The world will never be more culturally varied than it is right now. It'll never be a more interesting place for travellers to explore. It will never be more adventurous to discover than it is right now.
Why? Because as the world changes, it's becoming the same.
We're not at some sort of pinnacle of global diversity right now - rather, it's the fact that the world is on an inexorable path of homogenisation that means we have to travel now. It's irreversible, this process, and to me it's inevitable - something you can't view as a bad thing or get upset about because of its pure predictability.
The world is shrinking. And the more it shrinks, the more it becomes the same. People are crossing borders. Cultures and ideas are being exchanged over the internet millions of megabytes at a time. People are travelling, emigrating, exchanging and introducing their food, music, sport, fashion, religion, morals and ideals. There are fewer strangers in fewer strange lands; fewer untouched pockets of civilisation.
For travellers, this means that the time to go is now. Don't put it off until next year, or until you're 30, or until you retire. Travel now. The world will never be the same as it is right now. If you stay home, you're missing out.
Think of it this way. Picture those first European explorers, three or four hundred years ago, who set out in wooden boats into an incredible expanse of the completely unknown - some perhaps not even convinced they wouldn't fall off the side of the world when they got to the horizon. What an adventure that must have been, arriving at a foreign shoreline and having no idea what to expect; and for the inhabitants of those shores, what a strange experience it would have been to have those ships arrive.
Back when those maritime explorers first set out, the world was a series of monocultures, each country distinct and untouched by outside influence. If you went to China you got Chinese culture, and nothing else. Same for Italy, or Peru, or Ethiopia.
(OK, that's not entirely true, as anyone who's seen an Egyptian obelisk in a European city could attest. Cultures were still influencing each other, just not on the grand scale that they are now.)
Now, things are different. The more our world changes, the more it becomes the same.
For travellers, this shrinking world means the inevitable loss of some of its quirks and differences. Every country is filled with jarring little reminders of home. Go to China and you find McDonald's. People wear New York Yankees baseball caps in Brazil. Indians wear jeans and T-shirts. Cab drivers pilot Manchester United-liveried taxis in Kenya. Women wear high heels under their chadors in Iran.
Monoculturalism is becoming a thing of the past. In such a rapidly shrinking world no country - aside from, perhaps, an insular dictatorship like North Korea - can hope to entirely hang on to its traditional identity. We're all being influenced by one another.
If this sounds like an anti-immigration rant or a criticism of multiculturalism, then it's absolutely not. I love the diverse nature of Australia and the fact I can walk a few blocks in Melbourne or Sydney, and feel like I've entered someone else's world. It's travel without moving. And the same goes for anywhere else in the world.
This is a good thing. After all, the more any culture can learn about another, the better chance we have of all getting along.
My point is simply that for travellers, there's no time to lose. Travel will always be exciting and will always carry a thrill of discovery when you go somewhere for the first time. But it will never be more exciting, or more of a thrill, than it is right now.
Do you think the world is becoming more homogenous? Does that make travel more or less exciting? Has the travel experience changed since you began? Is there anywhere you feel you need to get to as soon as possible? Post your comments below.
- FFX Aus