as anyone else)

        b) most of the issue with American ignorance is not their ignorance of facts like this.

        The problem most people see is in an ignorance of broad, basic common knowledge, international affairs in which they are directly related, current affairs in their own country … more or less, the “American news” that we are all apparently obsessed with.

        Granted this is not an America-specific phenomenon, but it undeniably is a frequent occurrence in America. And while most of the Americans I’ve met by no means even approach the ignorant, rude stereotype, all of the Americans I’ve met are travelling, which as stated opens your eyes to the bigger picture.

      3. I totally agree! I’ve been travelling for nearly 2 years now and I have to insist I am Australian and not American because people assume that I am some George Bush loving, war mongering, guantanamo torturing, child killer.

        Americans ARE by and large ignorant. I’m sorry but it’s true.

        Most of it is the fault of your education system, the majority of your population doesn’t know basic geography or world history.

        In Australia we even have a comedy tv show that goes around asking Americans basic information about world geography


        I have to say tho I have met some very educated and intelligent Californians in the hundreds of Americans I’ve met (tho they seem to be the only ones who have a clue?)

      4. Wow dude calm down. We get it you hate Americans. keep ranting no one cares. Oh and you are wrong. I was born here but have a Middle Eastern background (and have lived there), and no not everyone hates the U.S. it’s obvious that you felt the need to unload your pent up anger or something, but you really are wrong about the majority of what you’ve said. Americans are not ignorant, most people do not hate us, and thank god no one cares about what you have to say lol. chowda!!!!!!!!!

      5. Tim,

        Thanks for posting what you’ve experienced as far as other cultures’ response to your nationality. It’s encouraging in a way, whether or not people are being genuine. Bummer that people want to be rude in the comments section… Based on your post, I imagine that you have a respectful demeanor when you travel and hopefully the stereotypes people have learned can be seen merely as that.

        Thanks for the insight!

      6. I am not American and I can tell you now that I and everyone I know do not hate Americans themselves. We don’t like the government, the policies, the superiority with which they view other countries, but not the people. Everyone can tell you that they hated George Bush, but dont exactly blame all Americans for the invasion of Iraq.

        As for the ignorance of Americans, what was said in the blog is completely true. Do not forget that we speak English ( I speak English as a second language fluently) and when you learn a language, you are learning a culture. I watch American TV series, movies, read their magazines and so on. I can probably tell you more about America than Americans can. Ask me, however, about China, my knowledge won’t serve me beyond knowing that they have a great wall.

        Don’t completely disregard other peoples’ ideas, especially when they are speaking of greater experience, for that sir, is ignorance.

      7. I don’t know what country you’re from, but I’m going to assume it’s Canada because you sound pretty butthurt =).

      8. To ZLB and the ones who live outside America but insult it anyway:

        America is not what you think. “But I’ve seen the news and heard the stories!”, you cry. Cool. I’ve seen news and heard stories about Mexico and Egypt and South Africa, etc. too. A lot of those places suck hard if they’re what I see on the news. …But they don’t. That’s what you get for being ridiculously gullible and relying too much on the news.

        The only acceptable criticism about a country is from people who make a logical, calm point (without trying to be condescending or superior) that are from a different country, or who live in the country themselves and know what it is like there. All others are just trying to blow their own horn. Badly.

      1. I agree wish her as well…

        Canadians have enough trouble with our own shaky cultural identity without having comments made about how we’re ubiquitous with the USA.

        It frustrates me to no end when im travelling abroad and have my own cultural identity presumptiously compared with that of the USA. In my mind there are some fundamental differences between our countries, often ones that are overlooked.

        While I wholeheartedly agree with a lot of the message of your post, this particular one bothers me…


  2. Great article!

    As a combination of Point 1 and 12, I learned that people are very helpful and love to share the cluture and places they like.

    If you travel a lot you see that people have so much in common. Work, freetime and social life, kind of same problems and same pleasures.

    Live is short, but when it’s good, it’s last out.

  3. I had the pleasure to meet Gary a few weeks ago. He’s a great guy with an excellent attitude to travel 🙂

    Disagree about the point about English (nearly everyone I meet in my travels doesn’t speak any English beyond “the book is on the table” and I’m glad about it 😛 ) – I think it depends on who you decide to gravitate towards. But everything else is spot on!

    People should definitely check out Gary’s blog to see his excellent photos!

    Everyone SHOULD travel and it really isn’t that expensive 🙂

    1. I’d have to agree that English is becoming increasingly universal, Benny. I have traveled to three continents outside my native North America and, believe it or not, I was surprised that the English language was approaching a ubiquitous status—especially countries like Japan and Finland. I do, however, find many of the citizens in these countries are almost embarrassed to speak the English language unless they absolutely need to do so. I guess that action is outside their comfort zone. Just my two cents.

      1. As I said Garrett, it depends on who you gravitate towards. Most travellers I’ve met (I’ve been on the road for 8 years) don’t get out of their comfort zone, especially if they believe “almost everyone” speaks English.

        If you keep meeting the fraction of the population who does speak English then your experiences will be tainted to believe they represent the majority. The lack of ability in the local language decides who you spend time with – you find who you are looking for; English speakers.

        Although I would imagine that in Finland the majority of people speak excellent English, I’m mostly referring to South America and Asia (although in Europe I have countless friends with no English abilities). I have never been to Japan, but I imagine outside of touristed parts of major cities you *will* find Japanese with poor to no English skills. If you happen to socialise with a demographic similar to yourself (young, interested in travel etc.) then of course you will see mostly amazing English speakers.

        And I think this lack of English truly universally is a good thing – travellers should attempt to learn the local language if they want to get more than a superficial glimpse of the culture, or just rely on the upper class to present the culture to them.

        It’s very easy. I find it ironic that the same people who argue that the whole world can speak a second language (i.e. English), insist that “not everyone” (i.e. themselves) have the natural talent to learn a second language. Surely if everyone can easily learn a second language, that’s an even better reason for travellers to do it too.

  4. I love these points! Especially number 5, about American’s not being as ignorant as stereotyped. When I studied in Ireland for a semester, I was relieved to hear fellow students being just as lost as I was when class turned to current events in foreign countries. They knew Irish, US, and British events but generally little else.

    I think that anyone who wants to travel (and I realize that is most people) should print this out as a reminder. At a minimum, print out the headlines to.

  5. I agree with a lot of points in this post.

    During my travels I usually trust people, and then they trust you back! There are also assholes everywhere, but you do not have to hang out with them.

    People do not hate Americans, but even in America there are some assholes, again, you do not have to hang out with them.

    I have not always been proud to be from Germany, but through traveling to other countries I developed a pride for my country.

    I lived and worked in Costa Rica as well as in the Yukon, Canada, and even had the internet in my wood cabin there, so agree to that point as well.

    Everyone should travel and you do not need a lot, besides the desire, the bravery, the naivety and the faith.

    I combined my traveling with working. I had the trust that I would meet the right people that guide me to my next step during my travels, so in Canada for example I ended up working as a horse wrangler in the Rocky Mountains, working on the oil fields and as a bus driver in Banff, Alberta and being a river guide on the Yukon River just by meeting the right people by chance.

    This post gives me the opportunity to talk about myself and agree with Gary and his points.

    Go travel and trust people!


  6. This is a great post and makes me want to travel even more than I already do! You bring up a good point about the media scaring people, and that we feel scared of visiting other cultures because we worry they could be criminals (I’m sure the media has helped with that). It was nice to read that, and of course you are correct in saying, they’re just people like you and me.

    Thanks Gary!

  7. Hey Tim,

    Have you flown a PPG? Powered Para-Glider?

    I’m learning how now and I’m excited about it, not just because I get to fly (do a video search on ppg glider or ppg fly) but also because everywhere you fly you can get great video of the scenery like nothing else that exists!

    I’m learning from Russell Stegemann and I can tell you its always been a dream of mine to fly. I used to want to learn to use a wingsuit, but now I’m all about learning how to fly a PPG, where I can take off from the ground.

    The crazy thing is that its actaully safer than parachuting, because in order to leave the ground, your chute has to be up, one of the biggest dangers to skydivers is that their chute won’t open or doesn’t open correctly.

    Safer than skydiving, but with more power to fly, isn’t that wild?

  8. Hi Tim,

    Nice post, quick read and a good refresh of lessons everyone should take to heart.

    As a father with 6 month old twins I have been trying to keep in mind the lessons I want to pass on to my children. #8 has always been a big one for me and a big struggle as well.

    Have you ever been able to convince a friend or family member that they don’t need half the stuff they buy or already have? I have some people very close to me that think “stuff” will make them happy. Do you have any success stories about changing someone’s mind about filling the empty spots in their lives with “stuff”?

  9. Once I met a probably 25 years old man in front of an atm in cologne, germany. I got into a conversation with him and he turned out to be from “Las Vegas”, staying here for an internship.

    He said “I am from Las Wayyygas” in a very proud way. He asked me: “What is special about Cologne”. I said: “Cologne is just a big city the same way Las Vegas is”.

    He replied: “But every city has it’s charme”. Well.

    But I know where he came from metaphorically speaking. He heard about the awesome cologne the same way we hear about the awesome Las Vegas, New York or Paris. And it’s proverbial charme.

    There is no such thing as charme a city could have. Living wherever you want, in the long run everything turns out to be boring. Average. Known.

    It is the people you meet who can have charming personalities. But a city is just this: a city.

  10. Once I met a probably 25 years old man in front of an atm in cologne, germany. I got into a conversation with him and he turned out to be from “Las Vegas”, staying here for an internship.

    He said “I am from Las Wayyygas” in a very proud way. He asked me: “What is special about Cologne”. I said: “Cologne is just a big city the same way Las Vegas is”.

    He replied: “But every city has it’s charm”. Well.

    But I know where he came from metaphorically speaking. He heard about the awesome cologne the same way we hear about the awesome Las Vegas, New York or Paris. And it’s proverbial charm.

    There is no such thing as charm a city could have. Living wherever you want, in the long run everything turns out to be boring. Average. Known.

    It is the people you meet who can have charming personalities. But a city is just this: a city.

  11. It’s refreshing to hear that traveling is not as expensive, dangerous or whatever the news is spewing that day. I recently started my “muse” with every intention to travel the world also. I can’t wait! Post like these really motivate me to get out of my comfort zone and plan my traveling trips.

  12. Good post.

    Top 16:

    Yeah, the corruption in the Philippines is horrible. Ironically, Hagedorn (the mayor on your photo) seems to be one of the few respectable politicians in this country.

    1. When I visited Puerto Princessa his name was slapped on everything that was in any way touched by government money. Any civic project seemed like an opportunity to campaign. If that’s clean, it just shows how bad the Philippines has become. Most Filipinos I know seem to think I underestimate the problem.

      1. I’m from Manila, Philippines. David was quite right, Hagedorn was one of the good mayors here. However if the project posters with Govt officials’ names on it was one of your observations of corruption, therefore corruption is here, because THOSE TYPE OF POSTERS are EVERYWHERE.

        I just want to suggest a better picture on #16:


        That is one real public fund waster. Anyway thank you Gary for the honest notice.

      2. Hello Gary,

        I think that is corruption. I want you to know that here in the Philippines, it is illegal to use civic project as an opportunity to campaign. Yes, there is a law the prohibits it since people are made to believe that the money comes from these politicians.

        That law was trampled upon during Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration. The former president use government’s money to bribe politicians. Her face was everywhere and almost every goverment program has the acronym PGMA (President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo).

        The new president promises to curb corruption in the Philippines. It will take a long time before we Filipinos can clean our government. The former president made it difficult through midnight appointments.

        I hope you visit the Philippines again.

        1. …Oh, like Obama does in the dead of night, here in the U.S.?

          Gary thanks so much for your article. I appreciate a fine piece of work, especially when it motivates people to get outside their comfort zone and experience a true, full-fledged culture shock.

          I love the feeling of culture shock.. But I hate the feeling of reverse culture shock, once returning home… Home becomes all of a sudden, so depressing, compared to a ‘new’ world.

    2. It is so corrupt. I would agree 100% on what Gary mentioned. Philippines is beautiful, yet marred by too much ugly politics by the elites and oligarchs there! My God, what have we done to our country! People there still vote for the same crop of foolish politicians (like the current president and same banana senators).

  13. Marvelous post, Gary, and the images are terrific as well.

    You’ve confirmed some of my observations as well as made me think about a few issues I hadn’t considered – in particular your points about the importance of culture, and how it morphs over time. Well done; thank you.

  14. Wow Gary, my eyes have been opened! This is inspiring stuff and makes me (even more) want to get outside of the ‘States and get some countries under my belt!

    I also just signed up for, and am looking through your 50 Travel Photos pdf. So inspiring! Keep up the great work, I look forward to reading you more and getting to know you better!

    – JC

    P.S. – Tim, not sure if you knew this or not, but Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming is available for FREE online here: http://bibliotecapleyades.net/archivos_pdf/exploring_luciddreaming.pdf

    I’ve been going through your archives and have been 1-week into Lucid Dreaming training. POWERFUL stuff man! Thanks for sharing!

  15. This is so true. I have traveled quite a bit in the military and for personal reasons. I would agree with all 20 of these observations. As an American the most important things that you can when traveling are the simplest.

    1. Realize they love their country the way that you love yours. Even if they do not let them make the disagreement not you. Most people are proud of where they are from. Your dead on.

    2. Try their language. Even if you do not have any clue or ever studied it. This shows that you are interested in their culture. I have found that even when you butcher it, it becomes a common ground that eases the conversation dramatically, after they laugh at you.

    How have you seen them respond when you butcher their language Tim, do they respond they same way I have experienced?

    1. 100% agreed on language. I ALWAYS try. At the very least, it’s comedic relief, totally breaks the ice, and you can all have a laugh when you ask someone to “rape you” instead of “wake you”, as I did in Japanese (okashite kudasai vs. okoshite kudasai).

      I find language to be the best way to connect. People are hugely forgiving, except perhaps the French in a few cities, and Americans and Brits in almost all cities.

      Great point.

      1. My husband and I had a dream – do not freeze in the Russian winter. In late winter, we are basking in California and the Dominican Republic, beginning of autumn spent a month in the Bahamas, and now winter in the warm Florida!

        And before that I 39 years did not go out anywhere!

      2. Tim, I can think of nothing more gratifying when traveling than being able to speak at least a few words or phrases in someone else’s language. Recently I went to Colombia and met a gentleman from Malaysia on the same tour. Though I don’t speak Malay, he was tickled to death when I used the Malay phrase “rumusan bayi” (infant formula) which I learned through one of my earlier jobs!

  16. hi gary,

    i was in bangkok during the protests this year as well. while much of the city operated as usual, grenades on the silom line (my station to work) and a rpg in my condo did actually cause a personal disruption.

    we never felt unsafe (minus the condo thing), but we also could not work. i had to move to singapore for several months to iron out things like work and cash flow.


  17. This is really inspiring.

    I graduate from college at the end of December and I’ve set aside some time to try and live as a location-independent digital nomad for a while after that. If anything, this post is proof it’s really possible long-term, not just as a crazy kid without a “real” job.

    Btw Tim, I just started reading 4HWW and it’s awesome!

  18. I agree with what’s been said about the rest of the world. The only thing that I’d add is that it’s fun and really gratifying to make friends in different countries. The Internet makes it much easier to keep in touch with these friends than it used to be when we relied on snail mail and making a phone call overseas was outrageously expensive.

  19. 13) America and Canada share a common culture-

    I’m Canadian and couldn’t agree more. I think you’d find a lot of Canadians in larger cities that would be more open minded to this conclusion. We’re proud to be where we’re from but we understand the cultural goulash that has happened on this continent (except Quebec haha). Smaller town folks would bring up points that make a Canadian ‘different’ without seeing the similarities small towns across North America (I bet the world, too) share with small Canadian towns.

    I am a little fatigued at the many attempts to discuss a “Canadian identity” on our airwaves and national channels (CBC- please….). I feel as though everyone knows exactly what it is to be Canadian (America but smaller, more spread out, colder, more hockey, high awareness of which Canadians are famous, and how we are the fodder for sitcom writers, and probably some more blah blah blah etc). I mean, Americans are really nice. If someone’s a jerk, they are a jerk, not their country’s population.

    Anyway, watch out for Tim Hortons coffee chains. In a few years America will be peppered/inundated with them. Only purists and contrarians will have a problem with the coffee. Actually, I’m going to get one right now.

