Why Don’t More Americans Get Passports?

by brian on March 24, 2010

Since I talked about USA Passport Day 2010, I asked myself why don’t more Americans have passports.

I contacted the US State Department via Twitter @travelgov and they told me that roughly a third of all Americans have passports. Given the US population of about 300 million that’s about 100 million people. So what about the other 200 million?

Americans who don’t get passports usually use one of the reasons below:

Size of the USA and its Immediate Neighbors
Many people cited the size and breadth of options within the US as a reason why some won’t venture beyond its borders. You can see deserts, mountains, beaches, farmland and every type of climate in between. You can visit Puerto Rico (a US commonwealth) or the US Virgin Island (US territory) if you want the Caribbean. Hawaii or even Guam is available if you want to see the Pacific. None of those options require passports. From sea to shining sea, the United States has a lot of options that could have you never your home state, much less the country.

You’ll need a passport now to FLY to Mexico and Canada and the Caribbean, but you can get by with a passport CARD if you’re going to those locations over land or sea.

As Tony Humphrey said, “There is so much available in the USA, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean countries for the average traveller…so who needed a passport.”

From sea to shining sea, amber waves of grain…some won’t leave…
amberwavesofgrain Why Dont More Americans Get Passports?

Photo Credit: Chazoid

Misunderstandings about the Passport Application
Linda Farley wrote, “The vast majority of people that I know think the process is complicated and expensive.”

She relates needing your birth certificate and a friend who had to get her name changed because her parents never officially named her at the hospital. Her first name was legally “BABY”.

Looking at the passport application today, new applicants have to apply in person and have

2 2×2 photos
Proof of citizenship like a birth certificate
Current ID like a driver’s license
Payment
That’s it.

See all the requirements for new applicants for a US passport. Not much to pull together if you’re a functioning member of society.

Lori Iannuzzo, a luxury cruise specialist, is one person who hopes that passports become MANDATORY for everyone. The rules for usage of passports vs passport cards vs birth certificates or other ID are confusing and having everyone have a passport would make travel easier not only for the traveler, but for the travel industry that has to assist them.

Generational Gap
Leif Erikson noted, “Kids are more likely to spend time overseas (and more likely to have a passport) then they (older Americans) are. So it’s changing. I think you’ll find a larger portion of passport holders in the 20-30 something range than older.”

There is probably some truth in that, even though I don’t have any stats to back that up. In an interesting note Champlain College in Vermont is offering to pay for a passport for incoming freshmen if they can maintain a 3.0 average.

Perhaps the old adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is true. If you were not interested in international travel when you are younger, will that change when you get older? Do people wait until retirement, when these days alot of people don’t even know IF retirement will ever come?

Lack of Vacation Days
This is the one I heard most often and I personally believe is the biggest reason. Devon Dudgeon, an American who has lived in the UK for the past few years stated, “Most Americans only get two weeks’ paid vacation. In the UK the standard is 25 days.”

You’re less likely to plan that trip to Australia or Southeast Asia when you’ve only got 2 weeks and it may take 2 days of travel in each direction to even get there. More vacation time for the American worker would require a cultural shift in the mindset of many of us. But I think most would favor it. I mean, what employee would not want more vacation time? Big business on the other hand, might oppose attempts to change that.

This is also why Arthur Frommer called for all Americans to get three weeks paid vacation. That’s a start but won’t get us to European levels of vacation time.

More time needed for this
vacation Why Dont More Americans Get Passports?

Photo Credit: Powi

Passports Used as ID
Julie Ann Schmidt talked about Europeans having passports that are used for ID. British driver’s licenses for a long time didn’t have pictures, whereas American driver’s license do. So Americans can use driver’s license to setup utilities, open bank accounts, etc. Other must use a passport. And if you have a passport already, you are more apt to use it. Americans don’t get a passport until we absolutely need one.

Fear Of – Whatever
Pati Brown said Americans have become fearful of travel (especially post 9/11) where as Brits who grew up with WWII bombings in their cities and terrorist bombings in their subways for years, don’t have that same “fear factor”.

