If you have the chance to travel around the world, you might come across different nationalities from British, Italians, Chinese, and even Egyptian flocks. But Americans! No, not sure! “Why don’t Americans travel?” you start asking.
Even if you have a tour around the attractions in your hometown, the same question makes more sense, “Why don’t Americans travel?”
Whatever your location in the world right now, your chances of meeting an American guy are close to 1% unless you live in Mexico or Canada (55% of American Travellers go to one of these countries when they want to go out of the US states, according to Statistics).
The numbers tell the story: CNN published that until 2017, only 30% of the American population had a passport. Then this number surged by 40%, which is still nothing for such a powerful and affluent country. Here is the fun fact: this number has been growing because of the restrictions imposed on US citizens requiring a passport to enter Canada or Mexico.
The judgmental and unfair answer could be that Americans don’t know so much about other cultures or don’t see the other world as exciting enough to consume a tremendous amount of effort, time and money. But is that the reason?
Read on to delve into the reasons why Americans don’t travel overseas.
Why Americans Don’t Travel – Is This Even Right?
Before we talk about why Americans don’t travel overseas, we need to know the truth. Does the concept of “not travelling” still get accepted by 2022 Americans?
Forbes has the answer. A study published in 2019 can tell us more about Americans’ travel preferences. 2000 participated in this survey, and the numbers were interesting:
Note: we can easily overlook the two years after 2019 because of the pandemic during which the whole world was shut and travelling abroad was utter madness.
- 11% of participants never went outside the state where they were born.
- 13% of those polled admitted to never having boarded a plane.
- 54% of survey respondents said they travelled to 10 states or maybe more.
- More than half of this sample said that they have no passport.
- More than 40% of those surveyed responded that they’ve never been outside the country.
- More interesting facts? OK! 32% of those asked said that they hadn’t or couldn’t remember the last time they bought luggage was— 10% of participants said they didn’t know when they could buy these kinds of bags.
And the shock came when 10% of those surveyed said they have zero interest in going anywhere!
The Diversity of US— Cultures, Foods, and People
“I can experience art, music, food, and even architecture from all over the world without driving for more than an hour!” That’s one of the answers when searching for American people to answer our questions.
A 9 million-plus land is for sure has every natural phenomenon. Might mountains require a gruelling 3-hour climb against beautiful beaches and iconic landmarks. Actually, you can ski in Colorado and then go to explore the desert in Arizona. Want tropical beaches? So go to Florida. Want winter sports? Alaska is amazing.
Upscale hotels and resorts stretching along the coast invite everyone to have a memorable night at a classy suit with breathing views. The food scene is also irresistible; you can find all cuisines from all over the world dotted in the same square.
Also, Americans take pride in their multicultural community, where everyone brings their legacy to life wherever they live in the states. Also, they don’t hesitate to show their traditions and increase awareness about their roots by wearing their costumes, eating their local cuisines, or even celebrating their occasions and national events.
It’s common to attend a typical Italian night in New York or be part of a Spanish tango dancing party in Chigco.
At the same time, the community is unified enough to represent the American spirit of how to belong to America without having a 100% American background. Even when something is wrong, and people want to voice their disapproval of the situation, protests take the form of parades spreading festival and celebratory vibes and gathering people with different ethical groups, colours, and mother tongues.
That’s what makes the US very unique.
So, it seems all international food, events, and cultures, along with people from each corner of the world, introduce themselves on each bend of US streets. You can get a taste of any culture without spending much time and money. So, “why you could even think of travelling overseas, and there are incredible places to travel inside!” is one of the common reasons Americans prefer spending their vacations in the country.
Many Americans found the dreamy destinations they want to explore with their beloved ones within 1-2 hours from their home without “the hassle of passports!” as my American friend described. But yet, in the spirit of adventure, the majority of these places don’t cost a penny! US people believe in the myth that America is good enough that you shouldn’t even think of leaving it for any reason.
The culture of “America has everything” goes viral among the population.
Admittedly, every corner is all worth it for getting to a place all visitors should see.
However, it doesn’t apply to all Americans. According to the 2019 Forbes survey, 85% of questioned said that they never mind experiencing new things, and about 60% of respondents said they have places in their minds they want to visit one day.
But by 2022 and after the coronavirus, many Americans (39%) and especially boomers considered long travel “big-go” to discover the other side of the world, according to Expedia. People realized how it’s critical to appreciate every moment to do something new to challenge themselves over their current limits.
And the international flight searches surged lately by 65% from Los Angeles to London and 110% from New York to Paris, as reported by Expedia.
Yes, you can find a temperate forest in Washington and enjoy the best hiking experience without leaving your hometown. However, people who speak a different language than you, who don’t know how you’re feeling, and whose humanity is the only thing that binds them together are things you haven’t experienced if you haven’t pushed yourself over your comfort zone.
