Beata’s Travels: Why Don’t More Americans Travel Internationally?

Note: This is the second guest post by one of my best friends, Beata Rak.  Here is a link to her first, about her travels in Europe.  After graduation, Beata moved to London, got a job as a tour guide and bartender at her local pub and has traveled around Europe and the Middle East.  After living in London, Beata moved to Australia to continue her adventure, where she currently lives.

In my travels I have come across pubs in London that have been around since 1666, churches in Paris built in 1207 and have seen pyramids in Egypt built in 500 BC. It makes you realize how young America is. It also makes you realize how rich in culture America is because it is truly a mix of nationalities from all over the world.

I think every American should Google their last name and find out a little bit about why their ancestors immigrated to the US. Even if its just to understand the origins of the name and historically understand what was going on in the world at that time. Then go out to those places and see where your family comes from. It will make you respect your great great grandparents more and will make you prouder to be an American. Visiting Berlin and Krakow truly made me saw the struggles my parents faced growing up in post WWII Poland and then it made me understand why they fled communism. Plus, you will add to the very low number of Americans out there traveling.

Another issue I wanted to bring up.  American backpackers!! Where are you? I have been traveling for a while and the number of Canadians, Australians and British people I meet far outnumber the Americans I meet. And in Australia? I can’t tell you how many Americans I did run into who have told me, you are the only American I have met traveling. Americans do travel yes, but just not to the same degree as other countries. WHY? We have much more people that Canada, the UK, or Australia.

Is it really because we are such a big country that when we want to travel we can just go to Florida or Colorado? That we really do not need to leave the country to vacation? Is it money? Perhaps, but there are people who can afford Hummers so there are people who can afford to travel. Non-American backpackers claim its America’s size that keeps Americans in its borders. I do not agree with this. I think it is time. Few Americans have the time to travel. And I think it is a shame. What is eating up all of Americans time? Is it work? School? To do lists? I don’t know, I could attempt to blame it on corporate America, but I know that wouldn’t be fair, or entirely true. This is a topic I have thought about a lot and will return later too.  It needs much more contemplation.

Only 20 percent of Americans even have a passport.  A shame.  Truly a shame.

After reading Beata’s email, I decided to include my response here.

So why don’t more Americans take time to travel?  I’ve seen it time and time again on my trips to Europe.  There are tons of Europeans and Australians and even a fair amount of Brazilians and Chinese.  I’ve seen about the same number of Canadians as Americans, yet Canada is about 10% the size population wise as America.

I don’t think it is size.  I think there are many factors.  First, work and vacation time.  Americans get the least amount of paid and unpaid vacation of any developed country.  Most companies start new employees with 2-3 days of vacation for the first year, whereas Europeans get at least a month.  Americans are putting in ever longer hours to keep up with the Jones’.  This leads into my next point.

Materialism.  There is a huge percentage of Americans who would rather have things than experiences.  They would rather spend their money on a big screen tv, a new Hummer or a house with an extra bathroom.  It seems to me that many people in the rest of the world would rather spend their discretionary income on experiences, rather than things.  Many Americans think in terms of things, rather than experiences.

Third, the bastardization of American exceptionalism.  I think that there is a decent sized chunk of the US population that thinks “America is the best, why should I go anywhere else.”  Whereas previous generations thought that America was great but still respected and wanted to experience the rest of the world, it seems that currently some think the rest of the world isn’t worthy of our time and energy.  This change is sad.  It’s the same phenomenon as when people made fun of John Kerry for speaking French when he ran for President.

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  • Steve Moran

    I am an American and I have visited four other continents as well as about 30 foreign countries. I have also worked and lived in Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Ireland. There are many Americans who love to travel and I think they benefit by it. I have also have been fortuanate enough to have had no major problems in my travels.

    However, why do we Americans have to be compared to other countries when it comes to traveling? I have met many Germans who are traveling on sex tours. Many English are on the road because they can’t stand their own county and their own people. If I were from the bland country of Canada I’d be traveling as well. The Australians are on the prowl for new beers to drink and to come to terms with the fact they must one day go back. The Japanese travel because it is cheaper to go abroad than to travel in their own country. They also do it because everybody else is doing it. The Irish and the Arabs travel to escape the religious repression of their own societies.

    I haven’t met too many French, Italians, or South Americans on the road.

    Besides, I haven’t met to many

  • Steve Moran

    I am an American and I have visited four other continents as well as about 30 foreign countries. I have also worked and lived in Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Ireland. There are many Americans who love to travel and I think they benefit by it. I have also have been fortuanate enough to have had no major problems in my travels.

