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Why don't Americans travel abroad?





Afaceinthematrix
I would like to add a disclaimer to the top of my post: I wrote this entire article. After writing it, I googled the title of this post and found an article that someone wrote which is very similar to mine. That is just a coincidence. I wrote this entire thing before reading that and so I am not plagiarizing. Considering I have more than 2200 posts and have never had a problem, I do not find my credibility in question. This was researched and written exclusively by me (so I do not need quote tags).

The vast majority of Americans do not have a passport. If you went up and down the street in most American cities (and I have a feeling it's even worse in the rural Midwest), you would find many more people not having a passport than having one. Most Americans go their entire lives without ever traveling abroad. So why is this? I've been wondering about this for quite some time and I've come up with several solutions.

1) The United States is a huge country with a lot of diversity. My grandfather always used to tell me (and I love traveling abroad; I want to see at least one hundred countries before dying) that he has no business traveling abroad because there is plenty to see here in the U.S. And let's face it, he does have a point. If you want to see the natural world then we have it. Want beaches? Florida. What tropical areas? Hawaii. Want forests? California, Wyoming, Washington, and many other places. Want desert? Arizona. Maybe you don't like the natural world. So do you want city fun? Las Vegas, Hollywood, Atlantic City, etc. With a country that is as large as the U.S., there is a lot you can do here and so many people would not want to leave.

2) Distance. If you live in Europe, it is far easier to see another country. In many places, you can hop on the Eurail and be anywhere in Western Europe within a few hours. Europe also has other forms of great public transportation and so seeing other countries is easier. The only countries that we can get to without going great distance are Canada and Mexico. And then fact of the matter is that most Americans who travel abroad do go to these countries. Up until recently, you didn't even need a passport to get in to these countries! Now that you do, many Americans are getting passports but they still do not use them to get other places. Furthermore, once you're in Canada or Mexico, you cannot really go to other countries. Canada borders the U.S. and Mexico does border Guatamala, but it is very hard to get there by public transportation or driving. So you almost have to dead end in Mexico.

3) Fear. Most Americans are shocked to hear that I like to travel abroad. Don't people want to kill you in other countries? Aren't other countries full of terrorists? Okay, Europe is okay. But aren't they rude to you there because you're an American? And you seriously want to go to South America? It's just one big jungle where you'll either get eaten by a big animal or captured and held for ransom. In Africa you'll get killed in thirty seconds and in Asia you will also. Wait? Which country is Africa next to? This seems to be the common consensus among many of my fellow Americans.

So what do you think about people who do not want to travel abroad? Number three is silly and could be fixed by education; number two is just a matter of finances. If you can afford a plane ticket then that's easy for you to fix. Number one is the only one that I can really understand. Why go all the way to Amsterdam to party and go to clubs when I can just drive to Vegas in about three hours or Hollywood in about one for far less money and hassle? I don't really know the answer to that except that I have a weird desire in me to see as many other cultures and countries as I can before I die...
ocalhoun
I would also raise the paperwork issue...
In combination with your point #1 there, it makes some sense.

Why go through all the hassle of passports, visas, customs, different laws, et cetera, when you could go to a very different place within the US without any of that hassle*.
(There's also the issues of banking/credit cards, insurance, phones, et cetera which may not work in foreign countries as they do in the US.)


*Okay, different states have some different laws, but most of the important ones stay the same across the country.
Afaceinthematrix
ocalhoun wrote:
I would also raise the paperwork issue...
In combination with your point #1 there, it makes some sense.

Why go through all the hassle of passports, visas, customs, different laws, et cetera, when you could go to a very different place within the US without any of that hassle*.
(There's also the issues of banking/credit cards, insurance, phones, et cetera which may not work in foreign countries as they do in the US.)


*Okay, different states have some different laws, but most of the important ones stay the same across the country.


Yes the "issues of banking/credit cards, insurance, phones, et cetera which may not work in foreign countries as they do in the US." Paperwork does not have to be too much of an issue. A passport is easier to get than a driver's license and many countries do not require visas for Americans (like Western Europe - I recently had to look into this since my friend and I are going to the Wacken Festival in Germany along with Amsterdam and a few other places after we graduate college next year). But yes, I should have mentioned the the cards, insurance, etc. which can be a hassle. Although I simply don't use my phone abroad and I just use my card once to withdraw local currency and then that's not a hassle anymore.

I think I should stress number 2 more. We are far. I know a lot of Europeans who claim to be well-traveled although (in my opinion) they aren't well traveled because they've never been out of Western Europe. In Southern California, sometimes college students will go to Tijuana because you can drink there at age 18 versus 21. I can see myself, if I lived in Belgium, taking the train to Amsterdam on a Friday night to party. Or if I lived in Italy, taking a boat ride sometimes to Greece for an extended weekend after saving up money. In many places in Europe, my number one and number two become non-existent because it may be a shorter distance to a foreign county than to a site in your own country.
ocalhoun
Afaceinthematrix wrote:
In many places in Europe, my number one and number two become non-existent because it may be a shorter distance to a foreign county than to a site in your own country.