      1. Tim I hope you aren’t talking about Tim Horton’s coffee! omg its horrible! i even talked to some Canadians and they laughed that it was horrible and they still drink it! lol. the treats are delicious though

      2. Hiya Tim

        Thanks for a GREAT post. I’m a South African travel writer and editor and I travel as much as I possibly can. I cannot imagine doing anything else, nothing makes me happier than discovering new people and places. There are some draw-backs to this type of life however. I live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town but even so, I find it hard to adapt when I come home. I collect memories and slices of life so relating to my friends who do “normal” jobs is very difficult. And there is a subtle modecum of envy as well – they feel stuck in jobs they dont really enjoy with husbands, wifes and kids that make them feel trapped so that can be tough as well. One question, about that North America culture thing – why DO you call yourselves “American”? Do the Americas not encompass North, South and Central? 🙂 Why claim two continents? As an African, I’m reminded of a show of NYPD Blues I saw eons ago where the one cop asks his (black) partner: “why do u call yourselves African American? Why not Nigerian American or Somali American? How can you claim the entire continent?” Interesting…. Thanks again. Jo

      3. Jo,

        Thanks for your observations. I want to comment but didn’t see “reply” directly under your post (hope this is the right place).

        When you talk of others who envy your lifestyle, what they don’t seem to realize is that they have more power to alter their circumstances than they recognize or would care to admit. What they may be envying in reality is your ability to make the decision to travel while they choose to stay where they are out of fear.

        I’m not sure how we came to adopt the term “American” for ourselves. My friends from Latin America are quick to point out that America really refers to the entire Western Hemisphere (aka “The Americas”) and not just to the United States. There doesn’t seem to be a good term in English to differentiate residents of the United States from the rest of the countries in our hemisphere. The Spanish language has the term “estadounidense” (among others) and that is the term I personally prefer to refer to myself when speaking in that language.

    1. Actually, if you put aside the linguistics difference,we’re not that much different from the rest of Canada or the United-States. Almost all of our major radio stations broadcasts mainstream pop music in English.Also most of our television shows are either translated shows from the rest of Canada or the United-States with minor adaptation to the dialogue only to reflect francophone celebrities, or imitations with french-Canadians actors.We also eat the same dishes(since poutine is now spread from coasts to coasts… even to Belgium) and love the same sports(we’ll leave baseball to the States).

    2. Wow. Really? I agree that we (Canadians) have a lot in common with our neighbours to the south, but that list you prattled off clearly shows you’ve never listened to any discussion of Canadian identity past the introduction of stereotypical “best we can manage” answers.

      Where to begin? Quebec is not the exception to our cultural “goulash” – have you ever been to Montreal or any other centre that clearly exemplifies this? What you mean is that they try very hard to preserve the culture that has existed there for centuries; but that doesn’t mean quashing the attempts of immigrants to maintain their own culture within their new home. Yes, smaller towns are much more homogeneous, but that’s true almost anywhere you go. Furthermore, consider our Maritime and Atlantic Provinces (I mean, to say that Newfoundland is just like the rest of Canada, oh wait, North America, is ignorant) as well at the northern Territories, especially Nunavut which is a very unique place to explore (try it some time, or at least wiki it).

      Just the fact that we have such a territory, that we celebrate the many different cultural groups that make up our First Nations in a meaningful trans-national way, and that the enormous continuing social issues and prejudices many face continue to be a highly contentious and frequently tackled topic is a HUGE difference we have from not just the States, but a multitude of other countries. This appreciation for our colonial roots and the complexities that have followed is paramount in most Canadians’ understanding of our heritage.

      To wrap up this rant, clearly Canadians can be just as ignorant as Americans – it’s just a whole lot sadder when it’s about your own country.

      1. I think that the part about Canada being culturally indistinguishable is the most interesting thing in the article (note I’m American) And for me one of the most off-base. I have been to Canada a couple times but more importantly have worked with numerous Canadians in jobs at summer camps and teaching English. Several differences – Canada is much less impacted by the culture of Christianity, especially Evangelism, than the US. They just have fewer, and less vocal, Evangelists there. Canadians, as are most non-American citizens II have gotten to know, are less arrogant on the surface. I think that may be one stereotype of Americans that is unfortunately true. We are just more up front with our self confidence, opinions, and individualism. In my experience people from outside the US are more hesitant to brag or really argue for why they are right and you are wrong. I don’t think this is such a bad thing, we are a proud people, but many of the people I have met from

        The US talk more than they listen. people from other countries are often just as arrogant and opinionated, but just polite enough to hold it inside (Brits!!!!). . Also Canadians do have an accent, and like hockey a LOT more. And there are some unique foods like poutine and real maple syrup. Also some unique words and language from the US. In general the Canadian travelers are a little more laid back and a little less arrogant than the folks from the US. And less likely to be religious. And I am friends with a Newfie and they are flat out one of the most unique and awesome cultures I have met someone from. I think people from both countries are good, and I am proud to be from the US.

    3. Well said John….as a Canadian, I’ve travelled a lot through the U.S. and feel very much ‘at home’. Excellent article btw!

  20. I would add a number 21 – traveling around the world can be a better education than spending your time languishing in a school/university.

    This would certainly apply to those students entering university because they are looking for “themselves” or “what they want to do with their lives”.

    Thanks for the great post – very inspiring!

  21. I sort of feel cheated that the content of this post was someone else’s words and experiences entirely. You definitely make it clear that Gary Arndt is the author, but overall it just feels…odd that you posted this.

    1. Hi Eric,

      I’m really sorry you feel that way. I understand most readers are accustomed to reading my material, but I feel part of my job is to find examples outside of my own to showcase as models. Hope that helps somehow.

      All the best,


      1. Hi Tim,

        Must agree with “Use personal name”. I’m happy Tim Horton’s is such a hit and I have a certain pride that they’re Canadian but great coffee it is not. Almost everybody I know who drinks the stuff orders a “double, double” or some such thing…so much cream and sugar with the coffee one can hardly tell it’s coffee. There are tons of local coffee shops in Toronto and Montreal (probably Vancouver too but can’t speak for them) and who offer way better coffee and it’s often organic and/or fair trade which Timmy’s does not have…shame on them. Love the post though and keep on rockin’!

    2. I think it’s great! Sharing information is the way to go, especially when the message is one that inspires and resonates with others. Thanks to Tim, I discovered Gary’s blog and have since subscribed to it. Looking forward to reading his posts and viewing his videos/photos :-).

    1. Traveling can be an education away from the tourist way. Only with an open mind and having the courage to be honest can travel be an education. If you go to a country with the attitude to prove it the best ever! How are you learning anything. It is also about absorbing the simplest things that can be useless information to most.

  22. Gary,

    Reading this made me smile, then I got chills and then tears came to my eyes. Thank you so much for dispelling the myth that people in other countries hate Americans. I always wondered about that theory. I don’t hate Iranians or North Koreans, I don’t like their governments and I think our media perpetuates that horrible myth. I am an avid watcher of Anthony Bordains No Reservations where he visits other countries and doesn’t just eat there food but interacts in their cultures. I have noticed on the show that people ARE good. Between you and Anthony you have given me renewed hope to venture!

    I hope to visit other countries but first I need to see New York and Yellowstone. Working on my passive income so I can do that.

    Thanks for making my Saturday!

    1. I live in small town in Iran, here nobody hates americans. Youths like your movies. They respect all foreign people with different cultures. Indeed, this post was really interesting. thank you

  23. Hi Tim,

    Been a fan for a while, and I’ve recently been hearing more about you from a list of my good friends… Delmonte, and the owners of FBF and DSP (i’ll leave the owners names out).

    I think this is one of your best posts. I think everything is spot on, however #5 I’ve found to be a little more true than not, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I think its simply born from the lack of travel experience and the obsession with american news you mentioned. That formula alone unfortunately makes it too easy to forget your travel rule #1.

    Without a real experienced awareness that there are other people and others places working hard to feed their families outside of the US, it leads to a lot of the extreme rhetoric we hear today.

    People fear what they do not know, and travel lesson #2 makes everything a million times worse.

    thanks for the thought and effort you put into this post.

  24. Wow Tim! This just goes to show us what a lot of traveling can do for your self growth. I particularity like the first lesson and I find it to be the conclusion of most people who meet a wide range of other people: we are in general good.

  25. Wow. I think this is one of the most honest and enlightening posts I’ve ever read about…anything.

    A lot of what I read is along the lines of, “Americans don’t travel. American’s suck. If you don’t travel you suck.”

    I clicked over to this article from a link in Twitter. I had no intentions of reading all the way through. But I couldn’t stop.

    It’s refreshing to read writing this good and objective.

  26. Love this one, Gary.

    I was speaking with an Irish ex-pat currently on leave and doing a RTW trip. We were talking about the disparity in travel rates between USA and various European countries, and it’s true that while we here in the US don’t have a gap year culture (not gonna open THAT can of worms), it’s also true that the United States is huge compared to various western European countries. For some one here to live in, say, New York and travel to the American Southwest provides as different a topography and culture as does a German spending a holiday in Spain. Minus the language.

    So, yea, it’s a hard truth that North Americans don’t visit different countries as much as people in other countries, there’s more than one root cause for this.

  27. We have been traveling as a family non-stop for the last 5 years and I agree with most of these points. I am reading this outside on a deck facing the most spectacular view of Cook’s Bay in Moorea in French Polynesia…we are couch surfing here with the most amazing folks.

    I just have to disagree with the English speaking part a bit. Many places DO speak English & almost always in expensive hotels or on the tourist circuit one can find English speakers since it is a major language. BUT there are MANY places where it is very hard to find anyone who speaks English..even in Europe.

    Just like many Americans learn other languages in school but can not speak any, even if they got A’s ( like I did), most people in larger countries like Spain, Germany ,France etc ( that have a major language themselves) do not speak English. They may have taken them in school, but can not carry on even a very simple conversation.

    As demographics change, English may very well become a much less important language. ( One of the reasons that we as monolinguals are raising a very fluent trilingual/triliterate in Spanish, Mandarin & English. ).

    We have been traveling the world luxuriously on 23 dollars a day per person( total costs for living and traveling) for the last 5 years ( and use many methods from hotels to RV) so are living examples that travel does not have to be expensive….even for families.

    Funny to find this post this morning as I just had a dream about you as I woke Tim! 😉 Love any and all encouragement for world travel. The more we do it, the more we want to do it & I am thrilled that our child is already planning her very own RTW trip sans parents once she finishes her University. Travel truly is the best education and gives one more faith in humanity. Thanks for sharing Gary!

  28. As a Canadian #13 doesn’t really irk me, but you’re confusing language / accent and general appearance with culture. And the two cultures are similar in some ways, but very different in others, such as: views on the role of the military, an entirely different political system, very different views on healthcare and social safety nets in general, and of course sports. Hardly the same culture. And anyway we say ‘eh’, how could you not spot that? 🙂

    1. I came here to make this point, but you beat me to it.

      A few other differentiators I’d highlight:

      1) The US is a melting pot, while Canada attempts to be multi-cultural. This is an aspect I miss this the most when travelling to other countries which are (typically) made up of homogeneous populations.

      2) Attitudes toward violence. US media glorifies violence more than any other society I’ve visited.

      3) Incarceration rates are very different.

      4) Attitudes toward sex. US media is far more prudish about sex than any other society I’ve visited.

      5) Religion. The US is more fundamentalist than Canada.

      6) Litigation. The US is more litigious than Canada.

      7) Imperial versus metric measurement (i.e. Canadians can conform to a standard that we didn’t establish).

      8) We (Canadians) like hatchback cars.

      9) Canadians would end dissenting comments with a smiley face to ensure people knew we meant no harm by them. 🙂

    2. yes yes, Canadians and Americans are very different. But we also have to remember that looking at it from the outside in, we do appear similar. The majority of us North American’s probably would have trouble distinguishing the difference between a person from:






      And its so funny because us Canadian’s get offended when we’re mistaken for American’s.

      In my travel experiences, I find the Americans to have the poorest knowledge of geography, and the French to be biggest jerks lol.

      1. It’s quite easy to distinguish between the cultures/groups you’ve listed. Accents, psysiology, and language are all direct indicators. Just becasue you cannot tell the difference doesn’t mean you should assume the majority cannot. Why people must be grouped in large associations such as North America is confusing, especially when there is such a stark contrast between people of the same country (a Quebecois is quite different from an east coaster or someone from the Yukon)

      2. Actually Brazilians and Argentinians are very different. Brazilians have in majority African roots while Argentineans are more white European.Also they speak different languages, Portuguese vs Spanish. Maybe it would be better to say Urguay-Argentina. Or Colombia – Venezuela. But I agree with you on the rest, unless you are truly immerse on a different culture it is hard to distinguish people from different countries. I love Japanese culture and can distinguish when someone speaks Japanese vs Korean and Chinese. Sometimes I could tell the difference in physical traits but not all the time, just like people from Japan wouldn’t know the difference between myself and a person from South America.(I am Hispanic)

  29. I’ve only been to 20 countries but I find that English is divided between the under and over 40 age groups. Young people everywhere speak english. also remember that sometimes the locals pretend to not speak english if they think you’re annoying.

    I find that my best experiences are asking locals to show me their area – people are very proud of whatever they have and the fun is all in the cultural differences.


  30. Travelling has easily been the best thing I have ever done> i too have learned many of the same lessons. A lesson I learned, similar to the “you dont need lots of things” is that once you start travelling, all of your material possessions stop defining you (not that they have to at home, but they did for me). Now I have slowed down, I do not have the urge to buy stuff I once did. Great post.

  31. The great thing is that most of these lessons can be learned from visiting just a handful of countries outside one’s own. I’ve only been to 12 countries outside North America and yet I absolutely and intuitively agreed with every point.

    Travel is like a free “Win at Life” card 😀

  32. Random coincidence, I just opened this up mid-way through reading Eating Animals and enjoyed seeing the unrelated video at the end of this post… Foer is an amazing writer and the book is awesome and terrifying.

  33. Great list! Speaking as a Canadian that has lived overseas for the last couple years, I would tend to disagree with 4, 5, and 13 to a lesser degree. The Americans I meet in third-world countries do tend to be culturally sensitive – but that goes with the territory of visiting an impoverished nation.

    In first (and even second) world nations, spotting Americans is easy – they’re often (not always) the loud, ignorant, and rude ones. They’re the ones sitting in the Prague restaurant trying to communicate that they just want a grilled cheese sandwich. Or yelling at the Portuguese locals because they don’t speak English. Or starting most of the fights at Oktoberfest. Or being asked to leave the Taj Mahal for answering their cell phones while inside. I have lost count how many times a cab driver has asked me if I was American and on my denial has said something like, “good we don’t like Americans here”.

    Of course, there are exceptions. I have met a number of culturally sensitive Americans while traveling who are equally appalled by their countrymen’s sense of self-entitlement That said, it seems like everyone I know who travels has a story about a rude American they saw while traveling. It’s rarely the rude Japanese man, or Argentinian woman, or British man, or Irish woman.

      1. Me, (the american) and a Scottish rugby team in Lapa RJ July 2009. No way I was the worst behaved man on the street. It was still a blast…


    1. I am a proud American who attened uni in Scotland and then lived abroad for five years, in Edinburgh, London, and Greece. I traveled extensively throughout western and eastern europe, and sorry to burst any bubbles, but throughout the world, the worst tourist is the English tourist. Scots are a universal favorite: loud and brash, their kindness and generosity make them popular travel companions and visitors. The English, with their refusal to eat food that is not “British”, their inability to be able to drink without binging, and the fact that their drunken antics and refusal to wear sunscreen seem to result in more ER visits and arrests than any other nationality on holiday, mean that when I was asked where I was from, a sigh of relief was heard. “Oh, thank goodness you aren’t English.” This is not to say that I have not met many wonderful English people on my travels, I have, but as an American girl traveling alone, I can promise you, I don’t drink or yell about grilled cheese sandwiches anywhere. And while maybe you can say that people liked my American money, I was welcomed into homes and ate meals with families who were concerned that I was alone, and they never asked for anything in return. We cooked together and I played with their kids. No one spat at me or acted like I had ruined the world. Honestly, I think people often tell you what you want to hear, and if you acted anti-american, they will act anti-american too, because mostly, people want to get along with strangers. 🙂

      I did meet ONE American, in Romania, that had a lot of trouble fitting in and I am sure he will go back and report that the world hates Americans. He wore sweatpants to a fancy resturaunt with us, even when I tried to suggest that he dress up a bit, and liked to get into political arguments with people a lot of the time. I think he was generally a nice guy, but he certainly didn’t “blend” in anywhere. That’s life.