- Americans Don’t Feel Safe
Many Americans are afraid of travelling abroad, especially after the 9/11 attacks. The world outside the American broader seems enormous and scary for US citizens; they even think the world hates them. People will attack you for no reason just because you hold an American passport. Terrorists are waiting for you in each hotel to avenge the Iraqi war or even to kidnap you because you have white skin and blue eyes. So, you’re definitely American and no one like you. Or at least, you will be abandoned by everyone. No one will help you. No one will want to talk to you.
The world is not a welcoming place for US people. The world is dirty, not worthy, and you will never feel safe outside.
This tune was used a lot by politicians in their election campaigns— “US vs. THEM” by former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani. The media has also contributed to spreading this notion among Americans.
“Canada and Europe are OK. Otherwise, you will suffer for just being American!” A comment I saw on Quora when I asked, “why don’t Americans travel?”
In a nutshell, being in a foreign land will make you an easy target for everyone who resists American politics.
Speaking to a population exceeding 300 million, you will get different answers. But this mindset is absolutely going to change in years, especially when Americans browsing Instagram and Tiktok find that the world is not just like they think.
- Everything Seems Far Away
The US is a sprawling country. Many people think of America as a unified country, even though it’s true, but actually, it’s not.
To put it another way- not all states are equally far from the rest of the universe. In contrast, the people of the United States are not on the same page.
For example, there is a shorter trip from Minnesota to Canada than it would take you to travel from the same starting point to Taxes. But if you look at the numbers, you will see domestic flights are more common than anything else. On the other hand, Minnesotans would instead go abroad than inside the US. So, it doesn’t make sense to deal with America as one package.
Now, let’s see what people in Europe do when travelling across the continent. You can go from Berlin to Paris in an 11h travel car, which is not even the half distance from Austin to Los Angels (2,217 km — more than 20h).
Not to forget that you’ll visit multiple countries during your Paris trip— Portugal, then Spain. And the result is; in Europe, you have travelled to 3 countries at least just by car to visit France from German. But on the other hand, you’re still in the US after 20h of driving!
Regarding flight hours, the US is far from everything in the world, and this distance means extra charges and extra time-consuming while venturing. “Time is money” is not just an aphorism. It’s a concept believed by millions of Americans.
That brings us to the following reason.
- Cost of Travelling
Americans travel a lot but within their country. They can go for long trips by car without spending a fortune on flights.
Basically, the cost is a significant factor. However, any person in the world, no matter where you are, wants to see new things, taste new food, and break the routine by experiencing new adventures. No doubt about that!
But when you weigh your options and what you’re going to spend, other considerations pop up. Yes, going to London is so much appealing and tempting. But going to Boston is much more affordable, and you can still enjoy historic buildings dotted with perfectly designed houses.
The cost of travelling to Europe for one week equals what you’d spend for three weeks within the US.
The food and lodging in the US are cheaper, too, “that’s what drives friends of mine living in Europe always book Europe to the US,” Kristin Heckrote commented on Quora.
An average American income is $79,900, so airfare to Thailand could cost around $7,500. If you have a family regardless, you’ll need 1.5 days to get there and the same to get back. No matter what, it’s just too much to take!
On the contrary, in Europe, you can buy a train ticket which will take you to stunning places and new countries with exotic cultures without paying more than $100.
The average person should pay $2,700 to do so, the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries reported earlier.
So, it’s not fair to compare how many countries European travellers headed to with American travellers. The whole situation and forces are entirely different.
- Work Culture
We all love vacations and off-times when we can stretch on a beach touted as “the most luxurious and beautiful place in the world.” But what about work? How can we take approval from the boss? And in the US, things get more complicated.
In 2019, Glassdoor published shocking findings after extensive research about how many Americans take their paid time off; only 23% of employees take all the paid time off they are given, and 9% take no paid time off at all.
Other numbers about vacations in the US, here we go: (Source: USTravel.org)
- There was 768 million unused paid time off days in the United States in 2018.
- 60% of employees stated they would reject a job offer if it didn’t include paid time off.
- United States employees do not get paid vacation days or paid holidays, making it the only advanced economy in the world that does not do so.
- 77% of employers choose a raise over more paid time off.
“That doesn’t surprise me at all. We’re taught to work until we drop,” an American lady interviewed by the Guardian said.
In America, it’s not about “OK, boss, I’ll take a week off next month to go on a trip around the globe!”
People in Europe take a vacation ranging from six and eight weeks. Otherwise, the whole American paid time-offs don’t exceed 16 days, according to the Families and Work Institute.
