Preconceived notions are nasty little things.
Most of the time, they’re innocent enough—borne out of ignorance rather than animus. Yet, the impact that preconceived notions can have is not only tremendous but tremendously limiting.
They confine us. They stop us. They create our own little worlds around us rather than allowing us to experience the rich tapestry of the great, wide world we live in.
In short: preconceived notions are the opposite and antithesis of travel.
Travel expands our worldview. We meet new people (often finding out they’re just like us). We see new places. We experience new types of beauty. We taste new foods, enjoy new smells, feel the sun in different intensities and the wind from new angles.
Rather than confine us, travel opens up new worlds our small-minded notions could have never dreamt of. We stare out onto a vista our minds could have never imagined on their own and we say, “wow, I’m glad I came.”
If that’s how we experience travel, why would we let preconceived notions stop us from traveling to certain places, among certain people or at certain times?
Why do we avoid places that are different and label them as “dangerous” or “not my thing” simply because that’s how we expect them to be?
I’m not advocating a complete and utter free-for-all when it comes to planning travel or doing so in safe and responsible ways. Research is important. So, too, is vigilance.
However, too many people simply stop at what they assume a place to be like and never take the all-important step of seeing for themselves.
Case in point: Every trip I have taken for this job has shattered my expectations of the destination.
When it was time to go to Jamaica, friends and family shook their heads at me and wondered how I’d manage in a literal third-world country. Most made Bob Marley jokes and the international symbol for a certain substance.
Instead, what I found was world-class destinations, and some of the most amazing people in the friendliest culture I’ve ever experienced. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to mentally planning my retirement there from time to time.
Months later, I had a chance to go to El Salvador, and the only thing I knew about the country was what people told me: It had been torn apart by a civil war and there were militias everywhere. People literally feared for my safety, wanted me to keep them abreast of my whereabouts and make sure I wasn’t out at night.
READ MORE: El Salvador Comes Alive On Latest TravelPulse Radio Episode
When I was actually there, I never once felt unsafe. I had an amazing time, and I’m pretty sure that it’s one of the lushest and interesting natural tourism destinations on the planet.
Fast forward to this past weekend in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Now, ignoring those who thought I was going to the Panama City in central America (Hi mom), many were still concerned that I was bringing my wife and two young children to Panama City on Spring Break!
When we arrived, though, we didn’t find booze cruises or passed-out coeds on the beach. Rather, the city was full of activities for young children and families as the city is actively looking to shed its “party destination” reputation.
Look, the choice is yours.
You can easily sit on your couch and claim to know what the world is like. You can avoid all of those places you think you know about and stick to the people and the experiences you’ve always known.
Or, you can let travel do its job and prove you wrong.
You’ll never have a better time.