      And to address Canada: sorry guys. I am originally from upstate NY and I have a lot of friends from Toronto, and no, no one can tell the difference between us. And when I go visit my friends from the north, I see no difference, culturally, from my hometown. Except they have KFC/Taco Bells. Which are awesome. 🙂

      1. Hey Danielle, I’m planning on traveling alone as soon as I finish my college pursuits and I wanted to know if you had any tips seeming as you unlike many other bloggers or people who have shared their testimony on travel are a female who traveled alone. I must say that is my only concern, but will no not deter me from my dream!

  34. I haven’t had the opportunity travel as extensively as you, but I have been blessed with the privilege to spend extended time in a good bit of the globe outside the U.S. My experience is that everything you wrote is true.

  35. Great post,

    I agree in every point of list. Reading of this post was really amazing and took me to the other places on the world. Thank you.


  36. Great piece, now I want to read his book. The fotos are terrific. I like #18 the best because it is important to distinguish between modernization and westernization. The Ronald foto is hilarious too. Anyway, I love to travel and feel the itch. I never got any bad vibes from anyone about being American and never said I was Canadian either. Be cool, be American, set a good example. Even when Venezuelan cops shook me down, they just wanted some bread, not to mess with a gringo.

  37. I full heartedly agree with #2 and #3 – I think one of the best things about world travel as an American is getting away from American media, and realizing just how boring the rest of the world is. I’ve always wanted to travel to Bhutan, and I just read another blog post about travelling there (http://www.krisking.org/blog/2010/10/29/the-incredible-lightness-of-being/) – I think this is a sign that I need to make it happen! Thanks for sharing your experience and encouragement to explore the world!

  38. I recall one day in Greece years ago in the afternoon and I was “rushing” around trying to do some banking…Well the joke was on me because banks there close until early evening/late afternoon (this was early 80’s…) . So, I went and got a cold frappe and sat under a tree and chilled and relaxed. I remember that I had finally learned that, ” when in Rome….” although I was in Athens !!!

  39. #14 is so true. As we’ve traveled extensively over the last few years, we have experienced the same curiosity in others. No matter where you are, you find that most people dream of seeing far off places.

    Also, #20 = Awesome!

  40. I agree with single point – some more than others, but still. I’ve lived in Peru for going on seven years now and the fact is that my life is very much the same as any wife and mother in the US.

    1. Thanks for the interesting post. I agree with Barbara, we should be careful with the term “North American culture”. Mexico belongs to this region, and it certainly differs a lot from the United States and Canada.

    2. Mexico is still a lot more similar, by comparison, to the other countries talked about there though. But I agree, and my Mexican girlfriend always bugs me when I forget that I’m speaking about Mexico as well when I talk about “Americans” or North America, haha.

  41. Thanks for the article Tim, I’m currently in a crisis of decision about moving to Western Canada from my home in Ontario and to be on the road as a musician more.

    This list was a great reminder of my desire for adventure and travel.


  42. Nice post. I had the opportunity to visit Thailand during the Red Shirt demonstrations. I avoided the area and never would have known a thing about it if not for the sensationalism of the news media. I felt very safe and had one of the nicest trips. I took 3 days and went to Phuket and found the people and culture to be so enriching. I plan to take a year off and travel to South America to live and explore. Thinking of Ecuador. Everyone should reach out to do something like this. It’s better than a college degree for learning in my opinion!

  43. Amazing post Gary,

    Its great to read an article like this from the perspective of a traveller, rather than the media or even someone who has never travelled (i have friends and family telling me how dangerous it can be and they have never left the country!)

    Yes the big one for also is internet connection almost anywhere! Thats awesome to know!

  44. This post is great, but the linked talk about “Eating Animals” was pretty much a waste of time. Yes, factory farming is horrible, but vegetarianism is a completely naive answer. In answering the “hunting” question the author comes up with an incredibly silly answer that people hunt because of the joy of killing another animal.

    Whether or not this is true is completely moot. For any of us to live, many, many things have to die. Read “The Vegetarian Myth,” it’s much more annoyingly political but still a much more realistic view of our place in the world. It seems to be that hunting (assuming you’re not hunting things to extinction) is an incredibly responsible way of living like a human being, and physically taking the responsibility of killing other things for your own survival literally into your own hands.

    I like people speaking out about factory farming, but the author’s conclusions about this are counter-productive and obfuscating. Eating plants means species extinction. There is no way to live without blood on your hands. The idea that literally having blood on your hands is something to be avoided shows me that even writing a whole book about this, the author hasn’t thought much about it, not beyond some idealistic vegan imaginary utopia.

  45. Great article. Agree on Canadian/American culture being essentially the same, although as Genny so eloquently demonstrated, another way to tell the difference between us is the use of the phrase “bang on” ;-p.

  46. #6 and #11 were particular enlightening when I traveled in 2005-2006. It was rare to run into other “yanks”, hence, why #4 is probably true, if anything, people are interested in Americans. #11, I just like how you put it, it is the 21st century, it is a different place but not a different time. So the Buddhist monks in South East Asia with their I-Phones is not out of place 🙂

  47. Great Post!! But just wanted to let you know:

    The photo used in #19 – the photo that looks like a Nazi Symbol on a Korean Sign is actually the symbol for Buddhism. In this regard, I feel that the photo may be a bit out of context.

    The ends on the Nazi symbol point to the right, but the ends on the Buddhist symbol point to the left, and this symbol can be seen on a lot of older temples, as well as many modern Buddhist venues/meeting spots.

  48. Hey Tim,

    I think you confused the f**k out of everyone by posting that video, considering you’re doing Paleo 6 days a week.

    How do you reconcile the Paleo diet with this video? Buy your meat at Farmer’s markets only?

  49. Sorry Tim,

    As much as a like your posts, I found this one by Gary way too ambiguous, than what I expected someone who traveled the world for 3.5 years have to say.

    I’m not saying that every traveler should or will become an instant philosopher (which does happen quit a bit on the road to some fellow travelers…) but i guess i expected different insights that most of this list.

    I personally been on the road on and off, for the last 10 years and on of these adventures was for 3 years as well. but it goes beyond ‘binge traveling’ to count the places we’ve been in and the time we’ve spent in each, rather the insights, the experience and the stuff we gathered from meeting different cultures, meeting, seeing things that are different to us and learn to accept them the way they are, trying to feel and experience the vibe in that certain city, province or country…

    I just think that this specific post lacked a bit of ‘juice’ and was a bit ‘grey’ as of content, because i’m convinced that Gary can come up with more than just ‘american’s are like this or like that’

    to be honest…it doesnt matter! the world goes beyond that. and most people don’t really fuss too much with that after the first 10 minutes into the conversation.

    I guess i expected something interesting and as good as Rolf Potts’ in going beyond the basics themselves.

    I do agree with Gary that there’s so much to learn from each other and from other cultures. And the reason that a certain country is not in the news doesnt mean that it’s nowhere, boring or bad ….

    I truly hope most people reading this post will have a chance to discover traveling themselves not just as a getaway from the 9-17 rather as a mind opening experience and educating not to mention life changing.

    well, at least that’s my personal opinion.

    1. Yonatan,

      Your point is well taken, but maybe the post is designed for people for whom Gary’s comments would be a revelation – perhaps those who have not traveled much and rely on what they see and hear from the news media. (Gary says “the media lies,” and a former teacher of mine said “the media’s purpose is not to educate.”) Gary’s post is inspiring me to come up with a list of my own that takes into account things I’ve learned from my own travel experiences.


  50. No surprise for spending not more than 300 $ for month , most people in egypt are pure and i am sure that they spend less.

    For example in Moldova , many people work on several works to survive , 1000$ a month are big money there. And yes big corruption there also ..

  51. Very enjoyable article. I had my first experience traveling the world this month when I took 2 weeks to explore all of Sicily. I will never forget that experience: the people, the food, the culture, the language, the way of life, the smell, everything.

    Tim you need to make a post about warning people about what happens after you start traveling – you never stop. The urge only increases more and more until you satisfy it.

    1. The swastika is originally an Indian sun symbol which spread widely in East Asia (the picture is from Korea) as a part of Buddhist symbols… because of the supposed link to the Aryan race as coming from Northern India/the Himalayas, the Nazis took over that symbol.

      It’s always jarring, and always a good reminder to keep your mind open to potentially different meanings of symbols you just know to mean one thing alone: a Japanese temple adorned with swastikas does not mean they have anything to do with fascism….

    2. @aharon If you look closely, you will see that the Swastika is backwards from the Nazi symbol. It was used in Buddhism before the Nazis ever got a ahold of it and corrupted it. The reason I used the photo is because we are so conditioned to react in a certain way when we see that symbol. Culturally, we are not used to seeing it in another context.

    3. It’s an ancient symbol, first recorded in neolithic times and still in use in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism (where it can be left facing or right facing depending on meaning). I guess that the Hindu use pre-dates the Buddhist use.

      It has been popular in many cultures over the centuries sometimes just for the design impact rather than meaning – it was once a popular quilt pattern element for example and appears in many weaving designs around the world.

      But you don’t need to travel to learn stuff like this – you could just crack open a book now and then.

  52. Good article! Two minor points:

    First – “In developing countries, government is usually the problem.” Strike the “In developing countries” part. Corruption and meddling are universal, though the actual amount varies.

    Second – about English being the world’s second language. You’re right, but it helps to understand what being a second language means. I’ll admit that my non-English country experience is limited to 2 weeks in Japan. From what I saw, Japan speaks English in exactly the same way that the USA speaks Spanish. Everyone studies it. Then they gradually forget all except for a small amount of vocabulary. Unless they personally deal with foreigners all the time.

    You can enjoy Japan without knowing any Japanese, just as many Spanish monolinguals get by for decades in the USA. But don’t count on having the most ideal experience. Knowing any of the local language helps a LOT. Even if it’s just at the level of “please, thank you, goodbye.” There were many times when I wished I could read more Kanji…

    As for the rest of the world, I assume you’d know more than I do. Thanks for sharing what you learned!

  53. I really liked this post except I would have worded “English is Becoming Universal” differently. To me, it implies that one has a good chance of getting by on English alone.

    There’s a myth that everyone outside the U.S. is dying to learn English and would “love to practice their English” with you. That’s hardly been true in my travels. Even in Delhi, India — unless I was in a tourist specific spot, I had a very difficult time communicating in English.

  54. wow that was such a great read………nice and punchy. I totally agree with language and how it breaks down barriers. I’m Australian and married my Indian wife ( who speaks Tamil ) in Brunei, where she grew up. Everyone in Brunei speaks Malay.

    Tamil is astoundingly difficult to learn, however my wife teaches me words that are related to food. In Asian cultures, especially South Asian, food is about love, family and togetherness. Just by trying to speak some Tamil food words, my wife’s family and friends have embraced me as their own…………which is an AMAZING feeling. And when I try to speak Malay ( which is relatively easy to learn ) to the local Bruneian’s, they open up to you, purtely because you are TRYING and you are making an EFFORT…………this applies to everything in life. Trying and effort is all that is needed to earn respect, love and gratitude.

    Thanks for this awesome post Tim!

  55. Gary . . . .

    I love it!

    #11 resonated with me a lot.

    There’s this whole “myth” of authenticity thing that is *totally whack*!

    I live in San Fran and work in a touristy area and you see a breakfast place with a “World Famous Waffles” sign and think, “seriously?” You have to come to SF to gnosh on world-class waffles? Puh-leeaase.

    @john – Quaffed some Tim Horton’s on Vancouver Island and it was off the hoOok!

    Good Vibes~

    Vic Dorfman

  56. As someone who has spent the better part of the last 2+ years overseas (primarily in Germany, with a current stop in Afghanistan and a previous stop in Iraq for, uh, work related reasons 😉 ), I agree with a lot of this post.

    Going around Germany, I have noticed that not just Germans, but all people (regardless of where they come from) love to share their pride with (but not just) Americans.

    I see so many other Americans who go out and visit the German countryside but don’t actually care about the culture or the people.

    Though I could never afford it myself, I am glad my job sent me overseas, so I could actually experience firsthand a part of the world I had never been (I had never left the country prior to 2008).

    As an aside, the only people who ever showed an anger for Americans were random Turkish youth I ran into in train stations and on the streets.

  57. One question – Has Gary been stereotyped in other countries due to his race? And how did he deal with it?

    I’m on this issue not to be rude, but because I’m black and all examples of world travel (outside of Africa) I can find are of Caucasians.

    Caucasians in Africa tend to be treated poorly compared to black travelers, and outside of Africa (the rest of the world) they tend to be treated better than black travelers (vice versa for Africans). And sometimes everyone’s treated poorly.

    Does Gary offer a solution for this?

  58. Great points and facts, that’s exactly why travelling is so great.

    By the way, #13 is really true hahaha and I’m a Quebecer. It was kinda hard explaining the differences between our culture, the RoC’s one and the USA. I might have felt kinda irritated sometimes, but I totally understand that as a North American, people will have a tendency to generalize.

  59. Well said, Tim, this should be required reading! I’ve done some traveling myself, mostly “off the beaten path”, and in my experience everything you’ve said is more or less generally true. And with regards to point #4, not only do most people *not* hate Americans, but in some countries we are treated like rock stars. AND I LOVE IT!!!

  60. Awesome, awesome, awesome post. My family and I loved overseas for a few years and even attempted a short stint as nomads in Europe. Your comments are well articulated. These are many of the same observations we had though your words describe them well.

  61. Hey Tim, great post on travel! I’ve been traveling the globe the last 3 years and teaching English as my means of income. One of my good friends (Emil) has been traveling for the past 7 years and compiled some amazing videos as a hobbie/education instrument. He doesn’t get the online recognition he deserves, but the amount of countries he’s been to and videos he’s created are really awesome to watch. I hope you and fellow travellers take some time to check out his youtube page and enjoy all his shenanigans around the world!

    (sorry I initially commented on the wrong post)

  62. Tim,

    Thank you for sharing Gary’s fantastic traveling insight. Along similar lines as #1 (People are generally good.), I have found this to be true. As a current English teacher in South Korea, I’ve noticed that people will go out of their way to help. In Peru, one of the locals warned me about a potentially shady situation, and I am forever grateful to him.

    Another great tip: Ask questions! As mentioned, people are more than willing to help you, even if you can only communicate through sign language. I tried a new Korean stew last night by asking the people next to me (in hand gestures) what they were eating. They even offered me some and offered to order for me. This was all in Korean, and I was still able to understand, even though I speak at a very very basic level.


  63. Tim,

    It’s not just that this isn’t your own material but the fact that this entire post has been posted multiple times all over the internet and attributed to various authors. Just take any sentence in Gary’s post and Google it. You will see it come up over and over again.

    For instance, I took the sentence “Many people are afraid of the world beyond their door, yet the vast majority of humans are not thieves, murderers or rapists.” You can find this exact post on the following sites:



    I remember reading this same post several weeks ago which is why I bothered looking it up.


    1. Thanks, Bill. Gary has absolutely posted this before, but I felt it was good enough to introduce to those who might not have seen it elsewhere. Still experimenting with this guest poster stuff, but we learn as we go.



      1. I’d never seen this post before and had only briefly seen Gary’s name mentioned somewhere else. I think posting this was great. Not all of us have a long list of blogs on our RSS reader.

        Thanks for the post!

  64. Great summary of what you learn when you travel Gary. I’ve learnt similar in my (almost) 2 years so far traveling. Point 1 & 2 are the most important for people to consider if in doubt. Murderers and other bad people are in a huge minority worldwide, you couldn’t even fill a small country with people at that level really.

    I wouldn’t say English is universal just yet, but it is definitely the most handy to have worldwide. It can be a struggle here in Japan to get by in English despite it being so developed (and that’s one reason why it isn’t so popular – they don’t need your money here and therefore your language) but that can be a plus if you’re keen to learn languages. Even one odd sentence can make locals warm to you. For Japan I use ‘conban beerlu o nomimas ka’ Which means ‘will you come for a beer with me this evening?’ It shows off my humour, an effort to learn their language, is a genuine social question and usually makes them laugh if its the example I give for what Japanese I’ve learnt.

