Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Travel Tuesdays: Where to find McDonald's and Starbucks worldwide

There are very few places worldwide that I've been where I haven't seen a McDonalds or Starbucks, or maybe it just seemed that way. Both are very popular and continuing to grow in influence worldwide even if they seem to have saturated USA markets. In China at least, McDonalds seems to be losing out to KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) but time will tell.

As I travel to new countries, I seek out more remote places, where such franchises are not yet as invasive (even if Pepsi and Coke have long established themselves). I've realized over the years that pretty much anywhere in the world can be reached for under $2000 in airfare (though sometimes many small flights must be assembled when more direct flights are cost prohibitive) and a lot less if stringing together distant locations via a RTW ticket. With this knowledge in mind, there is nothing stopping someone in the mainland US from visiting Hawaii every year for a week or picking a new Caribbean cruise annually.

Since most trips can be completed in total under $2000 (for shorter trips) I have long wondered why so many people I meet don't travel more. Sure, there is disparity of income worldwide and visa issues for many, but most countries in the world are small so there is plenty of opportunity for regional travel. Do you live in Kuala Lumpur? Well, great, then you can visit over a dozen countries with Air Asia and have complete trips under $1000 easily. It is all a matter of prioritization.

So why, if it is cheap and doable, don't more people travel? I think fear of the unknown is the key factor. So many people when the travel to another country seek out the food of their homeland. I've seen many Indian and Chinese tourists travel with their own food. Americans are almost notorious for seeking out McDonalds and Starbucks overseas.

Some might argue that in order to truly get off the beaten track, you must travel to locations without a McDonalds. On the map below, that would be all the grey areas, which now are mainly limited to Central Asian and African countries (with a few other examples spread around the globe).

It is probably not surprising that those grey countries also generally have little western tourism, lending value to my hypothesis that people are afraid to travel and when they do, they'll seek out familiar locations first.

It's a good thing my favorite color is grey :) as I'll have a lot of traveling there in the coming years!