To be fair, if you live in New York, Europe is a lot closer than Hawaii.


*edit*
A fun point to use in the essay may be that, for Europeans, traveling around Europe is equivalent to Americans traveling around the various states in the US.


Oh, and another factor you might want to mention is the language barrier.
Most Americans are mono-lingual (in large part due to your #2), which is an additional barrier to visiting most other countries.
Afaceinthematrix
ocalhoun wrote:
Afaceinthematrix wrote:
In many places in Europe, my number one and number two become non-existent because it may be a shorter distance to a foreign county than to a site in your own country.

To be fair, if you live in New York, Europe is a lot closer than Hawaii.


Agreed. However, my point still remains the same in that there's a lot to do nearby.

Quote:
*edit*
A fun point to use in the essay may be that, for Europeans, traveling around Europe is equivalent to Americans traveling around the various states in the US.


That's the point that I was trying to make in my previous post when I mentioned that I know some Europeans who feel they're well-traveled when, in my opinion, they are not. I'll talk to someone who lives in Germany and they'll say they're well traveled. So I'll ask what countries they've been to. They might mention:
1) Germany (duh)
2) The Netherlands
3) Luxembourg
4) Belgium
5) France
6) Switzerland
7) Austria
8) Poland
9) Czech Republic
10) South Africa

So I'll say, well okay, you live in the first country, and you had to actually make a real trip to go to the tenth country. But as for countries 2-9, I'm not impressed. If you live in Hamburg, Germany, then you going to Amsterdam in the Netherlands is about equivalent to me going to Vegas when I live in Southern California. I can hop in my car and be there tonight and party for the weekend. You can hop on the train and be there tonight and party for the weekend. Countries 2-9 border your country, are all part of the EU (except for Switzerland), you can get there all by train, and I think they all even use the euro (I might be wrong there, though). So really, I'm only impressed by number 10...

I'm not saying that you haven't done any traveling, but seriously, I do not think that going to The Netherlands (when you live in Germany) is too much more traveling than an American who lives in Southern California going to Vegas or someone who lives in New York going down to Atlantic City...


Quote:
Oh, and another factor you might want to mention is the language barrier.
Most Americans are mono-lingual (in large part due to your #2), which is an additional barrier to visiting most other countries.


I put that in number three (fear). I speak English and conversational Spanish (I could get by Spain; but my speaking won't be very elegant... Although I have gotten out of some situations with the "federalis" in Mexico who love to walk around with their huge machine guns). But a German who doesn't speak Dutch will still go to The Netherlands. So where's the advantage over an American? My father only speaks English and has been to about thirty countries. But he isn't afraid. He just goes out and tries to find out how good his sign language is. This used to be harder for him but as he was traveling more, he lost the fear and began to extend his travels more.
adri
Maybe Americans don't like to travel? And like you stated in your first post, if they do want to travel, they just go to another state in the United States.

Another reason could be the language problem. It could be that a lot of Americans are frightened (frightened isn't really the correct word but I can't think of an another word right now) to go to countries where they speak another language. Maybe they are scared that people would say nasty things to them in a language that they don't speak? Who knows...

Quote:
In Southern California, sometimes college students will go to Tijuana because you can drink there at age 18 versus 21.


In Belgium, you can drink alcohol at the age of sixteen. Dancing As you may or may not know, Belgium is a country with a long tradition of beer (drinking).


adri
adri
Afaceinthematrix wrote:

1) Germany (duh)
2) The Netherlands
3) Luxembourg
4) Belgium
5) France
6) Switzerland
7) Austria
Cool Poland
9) Czech Republic
10) South Africa

... and I think they all even use the euro (I might be wrong there, though).


When I posted my previous post, this post of yours wasn't written yet.

Switzerland, Poland and the Czech Republic don't use the euro. It's actually really only the West that uses it (except for Estonia, Finland and Greece that is they are eurozone countries in the eastern part of Europe who also use the euro), this is because the west-european countries are considered more stable which is better for the currency ofcourse.

Well there is one main difference between the similarity of travelling in the US and Europe, and that is again language. Most of the time, as soon as you cross the border of your country, you're in a country where they speak another language. This kind of is probably the reason why, even when all those great cities like Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, aren't really visited that much by Europeans. I think people would travel much more, if there was only one language in Europe.