    1. @Rob my point is not that everyone speaks English (they don’t) but that it has become the default second language in most parts of the world. If you are to learn another language (and not everyone does) English has become that language for most people. Many multilingual countries are using English as a working language as so not to favor one local language or another.

      1. Gary, I enjoyed your post. Regarding English speaking worldwide, what speaking English does for me is give me a language I can fall back on in case my attempts to speak the native language fall short, which has its pros and cons: pros because I can communicate effectively, cons because it may make me lazy and not make as much of an effort to learn the other language. I find that Spanish does the same thing in Latin America, as I’ve met people from non-Spanish speaking countries traveling there who do not necessarily speak English, and Spanish enables us to communicate with each other.

  65. Seeing Tim’s comments on this post was slightly confusing to start with seeing as I subscribe to both your and Gary’s RSS feeds.

    Particularly liked #6 – the phot you have to go with it is priceless. You missed Australians from the list of travelers. I think per capita its either us or the New Zealanders that travel the most. The reason as I see it is that in the US travel is seen as somewhat socially unacceptable – if you front up to a job and tell the prospective employer you’ve been traveling for a year, they’d probably look at you suspiciously. In Australia its almost expected that you travel for a long period some time in your 20’s.

  66. Hi Tim

    Really fabulous article. Point 11 resonated with me,

    We all are in the 21st Century. I have to remember that I am looking for that ‘authentic’ experience. I love the way you articulated, “we are travelling to a different place, not a different time”, so true.


  67. Great insights! Yes, everybody likes to travel. Until we get out and start travelling short to start with, we would never be able to remove the block in our mind. I live in India and I haven’t even seen some of many great places here itself. I think its time to start. Thanks for the post!

  68. Alastair Humphreys spent 4 years cycling around the world, he’s a fantastic speaker if you ever get the chance to hear him. The thing is, in total, the whole trip including flights, accommodation, food and everything only cost him £7000 (that’s $11,000). $1000 a month seems a little expensive but I suppose that it depends on your level of luxury.

  69. Hi Tim, thanks for the great post! I also travel a lot and I’m always inspire by you/your readings! I am from Taiwan, the R.O.C. so when I saw the photo # 12, I was so touched! Why? Again because of political issues between Taiwan and China, I am not sure if Gary is aware of this, however, it’s usally a taboo to show our national(Taiwan’s) flag somwhere, sometimes even in our own lands! This post is not to stir anything political, just to repond to Gary’s wonderful discovery that: YES, I am proud of where I am from, that’s Taiwan : )!!

  70. So true, all that’s written! For that, thank you Tim for giving Gary’s wonderful experiences a space here. Suffice it to say that when one spread the good ideas that others have, more people learn from it. To you both, my warmest salute.

    Now back to the 20 things… there’s just one thing I have to say about it all. There’s a real world outside the TV set. LOL! While I’ve learned a whole lot from TV, and yes, the news, magazines, internet and all other sources, there’s no exchange for ACTUALLY being in that place. More importantly, there’s so much to love about people and how they live life when we’ve ACTUALLY spent time with them.

    There’s thousands of languages, many more mores, customs, religions, art, governments and all that. I may be powerless and limited to change the unpleasant ones, and totally just one too little soul to contain joys we get from the experience. But in the end, the immersion in a new culture and place ALWAYS leave me wiser. And more appreciative of life.

    Again, thanks Tim for sharing Gary’s work! All the best to both of you.


  71. Tim and Gary,

    This article came out with a great timing (my departure day is just around the corner) and thank you for sharing your insights.

    Although I agree with most of the points, I have to disagree with 17) English is becoming universal. It might apply with younger people, yet when you show your willingness to communicate with their language, you’ll be surprised by their hospitality (“Pivo, prosim” worked miraculously in Czech Republic).

  72. About English becoming universal…. certainly true, although I had the shock of my life when I went to china outside of the 4 cities generally known to westerners, (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guongzhou) and discovered that I had to learn a completely new language and moreover, completely new body language, even to tell a taxi driver to turn right. If anyone thinks that English is becoming universal, china is the greatest challenge to that!

  73. Totally agree with #2. As someone that has lived in Northern Ireland during the Troubles I have seen the cause, effect and aftermath first hand. However, I was shocked to see how this was portrayed on foreign (Canadian actually) media while I was travelling at the time. It would have totally put me off visiting Northern Ireland as it implied the entire country was in uproar which was not the case at the time. In reality any trouble is usually isolated to very small localities which with common sense can be avoided.

  74. Your points are great and well spoken, but as someone who has been to France a few times, I would wholeheartedly disagree on 4.

    Yes, the rest of the world likes us as people and are interested in us, but a large majority of encounters I’ve had in France have ended poorly (and I’m not the disruptive or argumentative type at all). I will not go back after my 3rd week-long visit, merely trying to soak up as much of the rich culture as I could.

  75. I just started a year-long sabbatical traveling through Central and South America. In less than 48 hours in Quito, my first destination, I got robbed. I am trying very hard to remember #1 right now.

    Another item I would add to the list is that things can be replaced, and you should not be attached to anything you carry with you. If it is something you cannot replace, you shouldn’t bring it.

    To read about my thoughts on the incident, go to my website.

  76. Currently traveling around the world, and can agree with all points. I love how Gary started with “People are generally good”. I would also say “Most places are not scary.” Most cities of the world are surprisingly modern and friendly (except Cairo!), and generally not the image we make of it through what we’ve heard.

    I’ve studied over 10 languages so far on this trip, even if we’re somewhere for just 2 days. Like Tim said, it’s amazing to break the ice, and in some countries like Thailand, unless you want to be reduced to speaking English like a three-year old child all day, learning the language is a priority. It’s true however that English is the universal language. If the locals are going to speak a second language, it’s going to be English! I was amazed at the tour guides in Cairo. They all specialize in one language, and create themselves a “niche” as a tour guide with that language. I was very impressed when I saw an Egyptian tour guide speak fluent Mandarin to his group!

    I would also add as a French Canadian that we share a common North American culture too. A recent trip to France reaffirmed that as Quebecers, we have very little in common with France culturally speaking, besides the language. In France, I feel like a foreigner. In the USA and Canada, I feel at home.

    1. @Frederic Just for the record, I am not against learning other languages. My observation about the rise of english as a de facto second language shouldn’t be construed as me being against learning other languages. I’ve picked up words in a bunch of different languages and I think it is something everyone should do wherever they go.

  77. Awesome travel reflections of yours. We agree to many of them, though when it comes to the part “Americans don’t travel overseas as much as Brits, Dutch, Germans, Canadians or Scandinavians” – we think that the cold climate has importance too 🙂

  78. A good article, even though it’s recycled content as I’m fairly sure I read this on the Huffington Post a few months back.

  79. Though I loved this post, I think it should’ve been written as a countdown from #20 to #1 to make it more exciting.

    I wish “#7 The rest of the world isn’t full of germs” really gets across.

    (some) people think that anything they touch/eat will make them sick. Not true and honestly….I’ve gotten sick by eating food in the US as well. So we’re even 🙂

  80. Tim,

    Married now for 3yrs and a father now for just 1yr, your book and strategic philosophy for life (along with ramit sehti’s financial advice) have revolutionized my families life over the course of the last six month’s. While i have not yet developed a muse, i have instituted dreamlines, streamlining (80/20) and the general approach you take of cutting out what is unnecessary and implementing change in a short, no-allowance-for-hesitation method.

    Since then i have taken my first international trip (Germany, Czech Rep.) with my daughter and wife and have began making travel an absolute part of our future. It has been truly inspirational to see the case studies involving families making the same leaps that people assume that only individuals (or couples w/o children) make.

    this post is right on. people abroad are nearly always positively responsive to people who take interest in their culture!

  81. i had never heard of the term gap year, so i figured others might not have either. just the wikipedia entry. interesting side info too

    The practice of taking a gap year developed in the UK in the 1960s. During a gap year, a student might travel, engage in volunteer work overseas (Latitude Global Volunteering), or undertake a working holiday abroad.

    In 1978, the Prince of Wales and Colonel John Blashford-Snell began what is now known as Raleigh International by launching “Operation Drake,” a gap year expedition voyage around the world following Sir Francis Drake’s route. In the United States, the gap year idea was promoted by Cornelius H. Bull The Center for INTERIM Programs, in 1980.

    The gap year has grown very popular among students in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. A trend for gap years is to participate in international education programs that combine language study, homestays, cultural immersion, community service, and independent study. .

    Denmark has sought to limit the number of students who take a gap year, penalizing students who delay their education to traveling abroad or work full time.[1] In 2006, it was announced that fewer students than before had taken a gap year.[2] In April 2009, the government proposed a new law which gives a bonus to students who refrain from a gap year.[3]

    In Israel, gap years are customarily taken after the three-year compulsory army service.

    The employment practice known as Simultaneous Recruiting of New Graduates matches students with jobs before graduation, and the practice of a gap year is unusual in Japan as a result.

    In 2010, gap year travel has rocketed among school, college and university leavers, as this is seen as an attractive option for future career development.[4]

    In the United States, the practice of taking a “gap year” remains the exception.

  82. Hmm, Americans not ignorant? Debatable.

    People don’t hate Americans? This depends on when you travel.

    I have gone under false nationalities, though usually to confuse and avoid touts who want to build quick rapport. In some areas, I have gone under Canadian or Aussie nationality for safety – this was mostly when Bush was president.

    Not ignorant? Usually not American travelers, but so many Americans we meet in America are ignoramus when it comes to geography and foreign events. Although, I think we find some balance as we are generally very respectful of other cultures.

    I find most points agreeable, though I too felt a little mislead that the author of this post is from some guy other than Tim.

  83. Great post and agree with most of what you are saying, been lucky enough to travel to the USA, Italy, Portugal and the Philippines and experienced much of what you say.

    Love travelling might have to start again after reading this post.

  84. Traveling the world gives us perspective. We learn that we all have so much in common. Most differences between us, including language, are minor.

  85. I LOVED the Jonathan Foer video posted at the end. Thank you so much for sharing. I intended to just watch a short clip but ended up sitting around for the whole hour. Foer does a beautiful job of getting at the heart of the debate and recognizing that it’s more than statistics that drive human behavior. Forwarding it to all my friends!

  86. Right on Gary! Nothing has been more perspective and life changing that my year living, working and experiencing life in Sevilla, Spain. It’s the inspiration for most my Personal Freedom writing and coaching to this day. The best part of world travel is it ensures you’ll do a lot more of it!

    Welcome back,


  87. Great post. I love to travel and this makes me want to get back out there. Thanks for putting up a picture of the Taiwan flag! It’s a small island but such an amazing place to visit. Also, the food is the best there.

  88. Overall I’d entirely agree with all the points here, and it’s great to see some validation from someone who has seen much more than I have outside the US. I’ve only been to Mexico, Canada(which, as he says, barely counts even tho it’s very nice there), China and Japan.

    However, as for #4, I disagree (partially). Overall, yes, there is not nearly the anti-American vibe that most of us think, BUT I did run into some in China. J can’t say for sure it was anti-American, as it may have been more anti-foreigner.

    A group of 4-6 of us in our mid-20’s were going around in a couple different cities in China, and more than once were directed away from certain areas or events. Once, a taxi refused to take us to a shopping area because it was “locals-only” from what we gathered. We talked to a couple other locals to verify it wasn’t just a safety thing, and ventured there another way. We were not exactly welcomed and didn’t stay especially long. Getting stared down by even 1-in-10 locals is a bit unnerving.

    Overall the trip was fantastic, but I learned that there’s places that locals like to keep to themselves. Can’t say I entirely blame them though.

  89. Great post! I am in Germany right now studying on my own for a full year because all the programs in the States wanted me to wait to travel, but if I waited, who knows if I would still have been able to go. So many international students here don’t speak any English though, but it’s worth it to use a second language (German) to bridge the gap between students from all over the world.

  90. I stopped reading at number one, “people are generally good”, um…yeah if you have very low standards for what is good and don’t delve any deeper than the surface, then sure, people are generally good. But in reality, take into consideration that almost every one of us is responsible for many species going extinct and the destruction of Earth, then not only are we not good but ignorant too. Sorry for the negativity Tim and feel free reject the comment but it’s the truth.

  91. # 13 Of course this was written by an American. I won’t tell you there aren’t a lot of similarities however I believe 9/10 Canadians would disagree with this statement.

    I totally agree with the points Ben already raised “such as: views on the role of the military, an entirely different political system, very different views on healthcare and social safety nets in general, and of course sports.”

    I’d like to add:

    – we don’t make a huge deal and have a song, dance and parade over everything

    – we are patriotic but what I have witnessed in the US boarders on mouth frothing, obsessive fanaticism

    – very different views on foreign policy

    Don’t get me wrong, there is much I admire and respect out the US but at the end of the day I’m happy I’m from Canada.

  92. Very interesting, and I must admit I had the “people hate americans” thing incorrect in my head. I’ve been to 20 countries other than my own and must admit that no one has ever really been “hateful” towards americans. Now, toward our government and policies, yes, but to our people, no.

    Bryan Eastman

  93. Isn’t it true that Americans travel more than just about anybody, if you count it in terms of miles/km rather than countries visited? Going from New York to Oregon is more difficult than going from France to Germany.

    Tried to spend a few minutes finding data to speak to this, but could not find any either way.

  94. Thanks for sharing that Tim. I’ve been traveling for about 2 years now and definetely see the truth in a lot of what he pointed out!

  95. Great Stuff, I have thought of almost every one of your points at some time through my own travels. You put them in a great readable way. Keep traveling!

  96. If anyone wants to watch the video, you can skip the first SIX Minutes. The actual talk starts around 6:03. I found this incredibly annoying, and a huge waste of my time…

  97. Cool! In a few months I’m taking off on my first ever indefinite trip in THE WORLD…

    I don’t have many worries, exept one… I can’t really get my head around how to travel cheap in places where you don’t have a common language. How do you find cheap accommodation? How about work?? Maybe it’s possible to quickly learn just enough to achieve these two… I guess I’ll find out soon.

  98. Great post! I lived in Holland for three years when I was growing up, and it absolutely defined my world view. I hope we can open our son’s eyes in the same way. I think the world would be a much better place if we all would really visit at least one other country (3 months minimum, as another commenter suggested).

    It looks like the photo that accompanies #3 The World is Boring might have been taken in Holland. It may not be the most exciting country, but it has more than its share of charm, including that you can go anywhere you want by bike. 🙂

  99. droppped what i was doing and took the kids to madrid (there for worldcup, soy espanol, espanol, espanol!!!), malaga, gibraltar, barcelona, rome, venice, geneva, london. just said $%#^# it. per seneca’s imagine your are in sackcloth and ashes, is this the worst? type travel mantra.

    my question is, what’s the best “no check” luggage? i found soft shell bags to be best, backpack/duffle looks more euro so you fit in vs screaming tourist, I design eco bags from vinyl billboards and have a weekender, and a large messenger but was curious on your best design.

    my oldschool black patagonia velise lasted for years.

    please anyone comment. also tim if you are down to designing the TimFerris weekender, could be a fun project? (the ask)

    matt murray

  100. Great post — I agree wholeheartedly, even #13. (As a Canadian, meeting an American abroad is great when you’re homesick and want conversation with someone who shares most of our cultural touchstones…especially if they’re into hockey, eh! )

    Some other discoveries: culture shock is nothing if you keep an open mind. you can get to know someone fairly well even you can’t speak each others’ language. being respectful and polite gets you a long way in most places. spend most of your time in heavily touristed areas and you will probably NOT agree with #1, and that goes for foreigners and locals! I could go on. Travel really is a great education.

    This post makes me want to travel again. Thank you!

  101. This made me laugh out loud:

    We would probably be better off referring to a “North American” culture than an “American” culture. What differences do exist (Quebec being the exception) are more like differences between states and regions of a similar country.

    … because 3 years ago I moved from Ottawa, Ontario to Gatineau, Quebec. I literally simply moved across the river from one city to the next. However, I was totally unprepared for the culture shock. I cannot even begin to list the differences between living in Quebec versus Ontario. Okay, some not so good, but mostly amazing. I have zero intention of ever moving back to my home province. I work on the Ontario side, but every night I come home to a joie de vivre atmosphere that causes me a sigh of relief as I am driving over the bridge.