    However, why do we Americans have to be compared to other countries when it comes to traveling? I have met many Germans who are traveling on sex tours. Many English are on the road because they can’t stand their own county and their own people. If I were from the bland country of Canada I’d be traveling as well. The Australians are on the prowl for new beers to drink and to come to terms with the fact they must one day go back. The Japanese travel because it is cheaper to go abroad than to travel in their own country. They also do it because everybody else is doing it. The Irish and the Arabs travel to escape the religious repression of their own societies.

    I haven’t met too many French, Italians, or South Americans on the road.

    Besides, I haven’t met to many

  • http://twitter.com/domnicella domnicella

    I have two words for all you non-American westerners out there: BACK OFF.

    There are reasons why Americans don’t travel as extensively abroad as Europeans do. For starters, we get two weeks’ vacation. TWO. At a minimum, Europeans get four; many get six. It doesn’t begin to compare. Do you know how fast two weeks is? Allow me to paint you a picture.

    Two weeks. That’s ten (business) days. Let’s just go ahead and scratch five of them right off the bat, as those are used piecemeal here and there for things like the Friday after Thanksgiving (if I’m flying across the country to see my family for one meal, you better believe I’m making a weekend out of it) and Christmas Eve. You heard me. CHRISTMAS EVE. We only get Christmas Day; the other is on us. The same thing happens with the Fourth of July and other national holidays: if you’re doing something, it pays to extend the holiday by an extra day to make a weekend of it. Please also note that the vast majority of us don’t get the week off between Christmas and New Year’s. That whole holiday spirit? It consumes HALF of our vacation time.

    So now you’re down to five days. Five days is hardly enough time to cross the Atlantic, admire Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower or what have you, and come home. By the time you’ve kicked your jetlag you’re boarding the plane back. Savvy?

    As for giving us shit about only targeting the big hitters: London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Berlin, etc, I have a little something called PERSPECTIVE for you. When was the last time an American gave you shit for never visiting Kansas? Hmm?

    I’d venture to say half of the Europeans I’ve met have never been to the States. HALF. And those that have wave the New York card. Which is great for me; I’ve lived in New York, I love New York, it gives us something to talk about. But for those of you who haven’t noticed, our country is ENORMOUS. We have beaches, mountains, rivers, oceans, every climate under the sun, and all of those things before leaving either coast. Throw in Alaska and Hawaii and you’ve got yourself one hell of a playground.

    It’s not fair to compare your having been to a dozen countries before you turned twelve, whereas most Americans won’t go to a dozen countries in their life. You have loads of vacation time and crossing borders is a matter of mere hours in a car or train, not days spent in airplanes crossing massive continents and oceans. When you country-hop for a weekend, it’s like the Cleavelander checking out Chicago. The time and money you spend internationally is what it costs us domestically; the time and money we spend internationally is what you guys spend during your “gap year,” something I had never heard of until a few months ago. To say the least, international travel is wildly costly (often prohibitively so) for us.

    So the whole “I heard only 10% of Americans have a passport” bullshit needs to stop. Americans are constantly traveling. Constantly. We do what we can, which usually translates to short domestic trips. And if we can throw in Canada or Mexico or the Caribbean every couple of years, we consider it a bonus. We’re making the best of what we’ve got. And I don’t think we’re doing too shabby.

    As for those who clearly don’t fall into the European contingent (i.e. Canadians and Australians), I’d say you guys are somewhere in between. I haven’t had a Canadian or an Australian give me shit about being American. You seem to be runners-up in the flak from Europeans department, and therefore more careful about doling it out. Canadians and Australians also seem surprised by my “un-Americanness,” but not to the extent that their European counterparts are. Their vacation time is typically higher than Americans but lower than Europeans, and both their geographic location and the size of their countries mean their international traveling trends are somewhere between as well. We also seem to understand each other without any preface.

  • http://twitter.com/domnicella domnicella

    I have two words for all you non-American westerners out there: BACK OFF.

    There are reasons why Americans don’t travel as extensively abroad as Europeans do. For starters, we get two weeks’ vacation. TWO. At a minimum, Europeans get four; many get six. It doesn’t begin to compare. Do you know how fast two weeks is? Allow me to paint you a picture.

    Two weeks. That’s ten (business) days. Let’s just go ahead and scratch five of them right off the bat, as those are used piecemeal here and there for things like the Friday after Thanksgiving (if I’m flying across the country to see my family for one meal, you better believe I’m making a weekend out of it) and Christmas Eve. You heard me. CHRISTMAS EVE. We only get Christmas Day; the other is on us. The same thing happens with the Fourth of July and other national holidays: if you’re doing something, it pays to extend the holiday by an extra day to make a weekend of it. Please also note that the vast majority of us don’t get the week off between Christmas and New Year’s. That whole holiday spirit? It consumes HALF of our vacation time.