You can lump in fear of a foreign language, fear of foreign currency, just plain fear of the unknown. The new reports around the world certainly don’t help. “Death to America” chants and the feeling that everyone is out to get you certainly would turn off alot of people. Why deal with it? Why risk it?

Just like most things in life, there are two maybe three sides to every story. There is danger all over the world, but the odds of anything happening are small. The gains in personal growth and knowledge of other people far outweigh any overblown risk.

The other fears can be easily neutralized. Fear of language means you get a phrasebook or take a few lessons. Fear of going by yourself means you pick a guided tour.

Perhaps it is the mindset of the individual American. It is not American so it can’t be as good. We are the best nation in the world so why do I need to go any place else. I’m sure some folks out there feel that way and traveling far from home is the farthest things from their minds.

What we all do to ourselves to talk ourselves out of things
fear Why Dont More Americans Get Passports?

Photo Credit: marxalot

My hope is that my fellow Americans will take time and get their passports at the upcoming Passport Day even if they don’t have any immediate plans to travel. It’s good for 10 years and easily allows you to get up and take advantage of the great deals on travel that could quickly go away if the travel industry and world economy recovers.

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Devon Dudgeon March 24, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Great article, Brian. It's always good to look at what's behind the numbers.

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Anonymous March 24, 2010 at 7:56 PM

I think it's a complex set of reasons, but in my opinion the main reason is that many, if not most Americans are smug and satisfied with our country and feel no need to leave for any reason. When I was a young woman in my twenties here in NYC everyone I knew traveled abroad extensively, sometimes a few times a year. Over the years I've talked to young people and asked them why they don't travel. Often times they told me they'd rather spend their money on technology and see the world via the internet. Yes, can you believe that? I'm sure there are many reasons, but I didn't and still don't sense the urgency in younger people to explore the world, find out about new cultures, etc. as I and my friends and acquaintances did.
Fear is another issue, both amoung the younger people and probably boomers and seniors. Post 911 and that episode in Italy with the young woman sentenced to prison, some say quite unfairly, make our people wary of traveling abroad. They hear of arrests and imprisonment for drugs and such and say, hell no, I won't go. :-)
I think it's sad because all I can think of is where to travel to in the world.
One last comment, I wonder how many of those approximately 100 million people with passports are naturalized citizens who take passports because they want to visit their home lands? I think it may be a fair amount and therefore lowering the rate of American born who actually have passports.

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brian March 24, 2010 at 8:32 PM

@Devon Dudgeon
Thanks. I think for most it is a combination of the factors listed.

@Anon
I would agree with you about the smug satisfaction of many Americans, especially when you see how people react to anything that disagrees with their viewpoint.

The risk of dying in a terrorist attack is far less than dying in your car but the sensational nature of those incidents puts people on edge. Some just say why take the risk when they would never say that about doing mundane, far riskier things like driving.

And you make an excellent point about naturalized citizens who were born somewhere else and travel to their "home" country. How many native born Americans out of the 100 million have passports? Great question that I will ask.

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Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 5:51 PM

You forgot an obvious reason: cost. A week abroad is going to cost a minimum of $1500 – $2000, more if you have to first travel to a gateway city such as New York or Los Angeles to begin your trip. A lot of people just don't have that much extra money to spend on vacations.

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brian March 25, 2010 at 7:21 PM

@Anon
True true. The size of the States means you might have to fly a long way just to leave its borders.

There are plenty of ways to spend $2000 for a week abroad. There are also plenty of ways to spend much less than that. That's part of the reason I started blogging about it.

Let's agree that the perception that foreign travel is expensive holds people back. But it is not a certainty in all situations.

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darleneanitascott March 26, 2010 at 10:23 AM

Co-signing with Anon on cost being a factor–at least for poor folk like me–lol!

But overall, I didn't read a single reason I haven't heard (or seen) before…Great analysis of the numbers!

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brian March 26, 2010 at 5:53 PM

@darleneanitascott
Expensive, broke, not cheap – all words/phrases that are relative to the person.

But if you can find the right deal and are motivated enough, you'll find a way to make it happen.

