January 19, 2006

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Don’t Let the World Pass You By! 52 Reasons to Have a Passport, by Sara Benson, et al. (Lonely Planet Publications, 2005, 184 pages)

A

For the first hundred years or so of our country’s existence, we Americans were a pretty adventuresome bunch.

We left our homes in the old countries and proceeded to explore North America, crossing the Appalachians, trekking the Great Plains and finally traversing the Rockies. We were bona fide explorers back in the day.

What happened?

At a time when international travel is cheaper and faster than at any other period in recorded history, we Americans are mostly choosing to stay in our own back yard. Fewer than 25 percent of Americans even own a passport.

Published by Lonely Planet, the Australia-based travel guide publisher, Don’t Let the World Pass You By! is aimed squarely at us Yanks, urging us to get off our lazy butts and see the rest of this planet we share with 6 billion fellow humans.

Presented in a fun and entertaining manner — only 52 short chapters for our oh-so-American short attention spans — the book begins by listing all the benefits we Americans can reap by traveling the globe.

Not getting any in Des Moines? You and your “sexy” American accent will be fighting them off in Prague. Tired of living like a pauper in your sixth-floor walk-up? You can ride a camel in Morocco for $2 or ski in Slovakia for $10.

Don’t Let the World Pass You By! also goes to great lengths to dispel those impressions that many Americans — many who have never been out of the country, anyway — have that the rest of the world is unpleasant, especially for us Yanks. Worried about terrorism in foreign lands? You’d do well to remember that the U.S. is home to 75 percent of the world’s serial killers. Foreign travel will also dispel the ignorant notion that the rest of the world hates America, and yes, that includes the French.

You can believe what you’ve been told about the rest of the world and its people and stay at home, missing out on a helluva good experience. Or better yet, you can get out there and see the world for yourself and form your own opinions. But to do so, you’re gonna need a passport.

— Will Stewart

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