    So now you’re down to five days. Five days is hardly enough time to cross the Atlantic, admire Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower or what have you, and come home. By the time you’ve kicked your jetlag you’re boarding the plane back. Savvy?

    As for giving us shit about only targeting the big hitters: London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Berlin, etc, I have a little something called PERSPECTIVE for you. When was the last time an American gave you shit for never visiting Kansas? Hmm?

    I’d venture to say half of the Europeans I’ve met have never been to the States. HALF. And those that have wave the New York card. Which is great for me; I’ve lived in New York, I love New York, it gives us something to talk about. But for those of you who haven’t noticed, our country is ENORMOUS. We have beaches, mountains, rivers, oceans, every climate under the sun, and all of those things before leaving either coast. Throw in Alaska and Hawaii and you’ve got yourself one hell of a playground.

    It’s not fair to compare your having been to a dozen countries before you turned twelve, whereas most Americans won’t go to a dozen countries in their life. You have loads of vacation time and crossing borders is a matter of mere hours in a car or train, not days spent in airplanes crossing massive continents and oceans. When you country-hop for a weekend, it’s like the Cleavelander checking out Chicago. The time and money you spend internationally is what it costs us domestically; the time and money we spend internationally is what you guys spend during your “gap year,” something I had never heard of until a few months ago. To say the least, international travel is wildly costly (often prohibitively so) for us.

    So the whole “I heard only 10% of Americans have a passport” bullshit needs to stop. Americans are constantly traveling. Constantly. We do what we can, which usually translates to short domestic trips. And if we can throw in Canada or Mexico or the Caribbean every couple of years, we consider it a bonus. We’re making the best of what we’ve got. And I don’t think we’re doing too shabby.

    As for those who clearly don’t fall into the European contingent (i.e. Canadians and Australians), I’d say you guys are somewhere in between. I haven’t had a Canadian or an Australian give me shit about being American. You seem to be runners-up in the flak from Europeans department, and therefore more careful about doling it out. Canadians and Australians also seem surprised by my “un-Americanness,” but not to the extent that their European counterparts are. Their vacation time is typically higher than Americans but lower than Europeans, and both their geographic location and the size of their countries mean their international traveling trends are somewhere between as well. We also seem to understand each other without any preface.

  • http://nathanlustig.com Nathan

    @Steve – Thanks for the comment. I think people travel for all sorts of reasons, but it’s important to at least get out of your home country and experience the world. I’m glad you’ve been all over!

    @domnicella – Great comment, it could have been it’s own stand alone blog post! I think you cover most of the issues I did in the post. To clarify, both Beata and I are Americans and were born in Illinois and Wisconsin respectively. I think there still is something to the fact that many Americans have no interest in travel, whereas most of the rest of the world seems to want to explore more.

  • http://nathanlustig.com Nathan

    @Steve – Thanks for the comment. I think people travel for all sorts of reasons, but it’s important to at least get out of your home country and experience the world. I’m glad you’ve been all over!

    @domnicella – Great comment, it could have been it’s own stand alone blog post! I think you cover most of the issues I did in the post. To clarify, both Beata and I are Americans and were born in Illinois and Wisconsin respectively. I think there still is something to the fact that many Americans have no interest in travel, whereas most of the rest of the world seems to want to explore more.

  • Brian B.

    I may sound odd for saying this, but I prefer traveling around the United States to any nation abroad. I have traveled oversees quite a bit in my life for only being 22. I have been to Russia, most European nations, East Asia, and several countries in Central and South America, and I have got to say that none of them compare to the good ol’ US of A.

    I listen to my friends talk about how they long to return to England, to Spain, or too Sweden, and I can’t get my head around it. For me, those places were nice places to spend maybe a day or two, but they are nothing with what the US has to offer.

    I think that maybe Americans (at least American students) talk so much about the greatness of being abroad because they have not yet experienced what their own country has to offer. Most college students go to college in their own state or at least their own region. However, the differences in culture, climate, and general environment differ so greatly within our own nation that it almost feels at time like one is in a different country.

    That is my opinion. Great article by the way.

  • Brian B.

    I may sound odd for saying this, but I prefer traveling around the United States to any nation abroad. I have traveled oversees quite a bit in my life for only being 22. I have been to Russia, most European nations, East Asia, and several countries in Central and South America, and I have got to say that none of them compare to the good ol’ US of A.

