Why Don’t Americans Travel Abroad?

USA Passport

Please note: This is an opinion piece based upon other articles I have read and comments I have received from readers. It is intended to explore the ideas of why people don’t travel and invites responses from readers who know more than I do. If you disagree with the ideas in this article, please leave a comment with your thoughts.

Time and time again, we hear of how very few Americans hold passports. From these ‘shocking’ statistics, we are led to believe that Americans never leave their own country. Why is it that one of the richest nations on Earth is incapable of exploring it? Before commenting on why Americans don’t leave their own country, I decided to take a proper look into how many Americans actually go abroad. According to the US department of state, 113,431,943 American passports were in circulation during 2012. With a population of around 316,000,000 this means that roughly one in three Americans holds a valid passport. However, this statistic is fundamentally floored because it does not take into account how often individuals use their passports. To look a little closer into this issue, I researched statistics from the OTTI (office of travel and tourism industries). According to the OTTI, the number of US citizens visiting countries outside the US were as follows in 2012:

Destination US Visitors
Europe 10,504,779
Caribbean 5,883,621
Asia 3,952,618
South America 1,518,431
Central America 2,145,756
Oceania 486,986
Middle East 1,361,325
Africa 333,884
Mexico 18,148,253
Canada 11,103,973
Total 55,439,626

If we exclude Canada and Mexico, there were only 26,187,400 overseas visits by Americans in 2012. Bear in mind that if an individual visits Europe, Central America, and Asia in a single year, they would count as 3 visitors in the above data. What this means is that significantly less than 10% of Americans went outside of North America in 2012. If Central America and the Caribbean are counted as part of North America (because they surely aren’t part of any other continent), we see that less than 6% of Americans left North America in 2012.

flying plane on blue skiesUntil a few years ago, the few Americans I had met around the world often fit the unfortunate stereotype. These were the bad tourists. I was guilty of judging Americans by their politicians and the negative stereotypes that were portrayed around the world. This however, was due to the places that I was visiting. I went to places that attracted the worst types of tourist. I am British by birth and there are many parts of the world I would not want to visit due to the types of British people that go there. Certain Spanish and Thai coastal areas that I have previously visited are places that I never wish to visit again. In these places, they often have names for the rude, pasty, and constantly drunk British people. In short, every country has terrible tourists. It is not fair to judge a country by these few negative specimens.

In the past few years, my methods of travelling the world have changed. I still meet Americans (and people of other nationalities) that I intensely dislike. However, some of my closest friends and the most interesting people I have ever met are American. I am grateful to know them and they have enriched my life. I now do my best to throw away all stereotypes of a person based upon their nationality. With so many wonderful people in such an affluent country, I have been wondering why it is that they don’t travel overseas. America has produced some of the most brilliant minds throughout history and for some reason, they choose to remain in one place. Here are my suggestions as to why, based purely upon my own thoughts and the conversations I have had with people I met on the road.

The USA is Big

America Pin Board And diverse. Within the US, there is a whole lot to see. Include Canada and you have a significant percentage of the world’s total land mass in one place. Within this area you can see hugely diverse wildlife and climates in ways that are not possible in most parts of the world. You could spend several lifetimes exploring such a big area and you would never even scratch the surface.

Fear

Within the US, many people are scared of the world. Daily they are shown images of crazy countries blowing people up and taking hostages. While the US is often more disliked around the world than most other countries because of it’s international politics, the world is not as scary as it is portrayed to be. This is not the fault of the individuals within the country, but rather the media who portray this message. Many Americans genuinely believe that by going to Asia or Africa, you are endangering your life. They are taught a mentality that instills the idea of US vs. THEM. I realised this when I first saw signs and postsecret messages about keeping ‘them’ (the Mexicans) out. The USA is very paranoid and it is one of the few countries in the world (along with the Middle East and ex-USSR states) that require me to apply for a visa before I arrive in their country.

