Matt's recent posts touch on a very important subject... the difference between tourism and intentional travel. Most "travel sites" and "travel writers" focus on the former. They describe beautiful places and decadent activities. They tell you where to stay, how to save money, where the good deals are. They rarely, if ever, examine the philosophical, cultural, economic, political, or psychological aspects of travel.
That's a shame. For tourism sucks all the vitality from travel. It kills its greatest benefits. For the benefits of travel often derive from that which the tourist most avoids: the challenges, the unexpected, the difficult. The intentional traveler seeks these out. S/he pushes into the unknown and the uncomfortable (each according to their inclination and temperament). The tourist seeks the known, the comfortable.
The tourist brings back a tan and a collection of commodities (snapshots and trinkets). The intentional traveler is after things which cannot be bought. For the intentional traveler seeks inner benefits: transformation of perception, thought, emotion, belief.
Your average American Yahoo shuns travel for the same reason they shun critical thought... they seek the comfortable. They seek that which confirms their superiority. They dont want to be challenged.
But the intentional American traveler is another breed. They embrace discomfort. They live by that pseudo-Star Trek creed... to boldly go where they have never gone before. Outwardly this means new countries, new foods, new cultures,... but the heart of the matter is the inner journey.... new thoughts, new perceptions, new understanding.
We need more intentional travelers, and fewer tourists.