But I'm not really bothered with that I speak Dutch (spoken in The Netherlands and Belgium), French (Spoken in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Corsica), English (spoken in the UK and Ireland) and a bit of German (Spoken in Germany, Switzerland, Austria). Smile

adri
Afaceinthematrix
adri wrote:

Switzerland, Poland and the Czech Republic don't use the euro. It's actually really only the West that uses it (except for Estonia, Finland and Greece that is they are eurozone countries in the eastern part of Europe who also use the euro), this is because the west-european countries are considered more stable which is better for the currency ofcourse.


Okay. As I posted, I wasn't completely sure about currency but I knew many of the western European countries use the euro. And even the ones that don't - it's not that hard to exchange your money. You may just get ripped off a little.

Quote:
Well there is one main difference between the similarity of travelling in the US and Europe, and that is again language. Most of the time, as soon as you cross the border of your country, you're in a country where they speak another language. This kind of is probably the reason why, even when all those great cities like Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, aren't really visited that much by Europeans. I think people would travel much more, if there was only one language in Europe.

But I'm not really bothered with that I speak Dutch (spoken in The Netherlands and Belgium), French (Spoken in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Corsica), English (spoken in the UK and Ireland) and a bit of German (Spoken in Germany, Switzerland, Austria). :)


Yes. But as I also said, a language barrier is nothing more than getting past the fear of not knowing the language. If you live in Germany and want to go across the border to the Netherlands, you can get by for a short vacation without knowing dutch. At the bar, you can point to the beer you want and just hope the bartender doesn't rip you off (and if he does, then the worst that happens is you lose a little extra money). When you're at a store, you just have to try and figure out how much money to give the cashier and hope they don't rip you off, etc.

In Mexico, it can get a lot worse. That's partly why people stopped going to Mexico. Many more Americans used to go and problems were less common. But now with the cartels and all of these drug wars, things can get shady. I remember a long time ago I was in Mexico (this was before I learned Spanish) and I had a huge problem with very corrupt Mexican police. I managed to get myself out of that one without knowing Spanish (and them not speaking English). So I am confident that I could go to a club in the Netherlands or to a bar in Germany.

Quote:
In Belgium, you can drink alcohol at the age of sixteen. \:D/ As you may or may not know, Belgium is a country with a long tradition of beer (drinking).


And I do know that they Belgium love their beer drinking hehe. My friend and I also want to go to Belgium when we're in Europe for that reason. Although we'll probably spend more time in Germany because we're both German beer snobs (I love German beer!).
adri
Maybe the fear of Americans is heightened because it costs an awful lot more to go from the US to Europe than from somewhere in Europe to somewhere else in Europe. It only costs about 20 bucks to from Belgium to Bratislava (Slovakia)*, so who cares if your trip sucks because you don't understand the language but it would suck a lot more if you spend so much on a plain ticket and then get stuck somewhere in the middle of a country where everybody refuses to help you. Razz Especially the mother figure of a family will think like that... Young fellows will probably say 'So what, that would be awesome too Razz ' (Good stories for when you get back home)


*without luggage, just a bag but still it's quite cheap!


adri
deanhills
What you say is true Matrix. I wonder whether it is because the United States has everything and if one wants to travel, it would take a few lifetimes to cover all of the 50 States. However, if one would look at the States as countries instead, then one could easily say Americans travel much more than the rest of the world put together. It has a very busy airline industry.

Perhaps one of the reasons could also be that people mostly get two or three weeks of holidays in North America, whereas in Europe and other parts of the world they get four weeks or more. Two weeks are not long enough for a long-distance holiday, and people also prefer to split their leave up, so easier to travel a few days in the United States, than all of the two weeks in Europe or Asia.
watersoul
I've always assumed that the high numbers of US folk who never leave the country is because your nation is so huge it's like many different countries in one. I read so much about the different types of communities in the different States that I could certainly understand people spending a lifetime discovering their own country.

I've actually travelled Asia much more than Europe in my life. I have seen far more of Laos for example than I have Britain, and I've been inspired to go there because I always search something different to the western world I live in. Apart from the architecture and the language being different I find myself uninspired by the average EU high street with similar stores and products - and being in countries with no ATM's or a common language offers excitement which Europe doesn't to me.

Would I have travelled as many miles I have if I had been born in the US?
Probably, but less countries for a start (maybe only the one) and it would've been much easier speaking the same language while driving my camper van exploring the vast land mass that the USA really is.
ocalhoun
deanhills wrote:
it would take a few lifetimes to cover all of the 50 States.

Not true, I think.
My grandfather visited all 48 contiguous states, and spent a good bit of time exploring most of them... All before he turned 60. (And he's still going, he may get to Hawaii and Alaska yet, though likely not, since he likes to drive an RV wherever he goes.)
debjitbiswas
Well i saw who are coming from abroad they just see poor hungry people why i don't know.
i think they just want to satisfy that there in a good place.
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