Life is Expensive

Living in America leaves you very little money to play with. And if you go to college, you have huge debts to pay which are secured against your parents’ home. I, as a UK citizen, can put off paying my student loans until a time when I have money. I am never obliged to pay back my student debts and they are tiny in comparison to the debts incurred by Americans who attend college. Financially, people in America cannot afford to go very far. When they consider the cost of living, nothing seems affordable. However, many Americans are unaware that America has one of the highest living costs of any country in the world. When travelling, costs are significantly lower and money can go much further.

Ignorance of the World

Newspaper

This is not an insult against the people of America. It simply says that the majority of Americans are not informed about the world around them. Equally, I am not informed about America. In terms of America, I am very ignorant. There is a big difference between ignorance and lack of intelligence. By being ignorant, it simply means that one is uninformed. When there is so much to learn about within America, it is not wholly surprising that they do not know a huge amount about the world around them. I am constantly amazed by the knowledge many Americans have of their own country. This displays a high level of intelligence and I know far less about my own country. Instead, I learnt more of the world around me. This is not better or worse. It is simply different. This ignorance comes into play with regards to fear of the world and the worry about the cost of travelling. It is not an individual’s fault that they are not well informed, because we know only what we are taught at the start of our lives. From here we have to find our own way. This lack of knowledge and distribution of ‘misinformation’ about the world is due largely to education systems and media networks.

In Closing..

I have also heard claims of America being far from everything as a reason for not travelling. This is not a valid reason. New Zealanders and Australians are some of the most travelled people in the world, yet they come from the most isolated part of it. Travelling is part of their culture. Travelling abroad for extended periods of times, is not part of American culture. One day I would love to explore America as I imagine that there are many wonderful places to visit. As of now, I have only ever been to California and New York State. Why is that many Americans choose not to explore the world around them? I would appreciate a little American insight on this matter. Please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts.

42 Comments

  • Yes but your figure for UK came about only because you only need to take a short train ride to get to Paris and it counts as a trip “abroad”. I’ve taken that rail before. I can’t remember if it’s 30 minutes or an hour. At the most it’s an hour.

    • Of course. As I said in the post, “The USA is big,” meaning that Americans have a lot of places to explore in their own country and it takes more effort to go elsewhere. The UK figure was used as a comparison supporting this idea, rather than as a competition / criticism.

  • The view too many Americans have seems to have been shaped by Hollywood, a news media that always plays up the worst of things, poor educations, outright provincialism (particularly noticeable around my hometown of New York City) and of course a recent moronic president who used fear to push his lies. Except for the latter, all those factors may be found in many countries, but in most places there is more history to show the people how countries interact, and closer neighbors to meet. It says a lot about America that my own field of geography (I’ve a Ph.D.) is declining, except where it can be shown to have technical or other “practical” applications. People here are curious about the world–“National Geographic” is a very population magazine. But it’s often the romantic “out there” removed from their lives. I don’t know what can be done about this; on a recent trip to China I paid more for a window seat and gloried in watching Siberia, Greenland, the polar ice cap and the Northern Lights. Everyone else read, slept, watched movies. Just a lack of curiosity, I guess.

    Incidentally in ’73 I went by bus and train from France to Nepal, later through SE Asia, across Australia and all of Latin America. Later trips have brought my country count to 93. Not bragging, just saying anyone can travel more if they want to live cheap (I slept in trains and stayed at youth hostels), which is what this site recommends. But you have to believe it’s possible. At the time I met many, many Americans, Australians, Europeans, and Japanese making the same kinds of trips. Today? Maybe there would not be so many, and that’s a real loss. But fear is a might corrosive factor and right now America is good at spooning that out by the liter.

    • I think that people seeing the rest of the world as a romantic image, only from television is a big issue. As you say, people are far removed from that world in their day to day lives. Why would they be curious, when they can see it all through their screen? *note sarcasm*

      As you say, you have to believe. I hope a lot more people start to believe and with the power of the internet, both fear and belief is being spread. I hope the belief wins.