  102. It was refreshing to hear from you, Gary, that not all countries are anti-American, and that we are not as ignorant as we think. I grew up in Brazil, South America, and so I have some experience with cross cultural living. It’s true that every single culture tends to look at the world and others from it’s own point of view. But the cool thing is that we can also broaden our horizons. There is nothing more humbling than traveling to another country and learning how to communicate on some level. It makes you realize how little you know, and how many differences there are. Yet, at the same time, travel and time with other cultures and groups can help us develop appreciation for other points of view.

  103. Numbers 12 and 13 are at odds. As a Canadian, my feathers ruffle every time someone tries to tell me that Canadians are the same as Americans. Everyone IS proud of where we are from, so why try to lump 35 million people into the same pot as their 300+million neighbours?

  104. Great list!! Having lived most of my life in the US I had to admit that I’d never really considered the premise of #5 but I can see it is likely true. The problem I have is with #13. Nothing in the comments was funnier than the fact that all those commenting on #13 were Canadian (No Mexicans so far). So what is my problem with this item? My problem is the commonly held belief that North America is comprised of two countries. I do see the reason you made an exception for Quebec since they, like those south of the Rio Grande, are Latin Americans. (Please do not respond in descension to the Latin American comment. If you come from America and your native tongue is Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian, or Portuguese you may be properly called Latin American)

  105. Great to know that Gary have been to a lot of places and was able to study different culture and this will help us to better understand each stands and principles from different races. Respect…..

  106. Good post, not quite up to the normal level of Tim’s posts though. Obviously written by an American… sorry my American friends, the rest of the world disagrees with #5.

    Many Americans are as ignorant as you think.

    How many countries can you name that begin with a U?

  107. I agree with your points. but I just have to point out that the picture for #19 is a sign for a Buddhist temple.. its tantamount to showing a picture of a sign for a church in the US. just sayin..

  108. hi, I am from Taiwan.

    It’s great to see our national flag in your blog. (#12)

    I will go travel with my husband for about 6 months to 1 year from this December.

    So it is so great to see your article.

  109. Even if I’m not fond of traveling and have traveled abroad only once (to Singapore from the Philippines), I agree with much of what has been said here. These experiences prove to you that, just because that’s all you know, it doesn’t mean that’s all there is.

    And on no. 16… must agree. 😉

  110. @ #2 Sad to say, most of my fellow countrymen in the Philippines fell to the lies coming out the country’s leading broadcasting corporation, ABS-CBN. 🙁

    @ #16 I hope this will all end someday here in my country……

  111. Reading this article on the US’s election day had given me a thought:

    I wish that our world’s political, religious, and military leaders could take a trip like this and learn these values as a precondition of them taking their office.

    I believe that having a common value system and agenda, i.e. “Everyone is just trying to get by..”, instead of pushing myoptic media trash with self serving rhetoric, would get us a lot further.

    “Can’t we all just get along?” – Rodney King

  112. It’s every informative and I find it fun reading. I agree with your idea on no. 16, I’m from asia and I believe that we are now been modernized but that doesn’t mean that we always follow with the western countries. We still value and give importance to our culture.

  113. Thanks for the great post!

    As a US traveller, I agree that I don’t experience much prejudice (that I am aware of, anyway) just because I am an American. The exception to this rule is when I am visiting Canada. As you point out, most people there don’t realize that I am American upon meeting me. As the fact that I am American comes out, I estimate the average is once per day in the Vancouver area that I hear a demeaning comment of some kind about Americans. Putting down Americans seems to be so firmly entrenched and approved of a part of the Canadian culture, that it is not even considered rude to make such comments right in front of someone who has identified herself as being American. 🙂 Yikes! Perhaps the same kind of thing is happening elsewhere in the world in languages and in cultural nuances that I am not picking up on as easily as I can in Canada — but it is to my great surprise that in Canada, it is culturally acceptable to be quite rude about their judgement of Americans!

  114. Great post, I would love to be able to experience each topic myself. Thanks for introducing me to Gary’s blog…pretty cool stuff on there.

  115. great article Gary! and thanks for posting this Tim! i definitely agree with Gary’s last point that everyone should travel. this give people an opportunity to immerse themselves in other cultures and experiences apart from they are already enjoying in their homelands. plus the adventure that comes along with it is really FUN! 🙂

    also, this is a great read. having see someone’s discoveries and perspectives about the world and cultures is really insightful and refreshing. 🙂

    thanks again for the good read! 🙂

  116. Dear Gary,

    I agree with most of what you’ve stated although not the comment about Canadians. You refer to accent, and in that respect, I think you’re right.

    However, there are a number of fundamental differences between American and Canadian culture. Ask most Canadians, and they will tell you they cherish Universal Medicare, even if it means paying higher taxes. It’s the same with our public school system – in any given Canadian city, property taxes are redistributed equally to all neighbourhoods. So whether you live in a nice or not so nice area, your school gets the same access to funding.

    And, we tend to be a lot more liberal than many of our American neighbours…

    What I have noticed though – and it’s how I often explain Canada/US to foreigners – is that culture (an din many respects the economy) is more similar North-South than it is East-West, think Vancouver-Seattle & Calgary-Houston.

    Happy travels!

    Geneviève (yes, from the French part of Canada)

    35 countries, 5 languages & counting

  117. Mostly agree, except about the bugs. Every country/region with crappy hygeine that I’ve been to I’ve ended up being sick as hell for a few days of the trip. It won’t stop me traveling, and I’ve never brought my own soap, but cleanliness matters.

  118. Great article!!!!

    My fiance and I are hoping to explore Europe for 8 months beginning in April to experience some of what the rest of the world (outside the US) has to offer. I’m having trouble finding a straight answer to questions surrounding the Schengen Agreement and was hoping some of you fine people might be able to offer some assistance.

    I have an email out to the French Visa department, because some of what I’ve read instructs to obtain a Long Stay (Category D) Visa for your point of entry country and that this will allow you to stay longer than the 90 days the Schengen allows. Other things I have read state that the Long Stay Visa will only allow us to be in the country for which the Visa is issued for longer than 90 and that we will still only be allowed 90 days in 180 for the rest of the Schengen countries.

    I am of course awaiting official response from “the authority”, but am wondering if any of you have any experience with this? Help is appreciated!!!


  119. Great post! Even I am not traveling around the world it seems I am traveling already when I read this post. Since I am a kid I already have the dream to travel the world but the situation does not agree to my dream. Mostly I just love reading such an article or piece like these for me to just only be part of the world. Thanks Tim for sharing the world.

  120. Tim,

    I think I speak for a lot of folks when I say that I would LOVE to read a post from you about The Virtue of Measurement and Testing and how it has impacted your ability to keep taking things to the next level.

    Good Vibes!


  121. Tim, I like the idea of encouraging everyone to travel. Even if you’re a homebody, it gives you the chance to learn about another culture firsthand instead of believe stereotypes that are out there. I visited Japan last year and it opened my eyes and made me appreciate both Japan and the US. Thanks for sharing your story.

  122. Very great list! Thumbs up for this post. Though i haven’t travel any places outside my country (Philippines), however I must say that I agree with the points in this article especially #9. Most people find travelling an expensive hobby. But if you know how to practical and wise, you can lessen your expenses and maximize your experience.

  123. Hello Gary and Tim and greetings from windy and rainy Helsinki.

    Because commenting on a blog is at least partly about participating in the conversation around the topic, I’d like to expand this article and bring my view on to the table.

    First of all, I’m from Finland. I think that we, as a society and citizens view travelling a bit differently than someone on the other side of the world. From a personal stand point I believe there’s ways of exploring the world: tourism and travelling. Tourism focuses on spending time on hotels, pools and going on the same sight-seeings as everybody else. Tourism is normally a package deal, where the person buys a package solution for spending holiday abroad.

    Travelling is different. It’s about leaving the familiar patterns of tourism behind and stepping on a road of exploration. It’s about learning about the local culture, food, language and people. Travel is always tailored and rarely a package solution. The good thing about travelling is that it can benefit more both the traveller and the locals and their economy at the destination.

    Having said that, lets move on to the lessons of Gary that caught my eye:

    2) The media lies.

    Yes it does. Unfortunately whatever a largish media house, a news channel, a newspaper says, seems to be an absolute truth in many peoples’ minds. The news industry feasts on same topics, recycling them all year around, which, sadly are mostly negative. This stuff sells. When you actually know the backstory, it’s easy to estimate, was the news story accurate. In many cases, it’s not.

    Remember that reporters often cover a wide range of topics and subjects in their stories and necessarily don’t have the expertise or knowledge in the given subject.

    6) The rest of the world isn’t full of germs.

    No it isn’t. The whole world is full of germs. Chances are though, that at your destination many things are much cleaner than back home. You are just used to certain practices when it comes down the keeping things clean. That, necessarily, does not mean it’s the best one.

    However when travelling for example in India and Nepal, I suggest you have some antibacterial hand gel at your disposal and use it especially before eating. This minimizes drastically the possiblity of catching diarrhea, which. literally, while travelling in Far East, is pain in the ass.

    8) You don’t need a lot stuff.

    Actually, especially on short travelling (1-4 weeks) you don’t need any luggage. The bare essentials can go in your pockets and what you don’t have now, you can get from there. It’s amazing how litte of clothing we in reality need on travels and also amazing how much clothes people cram in their Samsonities.

    On a sidenote: your travel bag should as light as possible and small too. This way you bring it to the plane with you and you have less to carry and worry about.

    20) Everyone should travel.

    I’d like to step it up a notch: everyone must trust during their lifetime.

    Thanks for the good article!

  124. Great post!

    So much to see, so little time.

    I also agree with Liam’s reply about the bugs. You have to watch out for food/water, most of the time the locals have built up a tolerance for the germs floating around. And snacking on a piece of fruit etc from a street vendor is a sure way to make yourself ill.

  125. You know, if you connect the dots, a lot of the myths Tim mentions in the other items has a lot to do with no. 2… media feeds us with a lot of misconceptions. We should do better than to trust the daily news as is.

  126. Great post Tim,

    Traveling is an amazing opportunity that everyone doesn’t get a shot at. It’s great if you can do it. A big thank you to folks like you (and Nate) who share their experiences with the rest of us. I’m still pretty confident that I’ll get a chance some time in my future.



  127. Notice how most of the comments about Canada/USA come from Canadians. Well, guys, you’re confusing politics with culture. From what I’ve seen of Canada (a visit to Toronto) and occasionally meeting Canadians elsewhere, both countries do indeed share a culture.

    Truth is, Anglo North America has a wide range of “culture” across the whole continent. There’s more difference between Santa Fe and Boston, between Nashville and San Diego, and between NYC and Tulsa than there is between Toronto and Chicago. And yet, any native of one of those places can be dropped off in any of the others at random and do just fine after a few days of adjustment. Shared language, history, and geography. Nothing to do with perceived political differences.

    (Note: The media lies yet again – the USA is not at all uniform in political point of view. It’s very regional, and even that is an oversimplification.)

    If you doubt the common connection, just compare with the rest of the world…

    As an aside, it’d be fun to study the various “cultures” within the worldwide British-settled anglosphere. Look for similarities and differences. Good excuse to travel, right?

  128. I am calling you on the point about Canadian and American culture being common. Mainly due to the fact that you seem to consider how someone speaks or sounds speaking to be “culture”. I am Canadian and have travelled extensively in the States and can tell you that American culture is as alien to me as English culture or French or Tunisian or any where else I have travelled. I now live in England and yes I speak English but a common language is not evidence for a common culture. And I have also encountered a lot of passive hostlity due to my accent. They assume American and most times don’t even bother asking before they hate you.

    Apart from those two points I really liked the list and have found the same to be true where I have travelled. I would caution people about taking the point on there being no germs too literally. I have been places in Africa where the water can make you sick. Not necessarily because there are germs in it but because it is just different from the water you are used to. Humans being 70% water there are bound to be compatiblity issues.

  129. Point 4: People don’t hate Americans.

    You haven’t spent time in New Zealand then?

    We get bombarded my american news – which we’re not interested in. We like our friends in NZ who are American, but “generally” We don’t like Americans. Perhaps it’s because we empathise with Canada, as we have the Australia vs New Zealand thing going on 😉

    There’s nothing worse than a loud, fat, obnoctious american, when you’re dining at a Kiwi restaurant.whose come off some cruise boat.

  130. Tim forgot to mention that Mr Jonathan Foer has also won 30,000+ consecutive games of UNO, making him an immediate expert on any topic… or at least making the video worth listening to. The QnA section in the vid has to be my favorite part. The way he calmly approaches each question and can bring back the focus to the major concerns shows his prowess as a speaker.

    Mad gratitude for Gary. Love this post. As a traveler, this is candy for my spirit and I’ve shared in a lot of these same feelings. While I can tell a Californian apart from a Texan (and from a New Yorker), the differences are so much less than when crossing continents and countries.

    One great point that hit home with me was that modernization doesn’t mean Westernization. Technology is merely an amplifier; it can make the best traits in a person better and the worst traits even worse. The saying goes something like: “A bad worker blames his tools.” If I hear a person complain a few times about technology, I usually try and help. If I hear a person complain all the time about technology, my concerns are for them as a person and not the tech. But what I find with top performers is an embrace of technology… and that is something that crosses cultures. More tech doesn’t mean “more America”… it just means “more”. I hadn’t personally connected the dots until reading that.

  131. I’ve actually run into quite a bit of anti Americanism in my travels. I’ve been kicked out of restaurants and refused service in a variety of stores when my nationality was discovered. These things are the exception rather than the rule, but they do happen.

    For example. I was kicked out of a camera shop in Paris when I was only ten years old. When I asked why I was forced out the door, the clerk said “we don’t serve Americans here”.

    I have since then made many friends who are Frenchmen, leading me again to restate that these things are the exception rather than the rule.

    Since this IS the internet after all, and people tend to misunderstand the printed word almost religiously, I feel I have to say that this is absolutely not strictly a French phenomenon, and that I have nothing against any particular nationality or ethnic group.

  132. You’re right…as a Canadian the bit about Canadians/Americans does irk me.

    I’d have to argue that the surface facts that you’ve presented, such as accent, might lead one to believe that Canadians and Americans have a lot in common, but politically and socially we are quite different.

    I’ve lived in the US for three years total (2005-2006. 2008-2010) and plan to return in about three months for another half year and have been able to study the differences in culture and I agree: it is hard to spot the difference, at least up front.

    What I have noticed is that there are plenty of Americans that would fit in very well in Canada and quite a few Canadians that would be right at home in the United States. However, despite some overlap, statistics suggest that we do have some difference socially. Canadians have more sex, are less often overweight, much lower violent crime rates, few police per capita and we travel more frequently than our American counterparts.

    To the non-expert, it can be hard to spot the different between Japanese and Chinese culture, too. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t difference.

    To be fair, however, many of the Americans that I meet while living abroad in places like Japan, Vietnam, China, etc definitely fall into the “would fit in well in Canada” club.

    1. @Natsun It is extremely easy to spot differences between Japanese and Chinese.

      What you listed are differences in demographics. You will find almost no difference in crime rates or health between US states that border Canada and Canadian provinces that border the US. (the once exception being Detroit) I’m sure you can find differences in weight/crime/etc between Newfoundland and BC.

      People often list health care as a difference between US and Canadian culture, which would imply two things: 1) before the Canadian health care system was in place, there was not difference, and 2) if the US just changed its health care system there would be no difference.

      Laws and policy cannot define a culture because they come and go.

  133. dear tim, dear gary,

    thanx for the post, but i have to break a spear for germans/get back to the argument of american ignorance.

    that for sure is a stereotype and probably true in the fewest cases, the thing is, what i personally and the people i know mean by this, is not a question whether an american would know the name of the german chancelloress or could locate italy on a map (though i have seen an american on tv guessing it to be somewhere near australia), the point is: if you come to spend some time in an american family, as an au pair for example, it may happen that, while being shown around the house, you come to the kitchen, stop before the fridge, your host turns to you, looks you deep in the eye and says: “this is a…f r i d g e. have you heard about this machine in europe?”

    thats the type of ignorance we talk about.

    i promised to myself to put my jacket right into the freezer, next time someone asked me if i knew what this is.