And it’s not just how many days— Americans are not willing to use these days for going anywhere. If they have plans to travel abroad, that means the whole vacation time is already used up—”What if you want to visit friends? Family? There are other things people rightly prioritize over travel, it’s a shame,” Judith Lewis commented on Quora about the Why Don’t Americans Travel Overseas question.
The lifestyle of Americans can be more stressful than you might guess. Most Americans have to work hard from high school to save for college. During these years, they are most likely to be loaded with debts and have to find a better well-paid job to repay their financial commitment.
The community doesn’t promote the idea of how it’s essential to unwind for a little bit to be able to resume working. Or even take a year off between significant phases in your life, like in the United Kingdom. You have to work and work, and the gap in your resume is something you should avoid to take a good position in the market— or you will hear something like, “Rejected because of the low commitment!” However, a year gap in New Zealand could be exciting, and the employer might ask you, “let me know, what did you do during this year?” And if you said something like, “Travelling.”, your possibility of taking the job would be higher, and you might at least see a WOW reaction on the recruitment team’s faces.
You see the difference, right?
Even your friends and parents in the US wouldn’t encourage you to do anything but find an appropriate job to pay off your debts and start a career.
This complicated pattern applies to all Americans, and you can’t decide alone that you want to discover your passion and go on a no-end journey! (or even an end journey!)
This mindset of “not travelling” culture is expected around the US. Or, to put it another way, Americans are more used to a focus-work culture.
Plus, most Americans are afraid to ask to expand their vacation not to fall behind. So even if a few US citizens can afford international trips, they find domestic more reasonable in terms of time.
A Forbes study found that 25% of those questioned said they wanted to travel more, but there was no time to do so.
There are two types of countries; some put an emphasis on how to gain more money and others on how to enjoy life by appreciating leisure time. The US seems to be the first. And even if some of them choose to take leisure time in favour of money, they don’t tend to take the whole PTO.
- Culture Issues
According to the US Census Bureau, only 20% of Americans speak a second language. And even parents who choose to teach their children other languages, no one will go far from Spanish. That’s because of the large population of Spanish speakers. And that’s why Americans prefer to visit Latin countries to be able to communicate with locals.
Since most Americans are monolingual, this makes US citizens uninterested in knowing more about other cultures. And why not? There is no need to learn a foreign language since the whole world can speak their own.
Let’s see this scenario: the US import some stuff from China and vehicles from Germany. But no one in America could think of visiting these destinations to explore their gems and wonders because they don’t know many things about them, making most Americans suspicious of travelling more miles away from home.
Just remember that all news or movies about China are terrible at conveying negative messages— China is a significant threat, German people don’t like Americans, China will destroy America’s economy, and so on! So what could compel you to go out into a world where there is an abundance of villains?
Not to mention that political unrest is common in every country around.
Of course, Central America has natural treasures from mountains, waterfalls, and beaches; most of them are totally free to visit, but what about gangs and kidnapping news in Guatemala or El Salvador bursting from the TV.
American culture does not, indeed, depend on a greater desire to learn about the outside world. After all, no one can blame Americans when politicians call for building barriers and blocking people from coming in, not breaking them to be more open to the world.
“Every time I say I’m going somewhere, people assume that it’s dirty, they don’t have good hospitals,” the owner of everything-everywhere.com, Gary Arndt, said before to CNN.
But people don’t know that the world is changing, and many countries are struggling to promote the tourism industry to boost their GPA and flourish their economies.
Many individuals just repeat what they’ve heard without attempting to understand the whole picture thoroughly. Certainly, there is a lot of discourse about the dangers of travelling to Brazil.
“Travelling to Brazil! Really? Well, be ready to get rapped or robbed or at least sick!” Here we go again!
In the language of numbers, this talk rings true. But what if you know that Brazil is safer for tourists than locals. Crimes are associated with drug dealers and armed gangs as long as you keep a distance away from lesser-known places, which is common sense in all countries, not only Brazil!
You must be aware of any political events that might affect your safety. But don’t listen to the news only; travellers would have something more authentic.
Should it change?
“We have to change because we have to do business with all these other cultures,” Matthew Kepnes, an international traveller and creator of NomadicMatt.com, said to CNN.
Changing would happen; there is no question about it. Of course, it could take time, but once anyone goes around the world, US people will realize that our planet is so diverse, exciting and unique. And there are many noteworthy family-friendly, romantic, and solo destinations you ought to know about.
The regulations governing their job and the number of vacation days they are allowed to take should also be changed to give employees the freedom to travel beyond the US borders.
Travelling will teach you more about solidarity and kindness and how we all like each other no matter your name, where you’re from, or what you believe.
Enough “there is the US and everything else”! It’s time to “there is the US and other beautiful countries.”