      • Agreed Jamie, though the popularity of Trump and his fear filled hyper aggressive stance towards the world doesn’t bode well for that. On the other hand I recently got back from Cuba (country count now 99) and it was loaded with people from the U.S. who were curious about the place. That was on a charter flight, but regular airline travel (and probably ferries) are planned. These should increase travel a lot. Some people will sit at the resorts but others will make an effort to learn something about the culture. And who knows, maybe some will come back with second thoughts about the “official” stories they’ve been told regarding other countries.

        • Some of the things he says trouble me greatly. I hope that in the future, more people will make the effort to connect with one another and see others as individuals – every human being on this planet is made of the same stuff, regardless of race, religion, nationality, wealth, education, or anything else we can categorise people by, but a lot of people do not see that.

  • Great article. I’ve lived in America for my entire life, and I only have one answer. It’s because we are ignorant. While we’re all caught up in our little office jobs and sheltered lives, we forget about the rest of the world. Only those who can break out of that mold are the ones who travel.

    That’s not to say that everyone is like that, but most people that I’ve met are like that. With our ‘freedom’, comes a sort of stupidity. Nobody ever feels the need to leave, because they become too caught up in what celebrities are wearing, doing, and saying. It gets to the point to where that’s all we do, and we don’t want to leave.

    Personally, I can’t wait to get out of here and go see the world. Great article.

    • Thanks for sharing Jessica. In a fast paced world, it is often difficult to take a step back and live life more slowly. Best of luck with whatever you choose to do.

  • I started living overseas in the mid 70s. At that time it was not so unusual to see young Americans abroad. The kids about 10 years older were even more well traveled. I still live overseas and only come home for short periods. What I have noticed is that there are fewer Americans overseas and fewer lone travelers than the 70s and 80s. Not sure when this started but I like to blame everything on ex-President Reagan and his ilk!! He is a handy scapegoat. But on a more serious note, these days I am often asked by locals in countries I am traveling/living in and Westerns too, if I am traveling alone. Then the inevitable, “Are your afraid.” It often floors me, especially coming from Westerns as in the 70s/80s, there were so many young Americans and Europeans traveling and fear was not something we really talked about. We were looking for great adventures, the more remote the better. I wonder if the digital age also has something to do with it. Always being able to be connected takes some of the mystery out of travel, but maybe that is a whole other topic. My travels have only increased these last 5 years, and always on my own. I could go on about other comments people make that leave me wondering about Americans, but I should leave some room for other posters. I have spend most of my adult life trying to get Americans to travel and the last 10 or so even trying to get young people to even travel within our country and have an adventure. To me it seems that our adventurous spirit of old has almost disappeared. Sad. The positive side is that you hardly hear about the ugly American anymore – for now the Chinese have taken over that position with Brits being right behind them, at least that is what I see and hear!

    • R.H., I hear what you are saying. I do not have experience of travelling in the 70s / 80s myself, but many people have told me ‘the world has changed.’ Now this may be true, but I suspect that the fear mongering tactics of the press and people concentrating on the bad things that happen has caused more people to be afraid. As I type this, I am in South Korea and many people have warned me against travelling here because of how crazy North Korea is. Without the ‘scary new stories,’ this wouldn’t be an issue for many people. The reality is that South Korea is a VERY safe place and I have no worries about being here. Keep exploring the world and encouraging others to do the same (we need more people like this, rather than the ones who spread the scary stories). Last year I attended a hitchhiking festival and met hundreds of hitchhikers / free-spirits. It was a community that I found by chance and previously never even knew existed. If the news concentrated on stories such as this instead, the world would be a very different place.

  • Hi Jamie,

    Great article! I’m from So Cal and have been to over 25 countries since I finished my Master’s program. I think another reason is that people are afraid to travel solo.

