This Saturday, March 10, is National Passport Day.
You can walk into a nearby post office and apply for one on the spot. You don’t need an appointment.
So if you’ve ever wanted to travel abroad, or if your passport has expired, now is the time to do something about it.
Aside from the usual benefits of seeing some sights and getting some rest and relaxation, traveling abroad offers you a window on the way other countries view the United States.
No history book can illustrate the power our country exerts abroad like a few days in another country — talking to locals, reading the daily papers and experiencing people’s impressions of you as an American.
Additionally, gaining awareness of other cultures and countries is invaluable as our world is increasingly interconnected, especially economically.
Take China, for example: A week in the world’s biggest country would help you understand the need for the United States to have a cordial and functioning relationship with that economic powerhouse even as Washington properly prods Beijing on its human rights abuses.
More of our legislators, both state and federal, should venture abroad, too. Being ignorant of the world beyond our borders is no way to govern.
If you’re worried that this is not a good time for unnecessary spending, I certainly can appreciate that. But traveling abroad can be done prudently if you shop around for the best prices.
And consider this: The U.S. travel industry employs 7.5 million Americans, and generates nearly $1.1 trillion for the economy, according to the Department of Commerce. So traveling can stimulate a powerful economic sector as well as help secure jobs. (The industry lost some 112,000 jobs in 2010.)
If, like 80 percent of the country, you do not speak a foreign language, rest assured that it probably won’t be an issue since most of the world speaks English, especially in popular travel destinations. The 58 million Americans who traveled abroad in 2011 somehow managed to make it work.
This is the year to join them, and this Saturday is the best day to get your passport.
A passport costs $110, with a $25 processing fee. Standard processing takes four-six weeks, but for an additional $60 you can have expedited processing (two-three weeks, door-to-door).
For more details, visit http://travel.state.gov/passport.
And have a great trip.
Juleyka Lantigua-Williams writes about current issues for the Progressive Media Project. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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