    I listen to my friends talk about how they long to return to England, to Spain, or too Sweden, and I can’t get my head around it. For me, those places were nice places to spend maybe a day or two, but they are nothing with what the US has to offer.

    I think that maybe Americans (at least American students) talk so much about the greatness of being abroad because they have not yet experienced what their own country has to offer. Most college students go to college in their own state or at least their own region. However, the differences in culture, climate, and general environment differ so greatly within our own nation that it almost feels at time like one is in a different country.

    That is my opinion. Great article by the way.

  • http://www.grahamhowarth.ca/ Graham A. Howarth

    International travel is not for everyone. Some people hate flying with a passion and realistically, although you can use a cruise ship, air travel is usually needed for foreign travel.

  • http://www.grahamhowarth.ca/ Graham A. Howarth

    International travel is not for everyone. Some people hate flying with a passion and realistically, although you can use a cruise ship, air travel is usually needed for foreign travel.

  • Kathern

    Most Americans don’t travel because it’s WAY more expensive for us than for a lot of people. If you’re in Europe, you can take a train to a completely different country. Or you can easily make connecting flights to anywhere in Europe, Asia, or Africa. When you’re in America, you have to make at least one 8-hour non-stop flight to get to most major foreign cities, and that gets expensive. I travel all the time, but taking a trip to the East or West coast alone is a big trip. Getting to Mexico is a haul. I can’t exactly afford the price (or the vacation time) to go anywhere else. I have a whopping 5 days per year. I can’t leave the country for vacation because there simply wouldn’t be enough time.

  • Kathern

    Most Americans don’t travel because it’s WAY more expensive for us than for a lot of people. If you’re in Europe, you can take a train to a completely different country. Or you can easily make connecting flights to anywhere in Europe, Asia, or Africa. When you’re in America, you have to make at least one 8-hour non-stop flight to get to most major foreign cities, and that gets expensive. I travel all the time, but taking a trip to the East or West coast alone is a big trip. Getting to Mexico is a haul. I can’t exactly afford the price (or the vacation time) to go anywhere else. I have a whopping 5 days per year. I can’t leave the country for vacation because there simply wouldn’t be enough time.

  • http://nathanlustig.com Nathan

    @Brian – Thanks. That’s awesome that you’ve been able to travel so much internationally at a young age. Everyone is different and it’s totally fine that you prefer the US. My argument is that people should at least try a few places before they say it’s not for them, which you’ve done.

    @Graham – True. If you have flying, you’re not going abroad, other than Canada or Mexico, although it seems to me that the percentage of people who hate to fly is pretty low and some who do can get over it with fear of flying classes (one of my family members did this after not flying for 20+ years).

    @Kathern – I agree, it’s nearly impossible to go abroad if you only have 5 vacation days per year, but on price, flying from Chicago to London is only 2x or so more expensive than going to San Francisco or Seattle at many times of the year.

  • http://nathanlustig.com Nathan

    @Brian – Thanks. That’s awesome that you’ve been able to travel so much internationally at a young age. Everyone is different and it’s totally fine that you prefer the US. My argument is that people should at least try a few places before they say it’s not for them, which you’ve done.

    @Graham – True. If you have flying, you’re not going abroad, other than Canada or Mexico, although it seems to me that the percentage of people who hate to fly is pretty low and some who do can get over it with fear of flying classes (one of my family members did this after not flying for 20+ years).

    @Kathern – I agree, it’s nearly impossible to go abroad if you only have 5 vacation days per year, but on price, flying from Chicago to London is only 2x or so more expensive than going to San Francisco or Seattle at many times of the year.

  • Kenneth

    I’m an American who’s been to 15 countries. But most of these were visited either on the way to, or whilst living in, Taiwan. If you want to be within range of other countries for travel, both price- and distance-wise, best move out of North America. If I just want a quick, relaxing, shallow-ish vacation experience like a beach, a mountain hike, a quaint little village, or a big cosmopolitan city, why fly out of the US? I’m from the Northeast, and all of these things are a cheap and doable drive away. I can only justify spending the time and money to get overseas if it’s for a deep cultural immersion, in which case I’m MOVING there temporarily. Honestly, I could see myself uprooting my family in the future, if the government of Kerblakistan is willing to give me a work visa and a license to practice medicine. I think if every American spent a year or two overseas, preferably as a child, America would be a better country. Many people overestimate how rich Americans are. For the average American, a plane ticket overseas could easily cost several weeks’ salary. It took me 9 months of scrimping and saving before I had enough for my one way train trip across Eurasia to get to Taiwan.