    Because I’m an adventure seeker and have a “You only live once” philosophy, I don’t let anything keep me from pursuing my dreams of seeing the world. Most don’t share that same idea and would rather spend their money on a weekend in Vegas, trip to New York, or Chicago; or go camping. Traveling solo is not a common practice for us, so it’s a challenge for others to relate.

    But the flights and transfers can get tiring after awhile. Now that I’ve traveled extensively on my own, the flights and transfers have felt a lot longer and isolated during my last few trips and results in dwindling enthusiasm for exploring. I’m sure this happens to most travelers…I hope to pass on my enthusiasm for travel to the next generation here.

    Matt

    • I can see that: it is much easier to go with the crowd and have everything planned out for you (so to speak, in terms of attractions to visit). I guess that there isn’t a right way to explore the world. I like to do it through pushing myself mentally and physically, but like you, flights and transfers destroy enthusiasm. I highly recommend getting on a bike or a raft to rekindle that fire!

      I had to look up So Cal!

  • Liked the article and will try to add to the comments above. The high cost of living has a transportation component to it. Much of the US transportation system is built around the car and the individual whereas in many parts of the world there is a bus or train/ public aspect to transportation. Examples are trains in Europe and buses in South America. Even taking Greyhound in the US can cost a pretty penny.

    The two-week vacation restriction has been commented upon and I wanted to add to it. This vacation allotment is not mandated by any government body, as labor laws do in other countries. It is also the first to be consumed when other time away from work is depleted (sick time and maternity leave for example). As a result Americans guard this time for other reasons.
    Lastly, the size of the USA has been commented upon and one’s family could live anywhere within the nifty fifty and thus family visits can conceivably be further than for folks of other nationalities (barring Canada, Russia, China and Austrailia). As an American with a large family, I have family in areas where I have to remember time zone changes.

    • Thanks for your input Amanda. I did observe the American obsession with cars: slightly unrelated, but I know several cyclist who said that despite your big open country, America is hard to cycle due to the attitudes of people in cars. And as you say, in Europe, we have a great train network. I hitchhike mostly and culturally, I think Europe is far more suited to this method of travel.

      Both the lack of vacation and location of family are quite limiting on where you can go. The location of family may also fall into the cultural area as well because you guys are more likely to visit each other: for example, I have family all over the UK, as well as Zimbabwe and Canada… but I never really see any of them with any great regularity. However, that may well be me and my chosen way of life making these visits difficult to organise.

  • Great column. I grew up in a military family, and so I was instilled with an eagerness to travel from a young age. However, especially now being settled down in the midwestern United States, I find that most of my colleagues and acquaintances are downright fearful of leaving the country. I wholeheartedly agree that a good part of the blame lies in our sensationalist mainstream media, which takes scant interest in international affairs unless they are centered around violence, famine or disaster. Having both British and Kiwi friends, I admire your adventurous spirit and great interest in seeing the world.

    • Unfortunately, we only know what we are taught. However, with the power of the internet, people are able to learn about the world by themselves and see that it is a good place. In the future, I expect to see more people (from everywhere) travelling further than ever before.

  • I’d like to see some stats on Australian travellers. I thought for a moment, ‘yeah, but most just go to Bali’, but then thought about it. Pretty much all of my friends have been to Europe, Asia, North America or South America (Africa less so). So I agree with your (assumption?) that Aussies travel a lot!

    Just a comment to Tom above: Australia has all those awesome things you speak of (beaches AND ski resorts, although I’m sure we’ll all agree the former are of a higher class than the latter). Part of the reason we travel is because of the expense (dorm beds are around $30). If you go for at least a week, it’s going to SAVE you money going overseas (especially if you like 4 or 5 star accommodation and food!).

    I would agree with your original debt argument. If I had that much debt, I’d be scared to ‘waste my time and money’ travelling.

    Love your blog/website by the way 🙂 Really like the Vang Vieng post – wonder if it’s still like that?

