travel brings power and love back into your life. Yet, not many people seem motivated to venture and embark on international journeys. Why is that the case? How can we not be in love with traveling? And what are the reasons for Americans specifically?
When I began my U.S tour this last year, I met lots of people who actually never left, not only their states, but also their towns and counties. An 18-year-old girl from a small Illinois town nearly 45 minutes away from Chicago who never visited Chicago. Another 24-year-old whom I briefly shared the Venice bungalow with who never visited N.Y; it was also her first time to California. I mean, for me this is insane. International traveling, I might understand, but within your own country, and you’re in your mid-twenties already! Where is the curiosity? Where is the will to see, to know, to learn? I began looking for answers.
I also met few Americans who had visited all 50 states, or say, 46 at least. But those are a minority. Even fewer have made the bold move and actually decided to tour the world or live outside of the U.S, even if for a little while.
I remember a chat with a cab driver in Michigan who took me to the train station at 7 am. He was a nice black man in his 50s. When I told him about my plan to roam around the U.S, he looked at me in the rear-view mirror and said something along these lines: “Ah, I’ve always wanted to do that... but work and kids.”
In case of Americans, as I came to find out, only about 30% of the population own a passport. This number excludes passport cards, which are identification cards that only allow sea and overland entry to the U.S from Canada, Mexico, and certain parts of the Caribbean, but not the rest of the world. It is estimated that only 13% have ever traveled abroad.
Being the powerful, dominant nation America is, this may seem strange. Compared to smaller countries like Canada where 60% own passports and the United Kingdom’s 75%, it sure is a significantly low figure. It is still, however, much higher than China, where only 20 million people hold passports — a meagre 1.5% of the population.
Well, there are few factors behind this reality as highlighted in the article, Why Americans Don’t Travel Overseas, which is written by an American traveler.
First, the sheer fact that America is a whole continent. Like Australia, you have the beaches, the forests, the deserts, and the mountains. So with such size and diversity, the common American mentality doesn’t really see a need to go elsewhere.
Second, it’s fear. Due to lack of culture and the relentless work of mainstream media, many Americans regard the rest of the “outside” world as a scary place. They are made to believe that other countries are dirty and dangerous. Especially after 9/11 and its aftermath, a large portion of Americans actually believe that other nationalities do not like them. Consequently, they feel it’s safer to stay in their comfort zone within their own territories.
This sentiment may actually be true to some degree, especially, and understandably, in places where the American military had already bombed people not-so-long ago, like Iraq and Afghanistan. Which reminds me of the Mark Twain quote, “God created war so that Americans would learn geography.”
More quotes can be found on here, Some Soulful Travel Quotes.
However, with all what’s been recently happening in the world, as well as with the rise of the Internet, I believe that more people are in the process of maturing in the political sense. Unlike their parents’ generation, a small yet growing portion of today’s youth are waking up and had already stopped following, or even believing, mainstream media.
Fortunately, more younger folks are interested in the world and what it has to offer. They are also starting to realise that people and governments are two very different entities. You can oppose or hate the policies of some countries all you want, even the decision makers of such policies, but what’s the rest of the population got to do with anything? To label an entire country or its citizens bad — or good — is just narrow-mindedness and a clear sign of lack of critical thinking. That’s all. When we come to think about it, we find that most people who hold that childish kind of love for their country have never left it.
That said, the current top destinations for American travelers remain: England (9% of all trips), France (7%), Italy (7%), Germany (5%). I guess that’s where they feel safer.
|Humorous American States stereotypes by the Brits (BuzzFeed)|
Adding to that, 68% of American vacationers admitted to checking in with the office either “regularly” or “sometimes” during their vacations, which suggests that most Americans are still prioritizing work during their time off.
On the other hand, Europeans receive between 25 and 30 days of vacation a year, and they usually use all of them. They also get family leave and their sick-leaves are paid.
So that is obviously another factor which makes traveling a pain in the butt for most Americans.
One more reason why Americans don’t travel overseas is, again, geography. Because its remote location, which obviously reflects on the money issue, flights to and from the U.S are significantly more expensive. A trip abroad is usually beyond the means of the average American. Naturally, it makes traveling not a priority for most.
This is true if we compare with Europeans who, lucky them, only need to hop on a train or a bus to visit a neighbouring country. The ease is also due to the establishment of the Schengen Area, which now comprises of 26 European nations that have abolished passport and any other type of border control at their common — internal — borders. Most of Europe today functions like the United States, as one big country with one currency.
The problem is that many American students have to repay their college loans, thus forced to stay home after graduation instead of traveling before they start working. As for the adults, a lot of them are bound by debts, mortgages, and taxes and simply cannot afford to travel.
However, if on the other hand we compare Americans to Canadians, Australians and Kiwis who are even further away from the rest of the world, we find that the latter travel much more. In fact, unlike Americans, those citizens are encouraged to travel and explore different countries. Perhaps because they do not bomb "brown people," as George Carlin would say, they feel more liked and/or welcomed around the world.
Also, perhaps because the sole role of the media there is not to scare the general population from the rest of the world, so here may lie another difference.
|Humorous American Stereotypes by Americans|
As for money, let us remember that the dollar is a major world currency. With some early, creative planning and a sense of adventure, affordable tickets to pretty much anywhere can be found. If there’s a will there’s a way. If not, our clever brains will always find excuses to convince us with.
This Link has lots of travel offers including credit card sign-ups and points’ earning.
Besides, the American status gets you into many countries with ease; obtaining visas and other paperwork is usually a piece of cake for holders of the blue passport. Language is another advantage; as English is the second language to so many people around the world. So those are major benefits for being an American traveler.
The thing is, like colour, race and religions, nationalities gave us the illusion that we are separated from each other. When that happened, all hell broke loose. Humans started killing each others, abusing animals, and destroying Nature. This only happened because man forgot his true essence. He forgot that he is everyone else and everyone else is himself; that everything connects to everything else. The reality is, man is Nature, yet he is destroying it and exploiting its resources like there is no tomorrow ― like he has somewhere else to go to. The sad truth, though, is that not only is he destroying himself but also ruining this pale blue dot for our descendants.
What makes traveling magical is that is dissolves all that. It liberates you from some illusions, beliefs, and bigotry that no longer serve you. It shows you that we are all one; that we are only separated by fear, beliefs, cultures, and egos; that we are in this together. Travel also teaches you that wherever you’re from is a tiny place compared to the rest of the world. This shows you the bigger picture while leaving you humble among other positive benefits.
Traveling abroad and experiencing new cultures, languages, and people is through which the mind is opened. Nothing actually teaches us so much about life or about ourselves. The world is so vast, diverse, and full of beauties and wonders that it seems to me that it exists for us to explore it.
Sail away from that safe harbor. The whole fun awaits outside of your comfort zone.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark Twain, Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It