  • Kenneth

    I’m an American who’s been to 15 countries. But most of these were visited either on the way to, or whilst living in, Taiwan. If you want to be within range of other countries for travel, both price- and distance-wise, best move out of North America. If I just want a quick, relaxing, shallow-ish vacation experience like a beach, a mountain hike, a quaint little village, or a big cosmopolitan city, why fly out of the US? I’m from the Northeast, and all of these things are a cheap and doable drive away. I can only justify spending the time and money to get overseas if it’s for a deep cultural immersion, in which case I’m MOVING there temporarily. Honestly, I could see myself uprooting my family in the future, if the government of Kerblakistan is willing to give me a work visa and a license to practice medicine. I think if every American spent a year or two overseas, preferably as a child, America would be a better country. Many people overestimate how rich Americans are. For the average American, a plane ticket overseas could easily cost several weeks’ salary. It took me 9 months of scrimping and saving before I had enough for my one way train trip across Eurasia to get to Taiwan.

  • Ivan

    There certainly is an issue of proximity and logistics. It requires a lot more effort, time and expense for an American to travel outside his country, except for perhaps a trip to Canada or Mexico, and America being as large as it is that can even be problematic, than it is for a European to travel to a foreign country.

  • Ivan

    There certainly is an issue of proximity and logistics. It requires a lot more effort, time and expense for an American to travel outside his country, except for perhaps a trip to Canada or Mexico, and America being as large as it is that can even be problematic, than it is for a European to travel to a foreign country.

  • Kathern

    A flight from Chicago to London is never under $1,000. A flight from Chicago to San Francisco or Seattle can be found for under $1,000 and sometimes under $500.

    Many people don’t want to go out of there way just to sit on an airplane over an ocean for 8 or hours. If you ask most people they’ll say anything over 5 hours on a plane is two long for them. Europeans are close to just about everything for goodness sake.

    Another thing Nathan: Trying to convince everyone to travel outside there country is not going to work. Some people don’t have the passion for it. Traveling is not on everyone’s top priority. You trying to convince everyone to travel is no different from a religious fundamentalist trying to force there belief on someone.

    • http://nathanlustig.com Nathan

      @Kathern – You’re wrong about price and I think you misread my argument two other ways. Check Kayak.com for flights Chicago to London. In the summer with short notice, they’re sometimes above $1k, but right now you can go in Sept-May for under $750. I personally flew ORD-LHR for $550 last summer, again found on Kayak. ORD-SFO can be bought for $200-$450. I just flew MKE-SFO for $205 last week.

      I agree it’s a long flight, but I’m not arguing that it’s the same for a Belgian to go to the Netherlands as an American to go to the Netherlands. It seems like more Europeans make it to North Africa, the US and other long distance places than we do. Australians are all over Europe and seem to be there more than Americans. We’ve covered why that might be the case previously.

      I agree travel isn’t for everyone and it’s not even my top priority. I’m not trying to force beliefs on anyone. I couldn’t care less if you don’t want to travel, but I enjoy speculating on why Americans are less likely to than others. That’s what Political Science is all about. I’m writing, especially in the comments, to dispel much of the misinformation about how expensive travel is and show people that they CAN do it if they want to.

  • Kathern

    A flight from Chicago to London is never under $1,000. A flight from Chicago to San Francisco or Seattle can be found for under $1,000 and sometimes under $500.

    Many people don’t want to go out of there way just to sit on an airplane over an ocean for 8 or hours. If you ask most people they’ll say anything over 5 hours on a plane is two long for them. Europeans are close to just about everything for goodness sake.

    Another thing Nathan: Trying to convince everyone to travel outside there country is not going to work. Some people don’t have the passion for it. Traveling is not on everyone’s top priority. You trying to convince everyone to travel is no different from a religious fundamentalist trying to force there belief on someone.

    • http://nathanlustig.com Nathan

      @Kathern – You’re wrong about price and I think you misread my argument two other ways. Check Kayak.com for flights Chicago to London. In the summer with short notice, they’re sometimes above $1k, but right now you can go in Sept-May for under $750. I personally flew ORD-LHR for $550 last summer, again found on Kayak. ORD-SFO can be bought for $200-$450. I just flew MKE-SFO for $205 last week.

      I agree it’s a long flight, but I’m not arguing that it’s the same for a Belgian to go to the Netherlands as an American to go to the Netherlands. It seems like more Europeans make it to North Africa, the US and other long distance places than we do. Australians are all over Europe and seem to be there more than Americans. We’ve covered why that might be the case previously.

