The country is outsourcing everything these days. By sending work abroad, America saves billions of dollars.

It is in this spirit that Tommy Cook, a travel agent, came up with a plan.

"Why not outsource vacations?"

"How?" I asked.

"Instead of you going on a trip, we have someone take it for you."

"Please give me an example."

"Let us say you planned to go to India. We would hire an Indian to take the trip for you while you stayed at home. What do you want see in India?"

I replied, "The Taj Mahal for certain. Jaipur, Bombay and Hindustan."

"It could be arranged. Do you want to stay at the New Delhi Hilton or the Four Seasons?"

"What is the difference?"

"The Hilton's rooms are much cheaper."

"Let me get this straight. I book a trip, but an Indian takes it for me. He goes to all the places I would have wanted to go, but at one-fifth the cost."

"That is correct and you pay either in dollars or by credit card. Now this is the 'Great Wall of China Trip.' A Chinese guide in Beijing will visit the Great Wall and send you pictures of it. He will also go to Shanghai and Hong Kong. If you took this trip, it would cost $3,000. My man would do it for $130."

"Fantastic. How can you do it so cheap?"

"You get a group rate, which means the guide will take 12 more couples who also want to go but don't have the money."

"I don't suppose you have any trips to the Middle East?"

"Of course we do. A Sunni or a Shiite will take your trip to Baghdad for you, which includes a rental car to drive from the airport to town -- the most dangerous stretch of highway in the world."

"Does your outsource travel agency take people to Bangladesh?"

"We have a summer special. You can dream of going to Nepal, Sri Lanka and Mount Everest in the same package. Since my people will fly on Kung Fu Airlines, you can save $900, but the airline carries no meals or insurance."

I told Tommy, "I must admit it is a new way of traveling."

"It is cheap and safe and keeps our dollars at home," he said. "By outsourcing our trips we are saving millions of dollars on our balance of payments and also giving employment to needy people in poorer countries all over the world."

He continued, "My agency also has a video library with films of all the places you would sign up to see without leaving your living room."

I said, "A great deal of outsourcing goes to Mexico."

"It is one of the most popular destinations. We will provide a legal Mexican citizen to drive around the Aztec ruins for you."

I said, "A lot of my friends go to Mexico to buy drugs that are too expensive in the U.S."

Tommy said, "Our representative will purchase the drugs and FedEx them to you across the Rio Grande."

"What about big-game hunting in Tanzania?"

"We will provide a hunter and he will e-mail you a photo of a lion he shoots."

"I have always wanted to go to the rain forests in the Amazon, but I am afraid of snakes."

Tommy said, "Aren't we all?"

(c) 2005, Tribune Media Services