    • Wherever I go, I meet people from down under. It seems that many people from Australia and NZ, at least once in their life, travel the world for an extended period of time (6 months to one year). I’d be interested to know statistics on that too because I think that once you start exploring, it’s hard to stop. And an easy going life seems more dominant in certain parts of Australian culture, whereas America is far more driven by work. I fall very heavily into the first category!

  • Hello! This was an interesting post. I wanted to know what someone from another country thought about us Americans! Maybe you should visit Colorado! It is really beautiful here and is known for some of the best scenery in America! Plus there are plenty of cool buildings in Downtown Denver and Littleton! Although you might not want to come here during the winter because your flight could be delayed due to heavy snow. Oh well! But the mountains are beautiful Anyway, I think that your article was great and well informed! I am dreading the day I go to college, because it is just too expensive! And you are right, America is diverse in it’s people and geography. A lot of people in my state are genrally accepting of different people. Well that’s all I have to say. Please ignore any mistakes, as it is like 10pm right now.

    • I would love to visit Colorado. I have a couple of friends there and when I looked up pictures, it looked truly stunning. I’m glad you didn’t find my uninformed article / opinions overly offensive towards your nation. One day, I’ll spend more time there and be able to learn a little bit more about it.

  • The American dream is to go to school and by age 18 know what career you want for the rest of your life. We are encouraged to immediately go to college (university) 3 months after finishing high school and then spend the next 4 years getting a degree, and then beginning a life long career. Looking forward to retirement at age 65 is the only hope we are given to travel in this life. It’s our culture. 90% of us don’t know the term gap year and our vacations are often to one of our coasts for the beach or one of our (awesome) national parks for nature. Like you said we have a whole country that is bigger than the whole EU to explore and travel to. Combine that with again how you pointed out how the media is always showing us pictures of American flags on fire in some foreign place and it’s a recipe for staying put.

    As a 21 year old who broke all the rules and has backpacked to Ecuador and Peru for 3.5 months and just now Southeast Asia for 6.5 months I can tell you that the first reaction I get from 95% of Americans back home is: “weren’t/aren’t you afraid?” “is it dangerous” “did you ever feel unwelcome” instead of “wow I want to hear all about it!” “what was it like there??”. That right there is a perfect example of the mindset.

    I am trying to spread the gospel of travel over here!!

    • At 18, a single career is a difficult decision to make. At 65 (I’m 26), that is still a difficult decision to make because life is transient and forever changing. And as you say, the media shows terrible images. I have met several great Americans who were terrified of the world, the realised it was an incredible place and now live incredible, fearless lives. If we met, we’d sit down for a cold drink and you could tell me all about the wonderful experiences you’ve had. In essence, that’s why this site exists; to show people that anything is possible and that the world is a beautiful place. Keep spreading the love.

  • Hi Jamie,

    Thanks for an interesting post. Like some people mentioned, I think that the very small amount of vacation time that people get in the United States is also a huge factor in why Americans don’t go abroad. I also think that distance is important, too. While you’re right that Australians travel more than Americans, they probably don’t take weekend trips to Europe – on the other hand, if you live in Spain (which I have), you could easily take a 3-day trip to France. Now I live on the West Coast of the United States, and it would take almost 3 days just to get to Europe and back. The difference in cost is also enormous – on Easy Jet, a trip between Madrid and Paris might be 50 euros round trip. Between San Francisco and Paris it will be at least 600 euros. That is a pretty big difference.

    On another note, I wonder if Americans are more likely to go camping or backpacking (by backpacking, I mean you hike through the forest with a backpack and sleep under the stars) than others. When I was a kid, that was how we spent most family vacations, but when I lived in Europe I never heard of people going to do something similar. Just a thought!

    • All very true. And in regards to flights, I have heard that your internal flights are also very expensive, making it difficult to get anywhere at all. As for the outdoors, I suppose that it is something done more by Americans and it is quite wonderful. I had never camped out and slept under the stars until my adult life. Now I love it (I slept outside for about 24 of the last 27 nights). Thanks for sharing your thoughts Emily.