  134. how i envy the person who travels and learns from his travels.

    this is one of the best commentaries that i’ve read… for all time.

    it’s a shame, however, seeing that corruption in the philippines is still at it’s worst. i’ve even witnessed a group of korean youngsters harassed by police officers to hand over at least $100 just to swim in the beaches of Subic Bay.

  135. “Culture matters” (#10 on the list) is brilliantly illustrated in the books of Lawrence Harrison, one of which is titled, of all things, CULTURE MATTERS: HOW VALUES SHAPE HUMAN PROGRESS. All Harrison’s books are very eye-opening, but the one I’d recommend reading first is: WHO PROSPERS: HOW CULTURAL VALUES SHAPE ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL SUCCESS.

  136. It is so true that the rest of the world has also cultural ignorance. I am tour guide for Germans in the U.S. Out of experience most Germans will not be able to answer me simple questions such as for example: Who was the first American President? Interestingly instead of telling me the correct answer of George Washington, the answer is a lot of times Abraham Lincoln. Or when I ask them about how many states the U.S actually has, most people will give me an incorrect answer as well.

    1. dear sascha,

      please see my post above for argument.

      your example is not cultural ignorance, but lack of information.

      what germans criticize about americans is not that these dont know every single politician or similar of all other countries of the world, but that they are ignorant that there exists civilized life without the u.s.



  137. Does no-one else feel the need to vomit reading this? I don’t know about where you are from (the author assumes its America, where else would you be), but here we are bleeding. I haven’t had the privilege of travel, but I’ve had the privilege of education. Which is more then I can say for 80% of the country. I don’t really know how to say this, but to me when I see a tourist I see a lifestyle I can never have. And I consider myself incredibly fortunate. To expect people to ‘dream of travel’ etc is so much naive bollocks. A large number of my friends are going to die within view of the shacks they were born in. Maybe I’m just reading above my class category, I don’t know. Bah, it sounds like I’m a depressing old whiner, but I’m not. I guess I’m just from one of those ‘developing’ countries you speak so fondly of. Hint, we aren’t developing, we are de-evolving (if that isn’t a word it is now.)

  138. yeah you wish people didnt hate americans of course they do at least the way the country is handled and the peolple who support those kind of indecent behaviors

  139. Nice post! Indeed there is an accent difference between Quebecois (French Canadian) and the rest of Canada and US. This place is really remarkable and strongly recommend everyone to visit it at least once in there lifetime.

  140. I am Canadian and I agree that you cannot really differentiate between Americans or Canadians, however, I have travelled many times to America and I have literally been everywhere. From five star hotels to some random hostel in the middle of no where and usually, I get treated…not so well…compared as I would in Canada. The obesity rate in Canada is MUCH MORE lower and Canadians are quite fit. Basically, the lifestyles of the American and Canadian are not alike. There is a difference and that should be acknowledged. The history is different since people who have commented about that obviously have not studied American history AND Canadian history at the same time and the similarities and differences. Since unfortunately I had to in school.

    About the statement “Everyone hates Americans” is not true. Everyone hates what America does or did. Example, the war in the middle east, which thankfully, has ceased to a milder level. No one blames the people, just the government and such. People do joke around about Americans, especially in Europe, but no one takes them seriously unless they are strong opinionated. Such as when I went to Germany with my family, we went to this restaurant and got talking about politics with the waiter. He asked us if we were American since our English was very good and we’re from China. He started to laugh once we said we were Canadian and say it was a good thing, obviously meant as a joke. These jokes probably, like said before, were exaggerated by the media.

    “Americans being ignorant” sadly is influenced by the media. What more is that the media is influenced by the government. It is as basic as ‘no streaking while on-air’ to saying ‘appropriate things to not get you fired while on-air’. USA right now is at the centre of the world, but maybe 50 years later, another country will be the centre and the people there will be called the ignorant people of the world. That is just how it is.

    Also, the part about culture changing is not true. It is always there, just hidden amongst the things added onto their lives to make it easier. Just look closer and you will find it.

    What irritates me about this is that it is obviously written by an American considering that it thinks so highly of them.

    However, the photos are beautiful, written nicely and thought very thoroughly. I enjoyed reading it and thinking about it. Made me actually use my brain after a few days of slumping.

  141. Awesome Article!


    I have an issue with #13. And yes I am Canadian.

    Many Canadians would be irked but this! But so would MANY other countries if you said “yeah they think they’re different but they aren’t”

    With # 12 being ” Everyone is proud of where they are from. ” No one should be shocked that some Canadians are irked buy this!

    When I was in the UK most of the people I met could tell I was from canada and not the USA, and the one person who thought I was from the USA was very hostile.

    Canada DOES have a culture. And it is VERY different form “american culture” Ever hear of a poutine? Or tobogganing? Or a Double Double? Or the group of seven? Or “This Hour Has 22 Minutes”? (Or its quite popular in Canada “Talking to Americans” spin off) Culture has very little to do with an accent. It about art, food, traditions, customs and diffring social values!

    There are different accents across canada! If you got together people from Newfoundland, B.C., Ontario and Quebec there are differences between how they talk.

  142. People don’t hate Americans?

    Err, have you been to Mexico…or Europe…or Australia…or the rest of the world?

    It is an unfortunate fact that many people DO hate Americans, based purely on the premise (and I make a vast generalisation here) that many Americans who do travel present themselves as unwilling to ‘culturally compromise’. Americans can often come across as obnoxious by not having the slightest inclination to conform to a way of living that is foreign to them. Of course, this is a stereotype- but in my case, one that has been re-iterated and justified many a time.

    I am very fortunate to have just come back from a year of travel around Europe, the US, Central America and South East Asia- and based on that experience alone, I was exposed to alot of anti-American sentiments. Australians, Canadians and Brits have a much better reputation!

  143. “Condensing my life down from a 3,000 sq/ft house to a backpack was a lesson in knowing what really matters. I found I could get by just fine without 97% of the things I had sitting around my home. Now, if I purchase something, I think long and hard about it because anything I buy I will have to physically carry around. Because I have fewer possessions, I am more likely to buy things of higher quality and durability.”

    This is one of the most profound comments I’ve ever heard and something worthy of serious consideration.

    We all came into this world with exactly nothing and we’ll all leave with exactly the same. Life itself is worth more than material gain.

  144. This is a really great post, very frank and honest opinions expressed by a world-wise chap. one thing i have to say though is that there a certain places where there are people who want to get something out of the traveling westerner. these people just have a harder life and that’s the reason, its just the way that the cookie crumbles for a lot of the world. then again this fact is made up for by the fact refered to in point 1

  145. Interesting observations, most seem sound. One however, is glaringly not so, and perhaps it is simply you mis-stated your point (American and Canada share a common culture). The US and Canada share some common heritage, but have chosen to do very different things with that heritage. We are officially bilingual – this has had a profoundly different impact on how multilingualism and multiculturalism has developed.

    We operate on fundamentally different notions of representative democracy – and this is not a window dressing matter, but rather one that reflects different assumptions on how governing for the public good cashes out. We have a dramatically different notion of what the public contract is all about (see schools, health care, division of powers between the federal and provincial levels of government, justice).

    Our defining motto is not ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’, but instead ‘peace, order, and good government’. The fabric of Canadian society may share a few threads with yours, but we have woven a completely different cloth.

    Finally, as with Mexico, we believe your country to be called the United States of America, not America. There is a South America, a Central America, and a North America. On North America there are three countries – Mexico, the US, and Canada.

    You might want to spend a bit more time in Canada, it seems in whatever time you’ve spent here, you have only scratched the surface of its culture, and in doing so, missed a very rich experience.

    p.s. Brits might get irked, we just get annoyed and roll our eyes at how little y’all understand about us.


  146. Great post.

    I just wanted to add my opinion on ignorance of Americans, or anti-American attitude,

    I ve had the chance to travel a bit and meet a lot of Americans both in my country and on other countries. I also met a lot of people from different countries and I m sad to say that Americans seemed to be the ones that were most likely to be oblivious to what is outside of their country.

    The questions about third world countries, i can safely say that it s the American person in a group of people, who has seriously never heard of the country someone mentions in a conversation. Rest might have just an idea or might ve heard it somewhere in passing, or might have deep knowledge about it.. But on average, Americans are the most likely to go “Where is that? Never heard of it..”. Thats what i have observed. I dont want to come off as anti-American, since some of those people were really good friends to me but where most people from other countries would find this list “very obvious facts that dont even need mentioning”, Americans alone need to be told that people in other countries dont live in huts or you can find internet almost everywhere or that culture matters…

    1. In defense of Americans, I’ll say this:

      – The US is landlocked. Plenty of Americans have been to Canada or Mexico, but calling the average American lazy or stupid is lazy in itself. How many Europeans would travel if it required $800-1,000 in airfare alone? Many Americans have to commute for longer per day than it takes to cross the countries of those who criticize them.

      – We only consume American media. If you’re in a non-US city like Prague, you have to know local news, get BBC, and American news. More exposure to more news = more global perspective.

      I just think collectively labeling people is a bad idea, and the realities manifest for many reasons outside of free will or personal decisions.

      Easy guys,


  147. The reason Gary says that Canada and the US has a common culture is because he never takes time to embed himself within the culture, he never writes about cultural dynamics, mostly just posts pictures. And, it seems like he never attempts to stay in private homes.

    His dead forum should tell you something about “under the hood”.

    @ Stephen Browne, vomit is correct, Gary travels very blindly.

    Most people hate the American Government which is tied with Israel, but I can say most people likes the American people, for the most part, but not always.

  148. Heya Tim, i’m not sure if you have a tech support team that handles your site, but wanted to mention a broken image link on the following:


    13) America and Canada share a common culture.

    Derby-Line (image link broken)

    By the time the team reads this it will probably already be fixed but I thought i’d be pro-active and mention it anyways.

    Thanks again for the great posts, you are one of my greatest hero’s of all time, right up there with batman and iron man!

  149. My question to Gary is, when is the last time he bumped into a native Thai tourist? Or a native Egyptian tourist? Or a native Mali tourist? Or a native tourist from Namibia? Or a native tourist from the Congo?

    I believe everyone should have the experience of traveling to foreign lands. But when when you identify the make-up of today’s travelers, there’s a definite geographical bias given the economic breakdown of our world today.

  150. The whole US/Canada divide is always a flash point (for Canadians), so it’s not surprising to see the comments on number 13.

    My take is that Canada and US have quite different histories and that has resulted in some very different cultural tendancies. For example, universal health care on its own does is not culturally distinguishing, however it does demonstrate the fact that Canadians tend to be more concerned with social/economic equity than Americans. Similarly, gay rights laws by themself are not neccessarily culturally significant, but it does demonstrate the fact that Canadians tend to be more socially liberal than Americans. The percentage of people that are religious in Canada, compared to America is another example.

    These are just two examples, but I think it’s fair to say there a significant differences in cultura, such that one really does notice the difference when crossing the border, whether from Windsor into Detroit, or from Vancouver into Washington State.

    On a personal level, as a Vancouverite, I have to say I often find myself having more in common with people I meet from the Netherlands, than those I meet from the US.

    Of course, we share a lot of culture with the US and Canadians and Americans tend to get along great. I’m glad we have different cultures because it makes traveling to each others country all the more interesting.

  151. Really nice post. I’ve been living in Holland for the last seven months and traveling to different places in Europe. It is really hard to explain to people back home in the US who’ve never left the country (not including Canada 😉 ) what it’s really like. They usually can’t believe what you are telling them and how things can possibly be different than in the US.

  152. Hello Tim,

    A very well written blog of course!! Being a part time traveller and doing it as a hobby, I must say that I agree with almost all the points above. Well done! keep it coming!!

    Also, in my opinion, the desire to travel among the people doesnt just stop because of fear or job alone. In some cases, it is also the restrictions imposed on issuing visas and the time taken for it etc.. Mostly, people from developed nations are able to travel to other countries with just a passport and obtain a visa there/in other cases being able to get one easily in case it is needed before entering a country, there are exceptions to this though!

    Thanks again for sharing your experience and keep it coming!!!

  153. Great post.

    Being Canadian, of course I take issue with some of your thoughts 😉 It’s not unusual for Americans to find our cultures as virtually identical. While I think differences are predominantly regional (east, west coast; etc) there are certainly some on a national level; in many cases it is in fact how we view our context in the world and other countries that differs.

    I also have found that many Americans cannot detect a Canadian ‘accent’ – but Canadians can detect an American accent. Because our media is so heavy with American content, and the opposite does not happen – it’s to be expected.

  154. I definitely plan on traveling the world when im out of college. Especially since Im a photography major, I really want to do this, and it could help in my career. I want to experience different cultures and learn what the world is like first hand. I wish I could really talk with someone who has done this after college and explain to me how they did it while paying off their student loans!

  155. Canadian culture is insanely different than American culture. Just because we’re close in proximity does NOT mean we are the same. Do you think the French and Spanish have the same culture? This is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard heard an American claim; complete and total ignorance…which goes exactly against your point that Americans aren’t as uncultured as they seem to be…Canada and the US have distinctly different cultures due to the fact that they have distinctly different histories. I also have traveled all over the world and everywhere I have gone, people have known I was Canadian by my accent and have treated me warmly. Unlike my American traveling companions, they do tend to be treated with hostility, I can’t believe you are even trying to deny that. Sorry for the harsh words, but maybe if you hadn’t have tried to make Canadians seem like bland, wannabe Americans…I wouldn’t have felt the need to correct you.


    I am Canadian.

    1. I have never been met by any hostility and I am a traveler and American, but Gary never writes about culture.

      But I can say I think Canadians are the most hostile and Jealous toward Americans. I find it quite strange.

    2. I’m a Canadian and I live in Barbados. I have traveled throughout the Caribbean and spent a little time in Miami and New York. I don’t feel any jealously or hostility towards Americans and I have never met anyone who felt that way. If you put an American and Canadian side by side (well depending on which city they’re from) it is hard for someone outside of North America to tell the difference.

    3. Hey Mary, I think you’re cute. I was just having this same discussion tonight with a well-traveled German… we agree that Canadians are hard to distinguish from Americans (especially coastal Americans). Easiest way is to ask which comes first: Halloween or Thanksgiving. Works every time!

      As Gary said, the differences between Quebec is larger which is very cool.

  156. I found this article upsetting and ethnocentric.

    I’m sorry, I know you’ve been ‘travelling the world’, but a lot of your posts were about America, and there were facts here that would get you into fights with a lot of anthropologists.

    This article made me uncomfortable!

  157. As an American I am incredibly insulted that you would imply that I could be mistaken for a Canadian. How dare you! This has never once happened to me in all my travels and if it did I would be sure to quickly correct the offender!

    Haha, Jokes! 😉

    Seriously, Tim, Gary, all the Americans posting here my self included. We must be the scourge of the Earth. Haha!

    One Love Everybody,


  158. This post is totally informative. I guess I am guilty of wanting to travel and have so many excuses, haha. But it’s sad that the corruption is what you got away with my country :/

    I wish you more awesomeness! Take care 🙂

  159. Hey Tim and Gary,

    Here is a non enthusiastic response. I find it not that big a deal, the 20 most important points of general knowledge Gary has learned those three and a half years. To think that he could have gotten a real Phd in those years.

    The media will indeed only tell highlights of political, social, economic,.. events and it’s normal that they simplify things for an half hour TV-journal or a daily 20 page newspaper (point 2). I you want to learn more, read the specialized literature on the subject. Most of the people in the world go indeed about living their lives (point 3), what did Gary expect before he started the journey?

    So here is my main critic on the article: Why should “everyone” have to travel (point 20)? Why do so many globetrotters have the missionary urge to convert other people to their philosophy of ‘around the world traveling’. I don’t want to criticize travelers but I’m saying that you can live a world conscious life without visiting 70 countries. I’ll give three remarks:

    1.Sometimes a thousands words can say more than one picture. The reality is often more complex than can be learned by a foreigner visiting a certain amount of time and therefore there is a real danger of making wrong opinions. I’m a first world citizen living in Rwanda now for two months and it’s amazing how little I see or know about the ethnic tensions that probably exist here after the genocide in this country in 1994.

    2.on the same level: there’s one human race on this world and I belief the same variety in personalities of people can be found around your home village. I mean the general human characteristics (for example: being generous, easy jealous, easy mad,..). And those people you can get to wow over years instead of the one day encounters as a backpacker. A lot of voyage friendships would probably turn out differently if you met the same people at home, where you meet frequently.

