Where To Go Abroad
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The first obvious question of the prospective traveler is where to go. This depends on many things. It depends on your temperament, your tastes, your reading, your personal interests, and a host-of other things. Probably some or all of these have already marked some portion of the globe as the natural choice. If not, begin by sitting down before a map of the world. Our little planet may be but a speck in even our own solar system, but there is enough of keen interest on it to keep anyone traveling incessantly for a lifetime.
To perhaps eighty per cent of Americans, going abroad means going to Europe. With a few exceptions that is the part of the world outside our boundaries most easily to be reached. It offers a wide range of interest within a small compass. It is prepared to handle travelers expeditiously. It happens to be most attractive at just the season when the great majority of Americans have, or may take, time to go abroad.
The lands of Europe may be roughly divided into four categories from the traveler's point of view. First, what we might call those of the simple trip. Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy would perhaps exhaust this list at present.
In those countries the most inexperienced could scarcely find any notable difficulty in moving about.
Second, there are the lands of the semi-simple trip—though of late the line of demarkation is not very distinct. In this list might be included Spain, a picturesque and romantic land of increasingly good roads and hotels. Scandinavia—Denmark, Norway, and Sweden—might perhaps be included in the first group except that they are a little off the beaten track and that they are inviting to most of us only during a very limited portion of the year. Greece and Austria, and perhaps Czecho Slovakia, are among the almost-easy-to-travel countries.
In the third category may be grouped the countries in which it is still rather difficult to travel. Central Europe in general, certainly the Balkan States, would find their natural place in this group. Lastly, there are the countries in which travel for pleasure is still all but impossible—Esthonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and notably Russia. Yet even these are possible to the traveler of the more adventurous type.
But Europe is after all only a small portion of the globe. Closely allied to the easy-to-travel lands of Europe are almost all those bordering on the Mediterranean. Algeria, Egypt, Palestine, and Syria call for little more than do the most traveled parts of Europe, except a somewhat greater expenditure of time and money. India, South Africa, Japan, even Australia and New Zealand, offer little handicap to the traveler for pleasure other than their distance from our shores.
Yet before we go any farther afield let us give a thought to the Americas. Unless we count Canada, Mexico is the foreign land most easily within reach for most Americans. Much as we hear of it in other ways, it has been rather sadly neglected as a tourist country.
It has far more to offer, too, than most of us realize. The charm of Mexico is so great that there are few Americans who have penetrated beyond its uninviting northern portion who do not look forward to the day when they may return.
Of Central America less may be said. Yet it has genuine pleasures for the archeologist, for the man whose study is mankind, in its incongruous as well as its more reasonable phases. But for the rank and file a cruise about its coasts, with a dash or two up into its sometimes pretty and romantic capitals, is all that can be recommended.
South America is gradually coming into its own as a fitting goal of travel for pleasure. There, too, a cruise around the continent, with a few journeys not very far into the interior, is still the most common offering. Yet more and more travelers are finding that the pleasures of a more nearly overland tour of our southern continent make up for the minor hardships involved.
Time was, when we strangely overlooked a delightfully heterogeneous realm almost at our very doors—the West Indies. But this error has been royally corrected of late. The main criticism that might be offered in this matter is that the most visited are in many ways the least interesting of those far-flung isles. For a score of Americans who go to Cuba or a dozen who visit Jamaica, one has the wisdom to step ashore in our own beautiful little Porto Rico. Our Virgin Islands, too, and several other of the minor patches of mountains and forest in the incredibly blue Caribbean repay higher dividends in pleasure than most travelers suspect.
China, too, offers much to travelers of the slightly hardier breed. When not in turmoil, Peking gives as much genuine and lasting pleasure as any city in Europe.
Shanghai is a world port against a Chinese background. But within comparatively easy reach of it are a score of cities that are like living remnants of the world of long before the Christian era. And the traveler who gives Canton its due in time and exertion will bring home a genuine sense of satisfaction.
And Japan, strange yet delightful combination of Oriental romance and color, and Occidental vigor and efficiency. The island empire stands high in the list of interesting and fascinating countries to visit.
Korea offers strange sights amid perfect Japanese safety. Indo-China under the French is equally safe and interesting, the vast ruins of Angkor in Cambodia alone worth a journey half round the world. Of the islands of the Pacific, whether it be the Philippines, Borneo, Java, Sumatra, or that host of smaller islands lumped under the term of the South Seas, no praises that can be sung would be an exaggeration.
In short, there are no end of foreign trips that may now be made comfortably, and often not so expensively. The whole world round, and from Punta Arenas, its most southern city, to Hammerfest, the most northern, lie enticements to go abroad.