      I agree travel isn’t for everyone and it’s not even my top priority. I’m not trying to force beliefs on anyone. I couldn’t care less if you don’t want to travel, but I enjoy speculating on why Americans are less likely to than others. That’s what Political Science is all about. I’m writing, especially in the comments, to dispel much of the misinformation about how expensive travel is and show people that they CAN do it if they want to.

  • Melvin

    Some people struggle to find a reason to travel aboard. Also, some struggle with the contents of their journey.

  • Melvin

    Some people struggle to find a reason to travel aboard. Also, some struggle with the contents of their journey.

  • http://amanofnonation.blogspot.com/ Kevin Post

    “I love how generalized people from the U.S. are! Man, they are so stupid for not traveling!” That way of thinking is incredibly ignorant. The United States of America is a massive country so I can understand the want to discover the incredible diversity that the U.S. has to offer. Sure, the U.S. has a common language but if you were to visit Maine, then New Mexico, then Kansas, then Arkansas, then Oregon, then Michigan you would say to yourself “Am I still in the same country?”

    If people don’t want to travel abroad then who cares, it is none of my business how one wants to spend his or her life. It isn’t my job to say to people, “traveling abroad was a great experience for me so YOU should do the same!” Because they don’t think like me doesn’t make me better or less ignorant then they are.

    A former co-worker of mine has only been to two countries outside of the U.S. – Perú and the U.K. and people gave him shit for only having two stamps in his passport. But this man completed what is known in the backpacking community (not “hostel hopping” community) the “Triple Crown” meaning he has hiked from the Mexican border into Canada twice via Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and the International Appalachian Trail (Georgia to Canada) taking him about four and a half months each to achieve. I guarantee that he has more travel experience then a European “hostel hopper” with a 95L backpack buried in a Lonely Planet guide book. I love those people that claim, for example, that they’ve been to 33 countries but when you ask them how much time they’ve spent in each country it is often only a few days to a few weeks in “backpacker” hostels. Sure, he or she has the stamps but only skimmed through the countries in order to say, “Look at me! Look which countries I’ve visited!”.

    I used to have that state of mind while hitchhiking at the age of 19 from La Guajira, Colombia to Buenos Aires, Argentina (it took me 13 months to complete). I used to believe that those whom didn’t travel abroad were more ignorant than I was. But with time I had realized that I was ignorant for generalizing entire peoples and thinking that my lifestyle was for everyone.

    Best of luck on all of your travels. Remember, the more stamps one has in his passport doesn’t necessarily signify more impressive experiences.

  • http://amanofnonation.blogspot.com/ Kevin Post

    “I love how generalized people from the U.S. are! Man, they are so stupid for not traveling!” That way of thinking is incredibly ignorant. The United States of America is a massive country so I can understand the want to discover the incredible diversity that the U.S. has to offer. Sure, the U.S. has a common language but if you were to visit Maine, then New Mexico, then Kansas, then Arkansas, then Oregon, then Michigan you would say to yourself “Am I still in the same country?”

    If people don’t want to travel abroad then who cares, it is none of my business how one wants to spend his or her life. It isn’t my job to say to people, “traveling abroad was a great experience for me so YOU should do the same!” Because they don’t think like me doesn’t make me better or less ignorant then they are.

    A former co-worker of mine has only been to two countries outside of the U.S. – Perú and the U.K. and people gave him shit for only having two stamps in his passport. But this man completed what is known in the backpacking community (not “hostel hopping” community) the “Triple Crown” meaning he has hiked from the Mexican border into Canada twice via Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and the International Appalachian Trail (Georgia to Canada) taking him about four and a half months each to achieve. I guarantee that he has more travel experience then a European “hostel hopper” with a 95L backpack buried in a Lonely Planet guide book. I love those people that claim, for example, that they’ve been to 33 countries but when you ask them how much time they’ve spent in each country it is often only a few days to a few weeks in “backpacker” hostels. Sure, he or she has the stamps but only skimmed through the countries in order to say, “Look at me! Look which countries I’ve visited!”.

    I used to have that state of mind while hitchhiking at the age of 19 from La Guajira, Colombia to Buenos Aires, Argentina (it took me 13 months to complete). I used to believe that those whom didn’t travel abroad were more ignorant than I was. But with time I had realized that I was ignorant for generalizing entire peoples and thinking that my lifestyle was for everyone.

    Best of luck on all of your travels. Remember, the more stamps one has in his passport doesn’t necessarily signify more impressive experiences.