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Anonymous April 13, 2010 at 2:05 PM

The other reason is discrimination or anti-american sentiments lot of foreigners and countries have towards Americans. I was traveling in France where African immigrants were bashing the U.S., but when I asked them if they would like to move there, they said, "heck yeah".
And the lack of due process similar to the U.S. is a very valid reason. Being in a country where you can be imprisoned indefinetely without seeing a judge or being charged with anything is plain terrifying.
If one wants to see the world, the best way is in a group setting, or if you really know someone who lives there. And lot of Americans don't know anyone abroad, and can't afford group settings.

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brian April 13, 2010 at 8:48 PM

@Anon
There are pros and cons to group travel vs. solo. I personally would not say group travel is the best. Being in a group can also bring more attention to the group as a whole. I felt very conspicuous being in Egypt with a huge (120 ppl) group. It is all about your comfort level.

As for the bashers, you'll find that many have family here or wish they were here themselves.

And they are bashing American foreign policy, not you as an individual. There is a difference.

You'll find the VAST majority of people abroad are cordial and friendly once you can meet and talk face to face.

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Adam May 28, 2010 at 2:31 PM

I really have to believe that the main reason is lack of vacation time. Sure, there are many who just have no interest in traveling abroad. Sure, we do have a ton to offer with the fifty states and territories we possess, but traveling to the other side of the world just isn’t feasible when all you’ve ever been used to is a week or two vacation. Even if you do get two weeks vacation per year, most don’t use it all in one chunk leaving them with nothing the other 50 weeks of the year.

I would be really curious to see the percentage of people with 3+ weeks of vacation who have passports. When my wife and I were on our RTW, the “older” (40-50; not retired yet) Americans we met who were traveling all seemed to have one thing in common-a job with 4-5 weeks vacation that afforded them this opportunity. I think many just don’t consider traveling to Asia or Australia or even Europe because of the time constraints to do so.

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brian May 30, 2010 at 6:55 PM

Adam great points. If you have two weeks vacation and traveling internationally, count on 2-3 DAYS just in travel.

I had 4 weeks vacation at my last job and in fact was mandated by federal law to be out of the office for 2 weeks at a time without any contact with the company. So that made it really easy to get lost overseas and not worry about staying in contact with the J-O-B.

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Leigh Shulman May 30, 2010 at 4:30 PM

Noah and I were just talking about this today. His original impression is that many more Americans travel abroad than the 30% who can. He was surprised at that statistic, too.

I think it’s because the people we generally meet while in the US live in large east or west coast cities. Most have the money and/or desire to travel and are constantly in contact with people from other countries, because they live near points of entry.

What if you live in a small town in Arkansas or Wyoming?

Then there’s also the question whether or not people should travel long distances. I mean, is it necessary that people travel to other countries?

All said and done, great topic for a post. I love how expansive you’ve allowed the discussion to be.

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brian May 30, 2010 at 7:02 PM

I’m not surprised that more don’t travel abroad. A lot of people talk a good game but when it comes to actually booking the tickets, many don’t do it for many of the reasons we talked about. I think the percentages are right on.

You must have a natural curiosity and thirst for new experiences to travel abroad when you don’t have an absolute NEED to be there. For many, seeing the Pyramids of Giza on public television or experiencing Carnival in Brazil on the Travel Channel is enough for them and they would never consider going there themselves.

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Leigh Shulman June 15, 2010 at 9:42 PM

On the flip side of that, there are many Americans who travel and go to places that seem to recreate the American experience abroad. Yes, you certainly have to WANT the feeling of strange.

Personally, I crave it. Then also love the subsequent feeling of becoming comfortable in a place that once felt strange.

All that said, I do think many people have an innate curiosity but find other outlets for it. My best friend’s mother loved reading and hearing about travel, but she is also happy to stay where she is. She does amazing work in her community and constantly seeks new experiences there. Her daughter, though, is incredibly well traveled and has just the type of curiosity you describe.

I think, though, many people become complacent in one place and lose the edge my friend’s mother maintains.

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Tim L. June 13, 2010 at 10:28 PM

This issue will be hashed and rehashed a thousand more times, but it should at least be pointed out that we’ve gone from something like 17% to 30% just in the time that the rules were changed to make it necessary for flying to Mexico and the Caribbean. People still go long distances to places where they don’t need one, like the Virgin Islands or Hawaii.