    • I’d cosign that the cost of air travel is a big issue. My wife and I like to go to Europe (we live in Chicago), but the US$1000+ cost for one ticket makes it difficult to travel more.

      I think it’s easier when flights or trains within Europe cost so much less.

      • From the UK right now I can fly to about 30 countries for less than $50. This definitely makes a big difference. My partner is in America and I am trying to visit her, but the cost of flights really is quite prohibitive.

  • This was a nice read. I am American, have a passport and use it, Cabo, Mexico in 30 days and Florence Italy, in about 50 days. I try and get out of the country (even if its only mexico) often as I can. It is not just about the sights but the different people and cultures. Ask any American about their immigration views and you will see a difference mirroring their travels. The more traveled they are the more open they will be about our immigration policies. Conversely less traveled more ‘our country kick the foreigners out’ attitude. lol

    • I feel the world is like this. The more I see, the more I want to see, and the more I want others to see. I am glad you are enjoying your explorations. Keep loving the world. I would love to live in a world with no borders.

  • Not only are there few travel/vacation days available a year for Americans but many Americans are nervous to ask for more travel days. Because work is considered more important then travel here in the states many employers, from the time of hire, will reiterate over and over again how important it is to put work first and yourself second. Basically many (not all) Americans are made to feel that their life revolves around work. It’s a very sad situation that doesn’t seem like it’s going to change anytime soon. Another reason is that many Americans feel that the world is against us and that we would not be well received in other countries. Due to previous travel I know that to be somewhat true in some places but far from the truth in others. I think most of it depends on how you travel. If you go as just a tourist hitting the port of calls and the tourist traps and not trying to mingle with the locals or learn the basics of their language then I understand how one might not be looked at kindly. If you do the opposite and travel to experience the culture and makings of that particular society then you are most likely going to be welcomed with open arms and make some new great friends. Generally, Americans are not taught that side of human interaction. Also if you aren’t following the get married, buy a house and have 2.5 kids rule of life then you are often looked down upon and thought of as being unmotivated. My husband and I (both mid 20s) luckily have no debt and are putting the house and kids on hold to travel the world. We start our trip in a year and plan on it being 9 months long but are VERY open to it being much longer. We are going against what a lot of Americans think of as a “healthy mindset”. We went to college and have great jobs but we don’t feel that we are being taught enough (or much at all) about life. We feel that just being alive warrants the opportunity to explore and learn as much as we want and can.

    • That sounds awful. I’d hate for work to be more important than living. It is like this in many parts of the world, but as you say, this attitude does seem more prevalent in America. As for your reception in other countries, I do partly agree with that notion. In certain countries people do hold expectations of Americans, however, most often it is that of the terrible tourist. For example, there is a typical type of American tourist that I avoid like the plague; loud, brash, in your face. It just isn’t my sort of person. However, some of my closest friends are Americans and if someone won’t give you the time of day to get to know you because of your nationality, presumably they aren’t worth knowing. I really like your comment that “Americans are not taught that side of human interaction.” I think this is an interesting part of your culture that at times, can make it more difficult to interact with other cultures. I never really thought of that before. I’d love to hear more about your journey when you hit the road. The world is the biggest and best place to learn about the world by definition. Thanks for sharing. Out of interest, what do your friends and family think about your plans?

      • I agree with what you said regarding avoiding certain types of American tourists. It’s almost as if the loud ones are very insecure and feel that they need to make all this noise to gain attention. A few years back my cousin and her husband went back packing across Europe and could not believe how loud some of the American travelers where that they met on the road. She said it was pretty disgusting and changed her view on our country. We’ve only told a few of our friends and so far the reaction has been great. They are very excited for us but at the same time I wonder if some of them are wondering if we are going to actually go through with it. So many people say that they are going to do these great things but then life gets in the way (mostly work) or they get nervous and back out. It will be awesome when we get on our first flight and show people that you can do whatever you put your mind to and that exploring the world is a very realistic dream. We haven’t told our families yet but I know they are going to think we are crazy and maybe even a little foolhearted(except for my cousin). My parents have already traveled the world and my father even became an Australian citizen for a year back when Australia was paying people to move there. Because they have traveled and are settled, they feel that we should settle down too.

