There is a little odd argument that occasionally gets brought up, about the terrible woes and limitations of Americans, as compared to the intellectual and far-traveling Germans. I've watched it laid down on occasion, via various televised commentary forums. It'll be a light slam here, a nudge there, and scholarly judgement call. Opinionated? Yeah, but it's what gets dished out.
The tough talk? First, Americans simply don't travel and see the creative world in front of them. It makes them....well....less intellectual.
It's a curious piece, rightly deserved probably. A guy can grow up in New York City, and over the next fifty years....might travel across to some casino in New Jersey forty occasions....maybe travel up to Niagara Falls once or twice....cross the border into Montreal once....and maybe make one trip across to Buffalo.
A farmer in Missouri by age fifty? He might make a dozen trips to Iowa for a farming conference....maybe four trips to St Louis to mostly watch baseball....a trip or two to St Paul for the mall....and attend some big tractor show in western Canada.
A garage mechanic in LA? He might venture by age fifty to Aruba three or four times, a dozen trips to Mexico for fishing, and maybe see Vegas forty times.
Vast travel beyond the shores of America? No. Statistical numbers go from one extreme to the other. Even if you live and work in Washington DC....you might have only ventured to the Caribbean twice on a cruise boat....flown into Alaska for a ten-day adventure....and spent a week in Paris (mostly on a twelve-hour-a-day tour bus).
The other side of this argument? Sadly, if you go out past the intellectual Germans and thrown the question to German society.....all eighty million....you start to see some similar situations.
You could find a mechanic in the Saarland, who has visited Luxembourg seven-hundred times by age fifty....mostly to buys gas. He might have been to Ibiza, Spain five times....mostly for cheap beach vacations. And he might have been to Berlin twice....once before the wall and once after the wall. Oh, and he might mention the seven trips to Amsterdam, but he'd only grin over his activities there and what he smoked along the canal.
You can find all kinds of characters in Frankfurt who'd admit they've just never had the money to tour anywhere much beyond Bavaria on a bus tour, or a week-long trip to Turkey at a two-star hotel which was pretty bad and miserable.
This vast intellectual argument over travel? Oh, it's correct that you see things, get introduced to different ways of society, and find a lot of creative things. You'd have to be open-minded, willing to exercise open tolerance, and ask stupid questions.
The problem generally ends up with guided tours.....that you have a detailed plan determined and this script will be read over each event or site. As I came to realize with some past trips....like Paris, London, and Trier....you need to pre-read a book or two and realize the scripted tours are usually slanted and one-sided.
Accidental trips? Maybe years ago, I was opposed to them. I'm more of the mind that an accidental tourists bumps into a few more things than guided tours can offer. Rome has probably ten-thousand historical points. A guided tour usually will try to guide you by forty points on an average day. Staying there for seven days.....you might see three-hundred-odd points. Walking around on your own? It's a test, I admit.....but you might find another thousand points easily and discover some statues that rarely ever get mentioned. Or you might bump into a street that tourists rarely see. That's real Rome.
These artistic or opera adventures that a German intellectual would harp on? Even if you stopped off in Vienna for a couple of days and saw one brief opera.....it wouldn't really count. The full trip should be full of culture, art, and music (not Pop or Jazz).
A person can spend hours wandering around the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam....mostly coming to the conclusion that he was a consumed guy with certain way of viewing landscapes and painting them in that fashion. You might also come to a conclusion that he burned the candle intensely and left this world in hurry. The one-thousand water-colors and drawings? All sought today because of their representation. A nutcase by age thirty-seven? Yeah. Does this help me later in life or make me a better person? You'd have to be pretty creative in identifying my missing art, or missing the Van Gogh Museum....and thus denying my entry into the big circle of life.
The widely traveled talk and the limited factors surrounding it? Yeah, we Americans are running in second gear I guess.
We generally packed up and left the real world in the 1700s and 1800s.....leaving France, England, Spain, Italy, Austria, Amsterdam, and Germanic lands.....coming to the US. We didn't think much about the loss of the intellectual world that we left. We had other priorities.
Times passed, and we made our "own bed". We accepted our little world. We were content.
All this continued on until 1917, and we got "invited" to come back for a visit. It wasn't high on our agenda, but eventually accepted the call.
Twenty years later, we got called a second time to come and visit. After that occasion, we stayed on. Thousands (to be honest, millions).....of Americans have come over for two, three, or even more years.
We passed time on the Rhine River and sipped apple wine. We trudged off and saw a divided Berlin. We later trudged off and saw a united Berlin. We've walked around Stonehenge and sat at the Coliseum in Rome. We visited Ann Frank's house, and laid upon warm clean beaches on the western coast of Denmark. We've sipped good French wine and bad French wine. We've traveled at speeds along the autobahn in excess of 220 kph (and lived to comment upon it). We've watched musical opera, schlager singers from Bavaria, Peruvian singers in Wiesbaden, and techno from Berlin. We've eaten fine dinners at unknown small towns in the Pfalz where the seventy-year old cooks with all original ingredients and would not accept anything coming out of the freezer for our order. We've traveled the Ring of Kerry in Ireland and sat in a honest Irish pub listening to some guy whine about his misbehaving son-in-law and the terrible woes of life. We've sat on terrible hot beaches in Crete where the sand just burned your feet intensely. We've measured the actual lean of the leaning tower in Pisa, first-hand. We've sat in the Kassel-Caldron Airport, and wondered what the two-hundred-odd million Euro was spent on. We've ridden fine railways from Frankfurt to Munich, and commented on the lack of bounce like you'd have on Amtrak rails. We've walked miles and miles of Volksmarching, just to get a simple medal at the end of each hike. We've even walked the backstreets of Sachsenshausen and had a unique cultural experience of beer and song.
The argument has character from the intellectual, and I'm doomed to fail I guess. Maybe my travels left more of a mark, than what I would have gotten with the intellectual at my side.