Why is Traveling Abroad so Difficult for Americans?

Provided by Sherra Jones

Statistics reported by the Travel and Tourism Industries indicate there were 61.5 million trips outside the United States in 2009, down 3% from 2008.  About 50% of those trips were to either Mexico or Canada, destinations that didn’t require a passport until 2007.  Because of the new requirement for American and Canadian travelers to present documents showing citizenship when entering the United States, the number of American passports has spiked.   Yet 30% travel to other countries is low compared to Canada’s 60% and the United Kingdom’s 75%.

Americans’ lack of interest in international travel is attributed to a few key factors:

Cultural and geographical diversity

Gary Arndt, author of everything-everywhere.com noted that he can go to any number of different ethnic enclaves within the city of Los Angeles, for example, and get a taste of culture without spending much money or time.  The same goes for many other parts of the country.  However, even with pockets of regional culture, the true experience is not the same as visiting that country.

Skepticism and ignorance

Some of our skepticism is attributed to negative media reports about the world. For example, Nicaragua always draws negative connotations because of the political and civil unrest covered by the news.   Arndt points out that foreign countries generally don’t make it into the media for doing good things, just for natural disasters or bad news.  Hence, people develop a lot of fears about international travel. “Not taking the leap is comforting, because this is the American life”, said Matthew Kepnes, international traveler and creator of NomadicMatt.com, a blog chronicling his travels and observations. 

Work Culture

We Americans work hard in high school, go to college, accrue a load of debt and get a job right away to work it off, Arndt said.  The United States doesn’t promote extended vacation.  A work, work, work mentality makes it much harder to leave.  Those who do receive vacation time don’t use it all, and those who do seem to take shorter, more frequent trips  whereas workers in mainland Europe receive between six and eight weeks of vacations.

Cost and logistics

Americans have to be convinced that international travel is affordable.  The exchange rate is more favorable for Americans than it has been in recent years especially Europe.

The Office of Travel and Tourism Industries reported that the 30.3 million who traveled overseas for vacation in 2009 spent an average of $2,708 each—including airfare, lodging and other expenditures.  Average airfare per person was $1,177.

Also, time is money for some Americans.   The United States is so big that a flight from one state to another could take just as much time as a flight to Europe whereas access to Paris or Madrid, or any European city is easier.

Cultural shifts are not easy and changing the mindset of international travel will take time.  However, to advance in this society, we have to change because we have to do business with all cultures.

Article source: CNN, 2/4/11

Sherra Jones is the travel expert for Cuisine Noir Magazine and The Culinary Scoop.  For questions, contact her at traveldetailsbysj@gmail.com.

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