        • They do. But we must avoid those types of tourists regardless of where they are from. As for your plans, I really hope that you do do it. I am excited for you. Be crazy! Here is one of my favourite quotes: “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.” It’s rather appropriate.

  • I am an American and have had severe wanderlust for my entire 40 years of living. In all that time I have been able to travel abroad only 4 times at very short intervals. It has been said that the majority of Americans have no interest in the outside world and that our country is so diverse so why leave? Although this may be true for some of us, I can assure you that many of us don’t travel because we can’t. Americans typically live a life full of debt. I know what you may be thinking…we gotta have our nice cars, big TVs, and huge houses. Well, you are right about that for some of us. I see it everyday and often wonder what I am doing wrong. My family and I live in Hawaii. Paradise right? No. We ended up here because of a job opening. This is one of the most expensive places in the country and we can’t save a dime. My husband is STILL paying off student loan debt at age 43 and he has a very good job. Many college grads now come saddled with 50K worth of loans and only have 6 months before they have to begin the 10-20 year road of paying them back. Student loans in this country are unforgivable in bankruptcy too. So right out of college you have enormous debt. Then you have to buy a car because unless you live in a densely populated city our public transportation sucks. This is another 15-20K worth of debt. (Unless you have several thousand to by used.) Once you are lucky enough to get a job, the time off is only 2 weeks per year. Sick leave? Not much, and if you burn through your sick leave because of the flu, you guessed it…it eats away at that 2-week vacation. Then if you have a family and your child gets sick, one of you has to take time off work to stay home with them…more lost vacation. In the end we often wind up with no vacation at all. Some companies will only allow you to take your 2 weeks one week at a time. I has been my life dream to backpack around the world, but I can’t do it. I come from English and German decent and would love to spend some time there. I have been to England and Europe, but it was 15 years ago and it was a rushed 2-week honeymoon. In 2002 I was in-between jobs and drove explored Canada and Alaska. I have visited Mexico. I have studied Spanish, German and Japanese. Last summer we were able to visit family in Japan and it has changed my life forever. I have been studying Japanese for a year, have learned about their culture and I am desperate to go back. However, my family lives 5000 miles away in the northeastern US and my husband’s family lives in a completely different area of the country. We get see them once every 3 years or so and every time we go it can cost up to 3K just to get there. I want my son to experience other countries and cultures, but the reality of actually being able to get away is next to impossible. Not to mention that his college tuition for a cheap university 10 years from now will likely cost a good 80K that we do not have. Parents always want to help pay for college, and most of us take out a second mortgage on our homes or another load to help. So, for us, when we do travel, the guilt of not putting that money into a college fund is really uncomfortable. Our college tuition is nearly doubling every 10 years or so. Frustrated??? HELL YES. When you are interested in other cultures, other religions and other ways of thought AND you have severe wanderlust, living in American stinks.

    • Hi Amy, thanks for sharing these views, they are really interesting. I am sorry to hear that you feel stuck in the US. I see your predicament, particularly with you living in Hawaii. In the UK, our debt system is not as advanced as yours, meaning that while we accumulate debt, we are not under the same restrictions to pay it back as you are in America. For example, I haven’t paid any back yet although one day I hopefully will somehow. The debt grows, but only at 4-5% each year which isn’t much above inflation. I am glad that you got to visit Japan. It’s a great country, it really is. There are so many places that are wonderful. I hope one way or another, you find a way to see more of the world. Impossible is nothing. But sometimes it is very, very difficult. I have a hopeful story for you. I will email it to you.