It’s a bit of all these factors, but the main ones are what we have here already and the actual ability of people to afford to fly across an ocean. Europe would love to have the diversity of landscapes we have in just this one country (especially when you throw in Alaska and Hawaii). And let’s face it, for many Americans the idea of being able to afford to drop a few grand on a trip to another continent is just impossible to grasp. It’s a “problem” that only financially comfortable people talk about. Many of those 2/3 without one are more concerned about keeping the bills paid.

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brian June 14, 2010 at 11:16 PM

Europeans speak two languages and cross countries like Americans go from New York to Jersey or LA to Vegas because they have to. The total land mass of Europe is only slightly bigger than the USA. To get diversity, they have to travel. Americans don’t. But all depends on the definition of diversity. Is it diversity in climates or food or people? You can ride the subway at rush hour in NYC and get more diversity than you’d ever imagine. But I don’t think it is the same as traveling there.

Money is always an issue with travel. I just want people who WANT to travel to not be intimidated by the costs, real or perceived.

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Kenneth June 14, 2010 at 8:18 PM

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.

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brian June 14, 2010 at 10:51 PM

Much of understanding comes when we can see someone on their own turf. Empathy comes from travel. That doesn’t mean you’re going to change your ideas, but a little understanding will go a long way toward people being civil with each other.

People around the world think Americans are rich because of two things: TV and movies. They all think we live on gold covered streets with servants. I used to think it was ridiculous that people thought that way until I heard it myself when traveling. But relatively speaking we are richer than a lot of other people. If you make $30K a year and visit a town where the average yearly salary is $4K, you are rich! Wealth is relative to who you are talking to at a moment in time.

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Steve Moran June 15, 2010 at 1:08 PM

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.

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Leigh Shulman June 15, 2010 at 8:32 PM

Steve,

Why not ask why Americans seem not to travel as much? I don’t know that it’s as much in comparison to other countries as self reflection.

As a well traveled person, I’m sure you know the benefits of travel. How it can open your mind, your world and your experience. Why wouldn’t we want more Americans to experience that.

I’m not sure I agree with your descriptions of other countries, though. I loved Canada and didn’t find it to bland at all. Toronto is a fantastic city. Of all the places I’ve been, Toronto is one where I would love to live.

As for the rest, I’ve yet to meet many who fit into the categories you’ve painted. I know many Italians and French people who travel extensively, and my experience living in Argentina has brought me to meet hundreds of people from all over South America.

Perhaps we just travel different paths?

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brian June 15, 2010 at 9:24 PM

I think we compare because the difference is so great. There are a lot of reasons Americans don’t travel. And to a lot of people the reasons are compelling to look at because the ‘relative’ wealth of Americans and ease we have to travel.

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Brian B. June 15, 2010 at 9:33 PM

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.

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brian June 16, 2010 at 8:09 PM

Great name by the way…

I think that travel actually makes you appreciate what you have at home. I know many travelers, myself included, have come home after a long period abroad and waxed poetic about everything great about the Stars and Stripes.

You never realize what you have until you miss it. Same with people, same with your home country.

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Jeff June 16, 2010 at 3:55 PM

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 during the Christmas-New Years holiday. My employer shuts down during 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 isolated individuals that are clueless of the rest of the world? That seems incredibly harsh and, in my opinion, very wrong.

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brian June 16, 2010 at 8:32 PM

I don’t think I said that in my post because I absolutely agree with you. You can be an extremely well-rounded individual without ever leaving your city. You can visit different neighborhoods, eat different foods, visit museums and cultural events, esp. if you’re in a big city. That lack of vacation time really limits us from just getting up and going.

But I will say that traveling helps you see the world and yourself from different angles. Exposure to anything new is bound to open your mind. If you can do that wherever you are (and some people do), I wholly encourage.