  • http://nathanlustig.com Nathan

    Kevin – Great comment. I agree with you that travel isn’t for everyone and that people shouldn’t dictate how others should spend their lives and completely agree that it’s not about the number of stamps in your passport, it’s really about your experiences.

    I think it’s important that people in the US travel because the world is global, economies are global and problems in the world are global. I think it’s important for people to see how the “others” in the world live so that they can have perspective and make informed decisions.

  • http://nathanlustig.com Nathan

    Kevin – Great comment. I agree with you that travel isn’t for everyone and that people shouldn’t dictate how others should spend their lives and completely agree that it’s not about the number of stamps in your passport, it’s really about your experiences.

    I think it’s important that people in the US travel because the world is global, economies are global and problems in the world are global. I think it’s important for people to see how the “others” in the world live so that they can have perspective and make informed decisions.

  • Jeff

    I am a little offended by the reasoning if you don’t travel outside the US you are not well rounded individual. I am one of those persons that makes less than the Median income for the US. I also only get 10 days of vacation per year and several of those days are used durning the Christmas-New Years holiday. My employer shuts down durning that time and it’s either take vacation or go without pay. As I understand it I am one of the 50% of the US that will never get outside the country. So are you saying that at least 50% of the people in the US are isoalted individuals that are clueless of the rest of the world? That seems incredilbly harsh and, in my opinion, very wrong.

  • Jeff

    I am a little offended by the reasoning if you don’t travel outside the US you are not well rounded individual. I am one of those persons that makes less than the Median income for the US. I also only get 10 days of vacation per year and several of those days are used durning the Christmas-New Years holiday. My employer shuts down durning that time and it’s either take vacation or go without pay. As I understand it I am one of the 50% of the US that will never get outside the country. So are you saying that at least 50% of the people in the US are isoalted individuals that are clueless of the rest of the world? That seems incredilbly harsh and, in my opinion, very wrong.

  • Aaron J

    I have lived in California all my life. I have ZERO interest in traveling to other countries. Let me explain why. The ends do not justify the means. A 10 to 20 hour flight? Thousands of dollars spent on hotels and flight and activities? I don’t think so. Just to see different geography and culture? In my opinion, it’s just not worth the misery of sitting on a plane going crazy. The hassle of packing, spending money on hotels, over rated trendy activities that I can easily do in my hometown or within driving distance. I see culture ALL DAY LONG! Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Thai, Middle Eastern, and honestly, I don’t feel comfortable with any of their cultures, it’s not me or my style! Why should I subject myself to something I don’t like or need? So why would I want to travel a million miles away from my comfort zone to be uncomfortable and spend thousands to do it? Just because I’m not comfortable with it doesn’t mean I don’t respect it. A lot of these “world travelers” who claim to have epiphanies about “perspective” need to open up their minds just a tad bit more and realize that a great perspective in life is not limited just to world travelers. As an American, I don’t criticize other cultures in the world and say “you need to travel to America more to gain perspective!” in fact I say do whatever it is you do as long as you don’t force your culture or agenda on to me. For people who seek out traveling and other cultures, by all means do it, you love it, so do it. Equally and just as valid, I tend to hate it and find it to be extremely inconvenient, exhausting and financially draining. My point is why is it so hard for world travelers with “perspective” to accept or care that Americans, not all, don’t like traveling over seas? Who gives a shit. To each their own. Individualism, everyone is different!

  • Aaron J

    I have lived in California all my life. I have ZERO interest in traveling to other countries. Let me explain why. The ends do not justify the means. A 10 to 20 hour flight? Thousands of dollars spent on hotels and flight and activities? I don’t think so. Just to see different geography and culture? In my opinion, it’s just not worth the misery of sitting on a plane going crazy. The hassle of packing, spending money on hotels, over rated trendy activities that I can easily do in my hometown or within driving distance. I see culture ALL DAY LONG! Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Thai, Middle Eastern, and honestly, I don’t feel comfortable with any of their cultures, it’s not me or my style! Why should I subject myself to something I don’t like or need? So why would I want to travel a million miles away from my comfort zone to be uncomfortable and spend thousands to do it? Just because I’m not comfortable with it doesn’t mean I don’t respect it. A lot of these “world travelers” who claim to have epiphanies about “perspective” need to open up their minds just a tad bit more and realize that a great perspective in life is not limited just to world travelers. As an American, I don’t criticize other cultures in the world and say “you need to travel to America more to gain perspective!” in fact I say do whatever it is you do as long as you don’t force your culture or agenda on to me. For people who seek out traveling and other cultures, by all means do it, you love it, so do it. Equally and just as valid, I tend to hate it and find it to be extremely inconvenient, exhausting and financially draining. My point is why is it so hard for world travelers with “perspective” to accept or care that Americans, not all, don’t like traveling over seas? Who gives a shit. To each their own. Individualism, everyone is different!

  • Joan

    “A friend from Iowa once joined me in Thailand. When she told her co-workers about it, their response was “Thailand? Where is that? Why would you go there? If you want a beach, go to Florida.””
    I’ve been reading a lot of these articles and statements such as this seem to pop up in most of them. All of these articles also have something else in common: they never answer the question. Why would you want to go there?
    Personally, I find the travelers who assume everyone likes to travel to be the ignorant ones. Personally, I do not dislike travel and I am aware of there being a whole great big world outside of America. But I choose not to spend my time or money traveling to foreign places because what is most important to me is right here at home: my family and friends. People are what matter to me. My people. And that is where I choose to invest my time and money.

  • Ashley

    Residents in other countries across the world are more likely to have passports for a simple reason: their countries are probably smaller than America. In Europe, alot of the time, travelling to another country is nothing more than a couple-hour long drive. America’s expanse is an entire continent, so yes, we’re alot less likely to travel to have passports.

    Americans aren’t as cultured as they need to be, yes, but this point is faulty.

  • http://www.nathanlustig.com Nathan Lustig

    I think you’re focusing too much on the passport part of the post, not the overall issue.

  • Joan

    “A friend from Iowa once joined me in Thailand. When she told her co-workers about it, their response was “Thailand? Where is that? Why would you go there? If you want a beach, go to Florida.””
    I’ve been reading a lot of these articles and statements such as this seem to pop up in most of them. All of these articles also have something else in common: they never answer the question. Why would you want to go there?
    Personally, I find the travelers who assume everyone likes to travel to be the ignorant ones. Personally, I do not dislike travel and I am aware of there being a whole great big world outside of America. But I choose not to spend my time or money traveling to foreign places because what is most important to me is right here at home: my family and friends. People are what matter to me. My people. And that is where I choose to invest my time and money.

  • Jen

    Just the other day, I was saying to a Brazilian friend, “Why don’t more of your countrymen go out and explore the world? Aren’t you guaranteed four weeks of vacation? Maybe Brazil could pull itself out of third-world status if only your ignorant citizens stopped wasting their precious money on such frivolities as food, housing, medical care, education for their children, and transportation to their jobs that don’t pay much and instead focused on expanding their horizons by meditating in a yurt in Mongolia.”

    It sounds less rational to make that argument when you replace it with almost any other nationality, doesn’t it? Why do you think Americans aren’t affected by the same factors that prevent the majority of people from extensively traveling outside their home country? Sure, there are Americans who uninterested in or scared of the rest of the world or who want a tidy, homogenized experience when traveling, but those kind of people exist everywhere.

    Americans are often underpaid and overworked in comparison to their foreign counterparts, they have expenses that those living in countries with socialist policies rarely have to worry about, and they likely have personal responsibilities that are simply higher in priority than traipsing off to Bangkok to get a US$10 foot massage from a young woman who works 15 hours or more each day (and does things other than foot massages) to support her entire family back in her rural village.

    Travel is a luxury and a privilege, and for people like you and me, a hobby or a lifestyle. It’s no different than those who restore classic cars or spend hours each day playing WoW. I’d consider it a waste of my time, but they’re no less legitimate choices. I know it’s difficult for you to imagine, but some people aren’t interested in traveling and still others find the whole experience stressful rather than relaxing or enlightening.

    You say that there’s been an uptick in Americans applying for passports because “we are now required to have passports for travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.” So, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean countries aren’t “foreign” enough for you? They don’t have sufficient history or culture to pass your rigorous testing for what counts as “traveling abroad”? Is it because they’re in close proximity to the US or because you think you know better than everyone else as to what constitutes meaningful travel?

    I know plenty of Europeans who rarely leave their own countries, and when they do, it’s usually to a nearby country that is easily accessible via car, train or a budget airline. And when they do leave Europe, they tend to spend much of their time in hostels and clubs partying.

    I’ve lived outside of the US for more than three years, and I’ve found that because it’s such a sacrifice money-and-time-wise for Americans to travel and because most are aware of and fearful of embodying the “Ugly American” stereotype, they’re more likely to take time to appreciate what a country has to offer. If you really think non-Americans view travel as some kind of mystical retreat, you’ve obviously never been surrounded by Australians, Brits and Germans at a beach resort in Thailand.