  • Great post. I’m an American but have lived my life equally between the US and overseas. I have been fortunate to experience many cultures. Traveling is part of my life. Every time I step onto a plane to fly to my next destination, it’s hard for me to keep the excitement in. When I lived overseas, I was flying somewhere or taking the train to the nearest country I could. I live in the states now and it’s a lot harder for me to just get up and go. At the same time, I won’t use that as an excuse. The world is a great place to explore and so many great people out there to meet! For some Americans, they use the excuse of it’s to expensive. These are the same people who will spend a minimum of $100 a night on the weekend for drinks. They could save a months worth of drinking out on the town and have a plane ticket to head over to Europe or Asia. I just don’t think most americans care to travel. It’s a sad thing. It’s there lost. For myself, I have a trip back to Malaga in a month then to Fiji at the end of the year. Enjoy and great read!

    • Hi Anthony, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree with issues about cost and more so, priorities!! I have been living in Turkey for the past couple of months, earning a salary that is probably a fraction of an American’s salary, but I will leave here very soon and I will travel again. I hope you have a wonderful time in Malaga and Fiji. In Fiji, I recommend the islands over the mainland a hundred times over.

      • Gah FIJI, If you haven’t already gone I recommend exploring all over the mainland, (not nadi) the islands are so touristy, but also fun, but it’s whatever you prefer – or you could do both! I spend 6 months there and loved it so much, the people are amazing! Have fun. Also recommend the beqa lagoon shark dive 😀 absolutely incredible.

        • Sadly the only place I went on the mainland was Nadi and I was not a fan! I did find a nice quiet island for scuba diving, but unfortunately Hilton bought the whole island shortly afterwards and turned it into a resort.

  • In one if your previous posts, you mention how people define themselves by their occupation and home. This is very prevalent in the US.
    We are taught from a young age that success means having a profitable career, a nice home, and possessions. We are also fed the idea that travel is for wealthy people, and that vacations are to be spent at places such as Disneyworld.
    Most Americans do not get time off from work, other than a few scattered days here and there. To get the most of those few days, people tend to just vacation locally.
    One more purely American idea is that children dictate how we spend our free time. The US has water and amusement parks everywhere. Sadly, the majority of parents believe that these things are what “good” parents allow their children to have. If you ask, most young parents believe that it is very important they take their children to some sort of theme park.

    • Hi Brenda. Thanks for your input. You have some really interesting points. I was reading the other day that the average American also receives only half the vacation days as their equivalents in France. I guess for some people, amusements parks are what great parents offer to their kids. That’s fine if it’s what they believe but I hope that people can realise this is not the only option. We are taught similar ideals in the UK but their has been a shift away from this in recent years. It’s small, but it’s growing. I would be interested to see if the same shift happens in the US in the future.

  • Although I don’t dispute the numbers that are shown, I think they can/are taken out of context by many Europeans. For example, many of the Americans that do not leave the country/continent due to having a good beach/ski/whatever else resort much closer to home that can be accessed quickly and easily. How many Brits would leave if Cornwall and Devon had perfect beaches, good nightlife and 30 degree weather every day from may through september?
    Most will agree that a significant number of British people go to Spain/Greece to spend 7 days of their year getting as drunk as possible each evening – not what you or I would call ‘traveling’ (without sounding like a complete snob). I think when you factor this into account, you’ll find that the vast majority of the 6% of Americans who do leave North America will do so to get out there and actually ‘see’ something – I can’t imagine this number is significantly higher in Britain or much else of Europe (especially factoring in that for Americans short city-breaks which are relatively common in Europe are out of the question).

    • Very true Tom. If we had half as many beautiful places and diversity as the US, it would indeed be a great incentive to stay in the country. In fact I have spent many years visiting only places within the UK and as you say, our beaches our not perfect and nor is the weather. As for travelling, I support your opinion about the 7 day binge. This isn’t much of an adventure. The UK statistics say that of the 63,000,000 people in the UK, 56,610,000 visits were made abroad in 2012. It’s somewhat difficult to compare these statistics to the US, but I chose the US as ‘statistically, very few people travel abroad.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve this if you are not a robot *