    3.I think that you can’t visit a culture without influencing it. Like the uncertainty principle in physics where you can’t measure a quantum’s speed without changing it’s direction. So in this last two decades where global traveling has become accessible to the broad public of first world countries. The cultural colors of the world become blended faster and the different colors get a shade of the same gray. And I think that’s not something to be proud about.

    So to all the applauding responders, let’s not overexaggerate ‘global traveling’. It’s not better and more life fulfilling than another ‘non geographic’ hobby. It’s not really doing something, it’s just shifting places. The places are already discovered, so if you begin your extended trip have the modesty to admit what you are: a tourist and a sightseer.

    All the best,

    Bram -fellow tourist

  160. Lots of good points here that anyone would also learn studying anthropological traditions of many sorts. Another nice anthropological insight is that just because there are similar cultural elements between X and Y – doesn’t mean X and Y are the same culture. To infer such may actually be offensive (just ask Austrians vis a vis Germany, or Guatemalans vis a vis Mexicans – and yes, Canada vs. the U.S. – I’ve lived in both countries and as a Canadian I can say it’s a different cultural system (politics, relationships, ideals, assumptions, habits, preferences). Same language and land mass, some of the same values, but please don’t claim my culture for your own. It’s not just inaccurate, it’s ignorant and rude and colonial.

  161. I notice only Americans seem to say “YEAH, WE’RE TOTALLY ALIKE, BRA.” When we’re really not. We’ll admit, there are similarities, but the same? No. I’m comfortable enough with my Canadian identity, actually, to say that I’m not even upset about the confusion.

    Regardless, it was a good article. Maybe for your next stop, you should actually visit the great white north :p.

  162. Regarding Canada, I can’t speak with any authority because my only contact with Canada was a short trip to Montreal. However, I am a fan of the late Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, and one of Gould’s biographers, an American named Otto Friedrich, says about his own knowledge of Canada: “On the general subject of Canada, I have done my best to rise from a characteristically American state of abysmal ignorance to one of merely woeful ignorance.” I would definitely put myself in the “abysmal ignorance” category.

    In all fairness, I have to add something positive regarding the United States. I was a recipient of a Fulbright fellowship to Colombia in 1980-81, which would not have been possible for myself and countless others had it not been for the passage of the Fulbright-Hays Act in 1961, which established “Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange” and whose preamble reads as follows:

    “The purpose of this chapter is to enable the Government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange; to strengthen the ties which unite us with other nations by demonstrating the educational and cultural interests, developments, and achievements of the people of the United States and other nations, and the contributions being made toward a peaceful and more fruitful life for people throughout the world; to promote international cooperation for educational and cultural advancement; and thus to assist in the development of friendly, sympathetic, and peaceful relations between the United States and the other countries of the world.”

    I never served in the military, but representing my country and trying to build bridges of understanding were my way of providing service. I can’t begin to mention how many doors were opened for me as a result of that experience. When I returned to the US, I did go through a period of “reverse culture shock.” Over time, though, I have become gentler when confronted with ignorance on the part of my fellow Americans who never had the opportunity I had. I am still bothered by examples of uncouth behavior or arrogance on the part of some of my compatriots overseas, but fortunately these people, from my experience, are most definitely in the minority.

  163. Good stuff. But…Toronto is not Canada..Quebec is not the only unique culture in Canada nor North America. Have you never been to Newfoundland?

  164. hi,

    you’re presenting very simplified and ethnocentric arguments. yet one or two were uninteresting and obvious, namely “the internet is everywhere.” i was equally fascinated by the simplicity of the content and the number of positive responses. utterly fascinated. “everybody loves americans?” “americans aren’t ignorant in politics?” it’s astonishing that european culture is actually very geared toward government discourse, even at the level of young people. americans, on the other hand, anthropomorphize their tiny dogs, on average, much more than have any sophisticated discussion about politics.

    good luck, seeing the world through your narrow lens.


  165. Hello, Tim. Have you ever been to Russia? If you decide to visit it, we can show you great places and people. You might be surprized but there’re some true fans of 4HHW in Russia.

  166. Great post.

    A little too North American! hahaa

    People, No one in the world is anti-american… oks, maybe some ppl, but is because they hate the actions of your country, not you as individuals.

    Anyway most of them just don’t care about you in an especial way. Even when some people from the US. expect that, some how!? hahaha

    Travelling we are all the same, travelling you are just your values.

    about americans being ignorants, mm well I think that americans who don’t travel are controlled by the media, & that’s a terrible thing.

  167. The world is not boring. Believe me I also like to travel and everytime I see and meet something interesting and not boring as you said. Anyway nice places you showed in the pictures. Great work

  168. Thanks Gary. This is very encouraging. This also gives me comfort as someone who has never traveled outside the country. I never believed the world was bad, but if you isten to news enough, it would be easy to buy into it. Thanks, and happy travels!

  169. Americans, Study your geography!! I’ve also seen videos of Brits who make Americans look like geography geniuses hahaha great stuff! and who could forget, Miss South Carolina! I hope someone out there has seen that!

  170. Two points. First, the media doesn’t lie. Not deliberately. Reporters report what they see. It might be that they’re being kept from a troublespot by locals trying to control the image that’s being prevented abroad; or it’s just too dangerous to travel into the hotspots. You’re probably too young and too unaware of history (and you should rectify that – it adds to the “experience” of a place if you know a bit of history) to realise that journalists have been killed covering unrest in Indonesia (and in what is now East Timor). No story is worth dying for.

    Second, someone telling you how they cross the road in Pulau might not be pride in their local culture. It might be exasperation with you, a blundering visitor who hasn’t bothered to pay attention to local manners/customs (see my point above about getting to know a bit of history, too). For example, in London, we stand on the right of escalators and walk up/down on the left. If a Londoner points this out to you, it’s probably because they’re pissed off at you not paying attention a) to the signs on the escalators that clearly say Please stand on the right and b) to the fact that people are standing on the right and walking on the left. We’re comfortable in our culture, thanks. We’d like you to have the awareness and manners to pay attention to local custom not because we’re proud of it, but because it’s beyond annoying when some American kid with a ton of luggage causes blockages at busy Tube stations.

    oh, and not everyone wants to travel. You do; I do, but don’t extrapolate your interpretations on to other people. Which is kind of what this whole blog does. (Oops, I guess that’s three points.)

    I’m delighted you’ve discovered some universal truths about travelling. Now have a deeper think about some of them.

    1. Daphne, the point on the media is well taken. Rather than say that the media lies, I prefer the quote of a professor of mine from years ago: “The media’s purpose isn’t to educate.”

      Regarding the behavior of Americans in London, I can’t comment directly as I have never been to England, but in my trips overseas I’ve seen my compatriots in a wide variety of situations ranging from the very best behaved to the very worst. I’m thinking that our most uncouth representatives stand out like sore thumbs and give the rest of us a bad name.

      Also, to your point on travel, I personally prefer a balance between travel and time at home to relax, take it all in, savor those experiences and share them with others. I appreciate my opportunities to travel more when I have had those reflective times.

  171. Dear Tim,

    I’m afraid that I am from another country and have to dispell your myth a bit.

    My girlfriend is Spanish – and her entire wider family (apart from her brother) does not speak English. You talk in English to someone in Spain or Italy, or a slavic country or Greece or Turkey… and they don’t speak the language. Trust me – I speak Dutch, English, a bit of Spanish/German/French and still have a hard time communicating with many people abroad.

    People around the world do not HATE americans. But that doesn’t mean we like the USA. Americans are nice (though they are mile wide, inch deep in general) but the way the US uses it’s cultural imperialism irks a lot of people.

    The way the US feels it has a right to invade whichever country it feels like, not take part in any kind of treaty which is for the good of the world instead of the good of the US (Kyoto, UN Resolutions, International Law Tribune in the Hague) – how they feel that the rest of the world should conform to their policies is quite irritating… you guys need to understand that you are part of the problem, not the solution! Somehow you find it justified…. we don’t.

    You are right that most people are ignorant from the rest of the world…. but there is quite a difference between knowing general knowledge about the rest of the world or knowing names & dates etc.

    Ask the same man if he can point to japan on the map and he can – and with people from the US… I would be less sure.

    I understand that it is hard for Americans to travell abroad and think it is totally legitimate to not travell that much abroad…

    p.s. I had an american woman working in my office who thought that the Beatles were American…. of course it is just one woman, but it was a well educated woman. Just to show how deep the ignorance goes.

    For that matter I also overheard a German asking in Rotterdam why there were no old houses there (they aren’t there because the Germans bombed the city to pieces a couple of decades before)

  172. You made a mistake

    …you go from numbering the myth to numbering the truth.

    So basically, it seems like you’re saying the world IS boring, the world IS full of germs, people DO hate americans, people DON’T want to travel etc.

    Fix that.

  173. Hi Tim and Gary,

    Thanks for writing and posting this article. It confirms many of our ideas after we have been travelling the world [Asia and South America, that is] for the past 7 years.

    For the Americans unsure about their image: I agree with this article. Even in countries like Iran and Pakistan, people told me that Americans were welcome in their country. They may don’t like American politics/government but they see this as a different entity than humans. We came to think that because in their own countries many of them don’t see THEIR particular government as the right reflection of who THEY are, they assume that it works similar in other countries; hence the American government doesn’t properly represent the [image of] American people.

    As to the corruption of government aspects, I would like to point out the following. It is [well, I find] it too easy to point a finger at governments. You [generally speaking] are pointing to a level where the change won’t take place.

    Governments are a reflection of the people they represent [no matter the fact that many of the votes may have been bought – in fact, this exactly proves my point]. We strongly saw this in, among other countries, Bangladesh. When you travel the Bangladesh countryside you can have nothing but deep respect for these people; hardworking, good farmers slaving for pennies who have a strong sense of hospitality. However, as soon as these honest, hardworking citizens enter the bureaucratic world they work their way up and many [by far not all, of course] take their chance to become just as corrupt as the leaders who, only years earlier, they criticised for corruption.

    Leaders of countries are human beings, nothing more, nothing less. In corrupted countries corruption not only takes place on high levels. It is an ingrained part of daily lives, for example:

    – Votes are bought [you can argue ‘what do you do when you are hungry’, but you will always find people who even when hungry don’t bend for such a thing].

    – The whole system of choosing a new employee based on the person being a friend/cousin/whatever, in stead of on basis of this person’s credentials.

    – The driver who prefers paying a bribe to the policeman instead of accepting a fine [which will cost him more].

    These are just some examples of how the system is corrupt on all levels. In the last example, it’s not just the policeman who is corrupt – the driver is just as guilty. Don’t just blame the policeman for accepting a bribe, blame drivers for feeding the system by paying them.

    The only difference is that when these [ordinary] people become leaders, the corruption takes place on a larger scale and has larger consequences. To give a crude example, with which many may not agree. Hitler could remain in power because millions allowed him to be in power. It can’t simply be that one man is stronger than millions of men, unless those millions allow him to be stronger [please note that I am not trying to ignite a discussion about the reasons for WWII here, nor am I blaming Germans or anybody else for keeping Hitler in power or anything like that – it’s just meant as an example]. The word ‘Hitler’ can be changed into any corrupt leader/government currently ruling any country.

    Eliminating corruption is not something that takes place on high levels. It has to be eliminated from a deeply ingrained culture.

    As may be concluded from above, yes I feel very strongly about this. It is us, ordinary citizens, who decide what our world looks like. And by constantly looking at yourself, and deciding ‘Am I really doing the right thing here’ we can all together change the world in a very short time.

    – I can blame others for not using garbage bins; instead I can pick it up or point out a garbage bin to that particular person [if I see it happening].

    – Instead of pointing fingers at countries for only selling illegal DVDs I can instead make sure that at least my DVDs are legal [which may not be an matter easy thing to obtain in some countries, but that’s another discussion].

    and on and on goes the list.

  174. hey, i just happened to stumble upon this but it is such an amazing blog

    travelling has been one of my ambitions for years, and as soon as i finish school, im going to do everything in my power to see the world and this was such a great inspiration. i now believe that it is possible to just do it, thank you so much : )

  175. Many people, not all people, outside the US do harbor negative feelings towards US and its citizens. I’ve listened to their stories and studied the topic on my own. I’ve come to the conclusion that their reactions are legitimate. Unfortunately, people bearing the US flag has not always been the force for good.

    However, my experience has also taught me that the best traits of humanity such as generosity, compassion, and love exits in abundance all over the world, even in the poorest of people . These people welcome you into their homes, clear a place for you at their table, prepare delicacies with they cannot afford for themselves, and send you off with gifts, even though you are a complete stranger to them. One could only be humbled by their nature.

    In many ways, one person is so small compare to the world. One person can only experience a tiny fraction of what the world really is. One can only understand so much of the good and the bad he/she experiences while traveling. Therefore, prospective can wildly differ by individual. However, one does feel the urge to go out and figure it out for himself/herself. 🙂

    I think I got the travel bug reading this post. Excuse me while I beat it out of myself. 😛

  176. I loved reading this (: Travel is one of my passions, but since I’m still in high school I don’t really have the time to pack up and leave whenever I want to, but I wish I did! So far I’ve been to Costa Rica four times, and I just took my first trip to China this summer, and in January I have plans to go to Uganda and Swaziland. So I’ve had a bit of travel experience, but not nearly as much as I’d like!

    This post really got me excited about my upcoming travels, even more excited than I was before I read it! I especially liked the first point, “People are generally good,” because I’ve found that in Costa Rica and China, people have seemed to be less paranoid about letting their children run about outside, and about talking to strangers or inviting us into their homes and stuff. And I’ve really enjoyed getting to meet all sorts of people, getting hugs from random strangers, watching the Chinese wave and call out to me in English when they see I’m American, and just witnessing the goodness of people.

  177. As a traveler, I agree with most of the myths made. I am currently six months into, what I hope to be, a three year trip.

    I do, however, disagree with the similarities between Canadians and Americans. While traveling, I’ve met many of each. As a general bias (there are always exceptions) I have found Canadians to be more polite and more open minded. I’ve been with an American entering a bar, and witnessed him being warned by the bouncer to not mention his nationality.

    Americans have complained more and generally always compared the current culture with their own. When differences arise, the Americans became more frustrated, whereas the Canadians accepted the differences with ease.

    Traveling is definitely not scary, it just needs to be embraced properly to enjoy it. It’s not for all but it’s the greatest experience I’ve ever lived and I would do it for the rest of my life if I could.

    1. Mallory, this three year trip you’re planning sounds fantastic!

      Gary, so glad of your point #1. I’ve always believed this and the more I travel, the more I believe.

      The travelers I’ve meet are so open-minded and accepting, as a result of their travel, or the reason for it, I don’t know! Any thoughts?

  178. #19 is not the sign for Nazism; it’s for Buddhism.

    If you see that sign with a phone number, usually it’s an ad by a fortuneteller.

  179. Gary! Awesome! Thank you for sharing your “world wisdom” with us! Whether I agree with it all ( I do ) or not, the priceless education you’ve gifted yourself with is wonderful..and no one can discount it or take it away from you! I love that you have gone, done and seen what you have! Yours is a life lived! I can only imagine what you will do with the rest of your years! Here’s to you and your journey!

  180. I agree with most of these points, although I would argue that English is so ‘popular’ in countries such as Nigeria, India and certain Pacific islands because they were British colonies way back when the British Empire was going strong, as were the original 13 US colonies (hence us all speaking English). It’s not a modern change, it goes much further back and probably explains why many people in Europe (France and Spain, for example) don’t speak English – they had their own empires and no need to learn another language!

  181. You are absolutely right – I spent two years in South America and I can confirm (almost) everything you say. The reality of a foreign culture is more interesting and beautiful than anything you will ever read about.

    I disagree with #7 (germs) however. I got deathly ill in the first few months down there. The problem is not that there are more germs. The problem is that they are different germs. The local people have adapted to them, we haven’t.

    Heck, I even get sick when I visit New York.

    Everybody should travel after they graduate. It will be the most formative experience, and best education in their life.

