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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
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Traveling Overseas On Vacation?

Over the summer and fall, the chances are that you or someone in your family might decide to take a vacation overseas or even to Canada or Mexico. Thirty years ago when I traveled a great deal overseas for business, there was no ability to Google for information about the countries on my schedule. I had to use library books. Today, of course, the Internet gives us all research capabilities beyond comprehension.

Even if you are traveling for pleasure, understanding details about the country or countries on your itinerary will make the trip even more enjoyable. My strongest recommendation is to start at library/ publications/theworldfactbook.

That site is a public site and belongs to the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States. Go to the site and select the country of interest. Now, before you roll your eyes as to why I would suggest the CIA as a starting point, examine with me what is available.

The range of up-to-date topics available is astonishing. Take China for example. Everything is at the site from detailed geography to full details about population and from the detailed information about the structure of the government to pages and pages about the economy. In addition, there is a great deal of information about transnational issues – issues currently on the world stage. Each country’s website contains, for the most part, the same material as I have just outlined for China.

Why start with the CIA website? If you do not fully understand the history and current picture of each country you will visit, the trip will not be as enjoyable. Back in the 1970’s I did not have the Internet, and my research started in libraries and at book stores.

Beyond the Internet, books can still make your vacation to a foreign land or lands more enjoyable. For example, I just read On China by Henry Kissinger. I only wish that his book had come out before our trip to China in 2008. Books can provide an insight about the country you will visit and make conversations easier with fellow travelers.

One other suggestion is to contact the Embassy of the country to be visited or the nation’s Consulate or United Nations office in New York City. Most of those facilities will have literature designed for tourists.

Finally, let me go back to the CIA World Fact Book. I cannot recommend strongly enough the value of information about every country in the world you can find at that site. And even if you are not traveling abroad, the material can be very useful and worthwhile for high school and college level students.

Enjoy your trip abroad!


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