1. American travelers may soon be able to go to Cuba.
For over 50 years, American travelers haven’t had easy access to one of the most beautiful islands in the world, an island that lies just over a hundred miles from our shores. But as 2014 drew to a close, Cuban President Raul Castro and President Obama signaled that they would like to try and normalize US-Cuban relations. This is good news for a billion reasons besides travel, but if all goes well, US travelers will finally have access to what is, by all accounts, a truly amazing country.
2. We can now see the world anew thanks to the GoPro and drone revolution.
An entirely new world is now open to us as a result of the combinations of GoPro cameras with personal drones. Want to see what Burning Man looks like from above? Done. Want to go into crevasses in an Alaskan ice cave that you could never explore yourself? Done. Want to see what surfing looks like from above? Done. Want to stage an elaborate single-take music video that shoots high up into the air? Done. Travel photography and filmmaking is only going to get more spectacular and innovative as a result of this revolution, and those of us stuck at home in front of YouTube are its greatest beneficiaries.
3. The economy sucks less now than it did five years ago. So we can travel more.
While young people such as myself who graduated in the middle of the recession tend to be pretty cautious about their money-making opportunities, the US economy is improving steadily. And more money means more traveling.
4. You probably have vacation days to spare.
Want to take a trip? Go ahead. Do it. Seriously: if you have vacation days and you’re not using them, you’re wasting good travel. A study earlier this year found that the average American was leaving eight days of paid vacation on the table each year — meaning that collectively, Americans are skipping a million years of paid travel time each year. A million years! Take the vacation time! You’ve earned it!
5. Americans are traveling more and more.
That old cliche you’ve heard about only 10% of Americans having passports? Yeah, that’s no longer true. The number now is much closer to 46%. And while we’re still not sending enough students to study abroad, the numbers have been increasing over the past 15 years, and the number of foreign students coming here to study has gone up, too. This can only be good news: an America with a serious travel culture is going to be a smarter, more worldly America.
6. Affordable space tourism may be available in our lifetimes.
This year was an up-and-down year for spaceflight. On the one hand, we landed on a comet for the first time. On the other hand, the Antares rocket exploded a few seconds after launch. But then NASA announced we’re going to try and get humans on Mars in the 2030s! But on the other hand, the Virgin Galactic crash set back space tourism a little bit.
Right now, space tourism is prohibitively expensive for most people. But so was air travel early on in its development. We could easily be looking at space tourism being an option for middle-class families in our lifetime. And suddenly, the focus of our wanderlust will become infinitely larger.
7. Young people who want to travel can get a free education along with it.
More countries have begun offering college education for free to their students, including their foreign students. So if young people want to travel but don’t think they’ll be able to afford to if they take on massive amounts of student loan debt, they’ve now got a solution: get your education in Germany.
8. The world is becoming more peaceful.
While sometimes the news may seem to indicate otherwise, the world is actually becoming a safer, more peaceful place. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker points out that overall, the trend seems to be towards fewer and less violent wars, but the news doesn’t reflect this because peace isn’t news. “Look at all the places that aren’t blowing up,” he told PRI, “That is not going to be on the news. You never see a reporter standing on the streets in Mozambique or Colombia saying there’s no war this year. But there were wars in past years, and we forget about them because they are not news.”
A safer world is good for everyone everywhere. But a nice side effect is that a lot more of the world becomes open to travel.