  182. I have never seen how it could be possible to just up & leave . . . with little to virtually nothing. I don’t understand how you could get from one place to another or where you would stay. Furthermore, I have always considered this as a possibility I just never thought about a proper way to do it. I’m 27 years old and I have never been to 98% of the entire country and have lived in Florida for practically my entire life. I have always had the stereotype that traveling or just to decide to leave takes thousands of dollars regardless of hotel fees and sight seeing. What about transportation? Where would you get the money to catch the bus? Hitch hike? Take a plane? etc …. etc … If someone would be so kind as to answer my post I would be much obliged. Thanks

  183. i didn’t travel around the world for three years, but i spent a month in india after graduating high school and i also realized a lot of these things. the world is so big and diverse and amazing. people and cultures out there will blow your mind if youve never traveled outside the united states. everyone should travel outside of their comfort zone and experience the world.

  184. Hey man, awesome post, been playing with the idea of travelling the world for some time now, but keep getting caught up in the what ifs, and the things that hold us back like car payments, and debt etc, its given me a different view and sparked the flame again, time to sort out my sh*t and become a free traveling man.

    the 1 thing that still gets to me is the Visa story, being from south africa. i dont have free access to allot of countries and cant buy visas at the border, any help or input to this? earning cash and living day to day is not a major concern….. yet.

    thanks 🙂

  185. Thanks for this post. Tim, I’m following your blog posts since almost a year now (since the 4hour workweek fell into my hands) and I must say it is weird that it’s the first time I feel compeled to add my voice and at the same time discover that it hasn’t written by you (but surely could have been).

    I like this optimism that fills this article, I feel like we need more of this kind of thoughts nowadays. I’m myself a true optimist but have to fight to keep it that way…

    World is just a huge village were everyone wants to have its place and word to say…

    Many thanks once again for these soothing words !

    Dimitri from Brussels

  186. When you suspected you’d get the Canadians going – boy were you right! It is one of our cultural hot-buttons. To the Americans out there, don’t get us wrong – it is NOT (usually) anti-Americanism. But we are PROUD of how we are different. Much like point #12, and the boy from Palau who wanted to show Gary how to cross the street, Canadians want the world (and particularly Americans) to know what makes us unique. (For me, it is our cultural mosaic vs. America’s melting pot – which creates a completely different interaction between our diverse peoples. Here in Canada, you don’t see the segregation you see in the US. That, on its own, is a huge difference, and one we are proud of.)

    We feel lost in an identity crisis, bordering the US is like sleeping next to a giant. So, it is reasonable, and natural, for us to celebrate what makes us different, unique, and Canadian.

    As a Canadian who has traveled to 44 countries (and counting!), I will say I do hear a fair amount of anti-Americanism out there. But unlike most people, I challenge it. And I go as far as to use the R word – Racism. People (especially Europeans) find it in-vogue to be anti-American (moreso when Bush was in power.) When I label it as RACISM (which is what it truly is), it’s quite amazing how quickly they hush up. Especially the Germans, being so sensitive to these sorts of issues – their eyes usually go wide when I hold a mirror to what they are spewing out of rote.

    But please, America – grant Canadians their differences. Acknowledge our pride in that which we are proud of. Our similarities are there, and obvious to all – our differences are very near and dear to our hearts. Be sensitive to that – that’s what we ask.



  187. Great post. I would add to the discussion by saying that just because English is understood that doesn’t mean that you just default to it. What’s the fun in that. I can stay home and speak English! In my experience, you get brownie points for any attempt. Immersing yourself in another culture can make all the difference.

  188. Once again another great post. I love traveling around the world. I was in Africa this year and the culture is what makes you want to keep traveling. I agree that everyone should do it. It makes you realize that what you do is that the only or correct way to do it.

  189. Oh no.

    Tim, you have to hide this post or else it will become a rag for annoyed Canucks. Not what you want first-time viewers to experience.

    Three things to know about why Canadians freak out about this:

    1. Much Canadian nationalism, somewhat delusional like all forms of nationalism, is based on A) hockey performances against the Soviet Union in the 20th century B) their ‘multicultural mosaic’ (often cast in opposition to the American melting pot and European segregation) C) more ‘liberal’ social and political institutions than the United States and D) bilingualism. You may see the trend already, but literally EVERY one of those is in large part built on the premise of difference from America.

    2. You can’t extend reflections on certain English Canadians to the whole country, with only the exclusion of Quebec. Anyone from New Brunswick (constitutionally French), Nunavut (constitutionally Inuit) or Newfoundland (closer to Ireland than America) will go nuts, and justifiably so. Toronto and Vancouver, sure, they’ll just fall back on the standard “we’re nicer and more liberal than you” train.

    3. For some reason, backpacking Anglo-Canadians always claim more affinity with Aussies/Kiwis than with Americans. I’ve never seen them deviate from this line. Perhaps it’s the mutual affinity for plentiful beer?

    My father is Canadian, and although Canada is an admittedly wonderful country, they go absolutely INSANE when Americans do anything contrary to Canadians’ sense of self. I’d hide this, or else comments on Barry’s post will start to resemble those on nationalist Youtube videos…

  190. Tim, I am glad to see people on both sides on this topic when it comes to Americans. I am an American and I have lived 20 + years out side of the USA and I am 41. Some people would be amazed at the number of Expats from the USA that are around the world who are solid members of the community they live in. I have lived or spent many months at the major cities from the Middle East, Asia, EU and the Americas. I think most people develop an impression of a country and the people by the number of interactions they have, not what they see or hear from the news. I am often told I am not a normal American in a positive manner. The US has so many things going on that impact the rest of the world and that is a major contribution to why so many people around the world know so much about us. How many people know when Singapore has a new President and Prime Minister? Ignorance is relative to the person and scope of their lives and there is room for everyone to learn and understand. Most people are very respectful and when they are not, chances are, it is a culture issue, not a respect issue. Americans are lucky to have vast amounts of disposable income to afford travels more frequently than other countries. The good and ugly part of this is that we bring a sense of energy, excitement, confidence and willingness to do almost anything with the attitude of trying is the better option than later wishing we had. This sometimes creates embarrassing scenarios but for the majority of the time, bonds are created that last a life time. I literally have a deep friendship with people from 20+ years ago at several countries scattered around the world and I think many of follower’s on this blog do as well. For those events where people spit or make harsh remarks about the USA, just remember, more people immigrate to the USA than any other country in the world. While it is not perfect, for many, it is generally a safe and stable place for a family and a business. The business of pleasing everyone has closed shop.

    I am an explorer by nature and choose to live out of the USA while I am young and fit; no one knows what will happen tomorrow. The world is just awesome and so is your neighborhood. Mutual respect and an understanding that most people are decent are the must tools for successful travelers, everything else is easy.

  191. Tim, I’ve always watched any video you’ve post because I trust your judgement, but I want 10 minutes of my life back.

    The first 6 minutes of your vegetarians vs. meat eaters video was totally non-relevant and the actual talk was cut off after 3 minutes. It felt more like I was listening to a preacher in church than hearing any actual solutions.

  192. Tim, thanks for sharing this great article from Gary. Everything Gary’s learned I can say I, too, have learned in my 30 plus years of traveling. A few months ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Gary in a podcast and have been following his travels closely ever since. And one of the points we talked about, and he reiterates in this article, is that everyone should travel.

    I am constantly preaching this idea because not only does travel expose you to different cultures, but it also teaches you that despite where we come from, we’re not all so different from one another. I’ll be sure to direct my blog readers to your site to read this article. Thanks again for sharing.

    Peggy Goldman

  193. This is such a refreshing post.

    Not only that, but despite the obvious and the simplicity of it, quite insightful.

    I’ve had the chance to travel a little around Europe, USA and Latin America, and can relate to most of the content, with some minor disagreements

    Tim, if you ever plan on visiting Guatemala, let me know!

    btw, What are you studying?

  194. Hi Tim – You are my new mentor. Love the 4 hour work week and have implemented lots of your suggestions. Your ideas keep expanding my mind which feels so cool. Thank you for this thought provoking video from Jonathan and your gentle nudge to view it. I have never even given not eating meat a thought and this video had such a compassionate and powerful message, that I can not not explore my position. Thanks again for challenging me to think outside the box and to dig deep into my heart for what matters to me 🙂

  195. I disagree with #1, not because I think people are generally bad, I don’t think they inherently have either attribute, it is the good and bad actions they do that define them.

  196. I have to say that I smiled when I read some of these lessons, I’ve picked up several of these myself as i travelled:

    People truly are generally good, with all the advice that you’re given about how you’re going to be ripped off while travelling, you’re almost scared to talk to anyone but when you do you have the chance to meet some wonderful people..

    The rest of the world isn’t full of germs – there’s nothing better than a nice bit of street food but if we were hygenically fussy then we’d never have the chance to eat anything but bland hotel food!

    And you can certainly find the internet anywhere, rain-forests, tropical islands and half-way up mountains!

    It all makes travel so much fun!

  197. This is not the first time I have “stumbled” upon this blog, after reading it a second time I am compelled to argue with you, the fact that you have a picture of Ronald McDonald beside Modernization is not Westernization proves ignorance. Also along your travels, have you been to Canada? Honest question as I’m sure if you did you would notice, even after crossing the border for an afternoon of shopping you can tell the difference, with portion sizes, common courtesy and driving habits, not to mention the impact of the media on either culture. I have done my fair share of travelling and the best advice people can pass on is the idea that people are people not nations, you can meet an ignorant person from anywhere, whether they are American or not is irrelevant although there are plenty.

  198. Been a serial traveler my whole life, and I can tell why Gary has such positive experiences in comparison to those saying ‘Americans are/aren’t – whatever’.

    It’s attitude. I’d hate to sound all David Hawkins-ish (I’m lying, I’d love to sound David Hawkins-ish), and incredibly corny – but by being accepting and …ahem…loving, we bring forth the positive side of peoples natures.

    I’m sure if you asked Gary at different points along his long journey, he might have given you different answers – but from the sounds of things he started travelling with an open mind – and it was accepted very easily by those he came in contact with.

    I’m also quite sure that if you receive negative feedback from others due to your race or nationality – 9 times out of 10 it’s going to be a reflection of your own insecurities.

    I agree totally with Gary. All people (not just Americans) are only as ignorant as the media they are subjected to , the media lies, you don’t need a lot of stuff, and in general – humans are pretty freakin awesome.



  199. Well… I’ve traveled a lot all my life. With a lot of americans, and I lived in the US for two years. I lived in Thailand and the Middle East.

    I can say without a doubt Americans are ignorent, they are very ignorent. I love Americans, I love the US. But in the developed world there is no other country where its people know as little as you do about the world outside there own. America has some of the smartest people in the world, but without a doubt also some of the dumbest.

    Also Americans shouldn’t think people dont like them, Not in the middle east. In South Korea they do, thats because your presence there is so strong.

  200. First, thanks for such a great post. There is a lot of good information for new travelers, but that’s not to say people shouldn’t take this info without a grain of salt. Everyone needs to take the time to learn about the world for themselves. There are some pretty amazing places out there.

    Second, I want to comment on the irony of statements along the lines of “Americans are generally disliked because of their ignorance.” If someone dislikes me because I’m an American, then they are they are the ones being ignorant. Every country I travel to, I go to with an open mind and for every foreign traveler I meet visiting the U.S I accept that they will be different from me, but that’s okay. If other people can’t return that courtesy, then I am certainly not the ignorant one. As many people can attest to from other countries, the will and actions of the government do not necessarily reflect the will and actions of its constituents.

    Third, I’d like to point out that the U.S is a very big place and person could spend a lifetime traveling all over it and still never see everything it has to offer. So, to those of us that live here, it is very important to travel abroad and learn about different cultures, but don’t forget about we have to offer here, too.

    Last thought: To any foreign readers out there, try to remember that the news you hear about the U.S is the news that YOUR newscasters choose to tell you and the same is true for us. I promise you that while you may think you know what America is about, you probably have no idea, just like how I probably don’t know anything about your country. Did you know that my university raised over $7,000,000 for children with pediatric cancer last year? Or did you just hear about the “American war machine” and how “evil” we are on your news? The only way to truly know who we are as a society is to come visit for yourselves.

  201. What happens when you travel most countries and see most cultures? Do you then get a good grasp on life or do you realize no one really has it figured out, and try to pick the similar things to make into one solid worldview?

    Anyone done it?

  202. Great article! However, I’d like to comment the 19th entry, just to make sure that everybody gets it right. I am afraid that people would think the sign on the picture displays the nazy cross when, in fact, well, it doesn’t.

    After studying Japanese and Japanese culture, and travelling to Japan, I found out that they, Japanese, and obviously other Asian countries, use a cross that at first sight looks like as the nazi one to indicate the location of Buddhist temples on maps. But look closer; one is “heading” left and the other one is “heading” right…

    So, in other words, people is that building certainly don’t worship Hitler, but are probably meditating 🙂

  203. BRILLIANT summary! I’ve spent 7 years backpacking around the World going to over 100 countries and I’ve finally found something which captures the spirit of travel.

    Thanks Gary and Tim.

  204. The fact of the matter is, there are ignorant people everywhere you go. On the contrary there are some very intelligent people. I am from the US and I know first hand some very, very smart people who also travel. That ‘comedy’ show that portrays americans as stupid is just adding to the stereotype. When in reality all they are showing you is edited footage of really dumb answers from some dumb people. (YES they exist everywhere in the world! and yes some live in the US) Everyone has different experiences traveling and some people may go through it and meet open minded people whereas others may run into people who ‘hate’ Americans.

  205. Hi,

    I really enjoyed this article. I have to note that from experience you can use English anywhere. Yeah sure it would be crazy to have to learn 35 languages and I am not saying to do so. But why would you want to only speak English? I am only fluent in English and French, however I have learned Spanish enough to be on the radio, Italian, and German…and some key words in other languages. I know it can be really tough sometimes like learning to count in Arabic or Russian but giving people language options have saved my butt many times (time and money). As was mentioned by the author, people are proud of their culture and mother tongue so why not show them you are interested and speak at least a couple words.

    I am glad you have noted that Quebec is much different from the USA. This just how different it is. Our education system is much like the German and French one, however it is compatible with US or out of province univeristies and accessible to international students. In the public system, I have had to learn French, English, and Spanish. There are various jobs offered here and people sometimes choose to have more free time then to make more money. For exemple instead of getting 3x to 5x his salary my family member got to live abroad and keep his job and each years leaves on a journey on average of 2 months. There are a lot of American companies settled in Canada because we will accept cheaper salaries or previously due to the power of the American dollar. Managment inside these branches are quite different than the American ones.

    I also feel that we celebrate art, culture, and food. This is a really important part of our lives and in the end these things shape us as a society.

    I do feel that I can relate to other Canadians out of my province and also with Americans in some parts. I do not think that all US citizens should be labeled as one and neither should Canadians. The US and Canada could be divided into several countries. Its like saying that all Europeans are basically the same. Maybe you just need the right addresses and places to go to when you come here….anyways overall I really liked it and was not offended what so ever…but I have never been mistaken for an American anywhere I have gone. I don’t think it would have been a bad thing but just goes to show that we might not be labelled the same.

  206. Thanks so much for sharing your reflections, Gary. Your post was insightful and inspiring.

    My husband Tim and I (along with our two little girls) are about to embark on a trip across the USA for 1 year. Although it won’t be the same as traveling internationally, I know we’re going to learn a lot about culture, life, love, and what matters most.

    P.S. What exactly DO you carry in that backpack of yours? I’d love to read a post about that too.

  207. Having travelled extensively, I agree with many of these points. Although I have seen a lot of Americans insist that Canadians are the same, it’s not very convincing when it’s delivered in an american accent and american conversational style. I think most Canadians would consider themselves more like New Zealanders than Americans; I’m not sure what the New Zealanders would say about it.

  208. As a huge fan of international travel and photography, love your blog. Came across it awhile ago and now I’ll need to check it out again. congrats on living the dream!

  209. I just got back from traveling for two years – thanks for summing up some crucial ideas and concepts here that I’ve learned along the way.

    I’m also Canadian and am dying to talk about my opinion of the world’s view of America or our “similar” cultures, but that seems to be done in excess already here.

    What I do want to point out though, is #19: I’m 99.9% sure that’s a Chinese / Japanese symbol for Buddhism, NOT a Nazi / Neo-Nazi swastika. (Now I realize it wasn’t outright stated that it was a Nazi swastika, but I read it as if it were implied).

  210. yeaah (: i think travrlling is great. i would love to do it when i am older. (: and i am o inspiered by bear gyrlls. he is amazing and i have met him (: