I read an interesting article recently, entitled Why Americans Don’t Travel Overseas. And before anyone accuses me of making a gross generalization, here are a few statistics:
Only 1% percent of American college students study abroad
Many Americans don’t travel outside of the continental US. It’s a fact. A puzzling one that many theorize has to do with America’s size (“Why go snorkeling in Australia when we’ve got Florida?”) or America’s diversity “(“Why go to Mexico to speak Spanish when we can go to Taco Bell?”), but I think that it has more to do with the fact that it’s so easy to live this risk-free, safe life in America that people find themselves stuck. They tell themselves that they can’t travel because they don’t have the money or the vacation time, but those are just excuses that mask the real reason: they just don’t want to. They’re comfortable in their shells; watching their lives dribble by in between commercial breaks of CSI.
It seriously irks me when my single, childless friends tell that they don’t have enough money to go anywhere. Seriously, what’s stopping you? Even if you only get paid minimum wage, if you lived on a tight budget, you’d be able to save up the $10,000 needed for a round the world trip in a year and a half or so.
Before I went to India for four months, I sold my car and worked three jobs in order to save up for the trip. For nine months, my life was not fun. I didn’t go out or eat out or shop anywhere but the sales racks at Target.
And now I’m 26 and I don’t have a career or a car or a lot of expensive clothing, but I’ve traveled to 25 countries in 10 years. Some would argue that it was all a waste of time and money, and that’s fine. Those people have cars, spouses, children and flat screen televisions instead because that’s what they wanted.
Americans don’t travel for the same reason anyone from a developed nation doesn’t travel: it’s not a priority. If it was, they’d find a way to do it regardless of their financial situations. I think that they’ve all just bought into the popular American marketing plan that the world is too dangerous or too expensive or too unpredictable and that travel just isn’t worth the hassle.
Maybe I’m being naive but I really think it’s that simple. What do you think?
P.S. Behind the myth that Americans don’t have passports disputes everything I’ve just written. The author brings up some good points, but she uses the example of the average American couple with the added expense of children. I still assert that the average childless couple could afford overseas travel.