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Jeff June 17, 2010 at 9:43 AM

It was more in the comments made about “most Americans are smug and satisfied with our country and feel no need to leave for any reason.” I don’t feel smug and I would like to travel outside the country and see other cultures, but I don’t see that happening anytime in the near future. In the last 10 years I have been forced to take lower paying jobs on two different occasions to stay employed. I spent 6 months each time unemployed before I found another job. And with that I am more fortunate than others I worked with that have been out of work for months. Hearing about how traveling to other countries is such an eye opening experience that everyone must do is a little hard to take right now. Sorry if I have been overly sensitive.

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brian June 18, 2010 at 10:49 PM

No need to apologize. Here’s to hoping in the next year your financial situation becomes a little more stable and you’re able to enjoy the trip you’ve always wanted to take. Try to automate saving too, like I talked about here: http://nodebtworldtravel.com/2010/03/having-problem-saving-money-to-travel.html

Even $10 a week will add up over time. Don’t be discouraged. Just start the process and things will happen for you!

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domnicella June 17, 2010 at 7:17 AM

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.

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brian June 18, 2010 at 10:51 PM

Glad you were able to get that off your chest….

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Graham A. Howarth June 17, 2010 at 8:42 PM

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.

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

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Kevin Post June 19, 2010 at 5:05 AM

“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.

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Aaron J July 24, 2010 at 5:10 AM

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!

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brian July 27, 2010 at 8:36 PM

Aaron, points taken. I think you have articulated what folks who don’t like to travel say. All the reasons you’ve listed are valid and many people feel like you do. But I’ve got to ask, have you ever traveled outside the country, or do you think you’ll be uncomfortable and won’t like it?

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Carlethal August 25, 2010 at 3:43 AM

This is a sad day in America. 93% of America doesn’t have a passport. The reason is lack of knowledge and fear. Americans have been fooled to believe that it is all here and they don’t need to go anywhere else. In America people really on TV and books to experience real life. As people we can’t evolve if we never leave or everyday surroundings. I am part of the 7% that have a passport. I love the opportunities America has but the outside is so much better. When we sleep and dream we dream of our experiences in life. But if you never experience different things you’ll have the same dreams over and over. You can’t speak on foreign if you never experience. We are meant to travel as our souls do. Wake up America the same people who made you this way I see when I travel out the country they just don’t want you to know the truth. This is not the best place in the world it’s just another place to visit like every other place. The best place is in your heart and what it desires to learn and experience.

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brian August 25, 2010 at 9:59 PM

The stat was 20% to 30% of Americans have passports, not 7%.

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Joan September 2, 2010 at 2:28 PM

“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.

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A.M. October 3, 2010 at 8:26 PM

I totally agree about the money and lack of vacation time. I wish we could start a cultural shift for more vacation time. Also, I remember when I went for one job interview during the recession, the COO literally said, “Why have you been unemployed for 6 months?” Hello? Do you not watch the news? It’s called the RECESSION.

I love to travel and I write about travel. I love how you’re promoting travel and encouraging people to look for actual deals. As for those who say, “Why should I travel? We have mountains, beaches, etc.” It’s not all about the climate. I travel because I love meeting new people and learning about new cultures. Sure, go to the beach in Florida or climb mountains in Washington. However, that’s only part of the reason why I travel.

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Ashley October 29, 2010 at 5:56 PM

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.

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A.M. October 29, 2010 at 8:44 PM

How is it faulty? We are a global economy. I would think that the economy recession was more than enough proof that what happens in one country (U.S.) can impact the entire world. That is why it is important to know about what other cultures and countries are doing.

America needs to become more open as a country when it comes to tourism and we should try to show the world that we are not as dumb as they think. There are many people abroad who believe the stereotypes they see on television or online. Not to mention how silly we look when we misinterpret the ways of another culture (like when President Obama was respectfully bowing to the Prime Minister of Japan and many Americans mistaken it for weakness).

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Lyndon November 2, 2010 at 2:44 AM

21 pc of Americans traveling outside their continent to see other cultures sound about right to me and yes I’m a world traveller from London and I agree u dont need to travel abroad to broad minded! And especiallyy if you work hard and have family its not fear but a lack of desire and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the attitude within and that’s independent of whether you travel abroad or not!

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Jen November 2, 2010 at 6:11 PM

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.

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