CNN recently posted an article called “Why more Americans don’t travel abroad”. The article states that only 30% of Americans have a passport. In some ways, that’s good news as the percentage has gone up from the low 20s when I last looked at this issue. But most of the increase can be attributed to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative that took effect two years ago, which required Americans to have passports to travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
So why aren’t more Americans getting out there and seeing the world? The article looks at a few points like cost, vacation time and fear of going overseas. Here’s my take on some of those points.
Cost- A passport for an adult is now $135. The passport is good for 10 years, so it’s less then $15 a year. But it’s still a chunk of change, especially when looking at all the other trip costs like flights, hotels, etc. And if it’s a family of four planning a trip, it’ll cost over $400 just to get passports for everyone. But having cheaper passports isn’t going to make the average American hit the road. Unlike other places like Europe where it’s easy to drive through several countries in a day, it’s only possible to get to Canada or Mexico by car easily. To get anywhere else requires getting on a plane or a ship which can quickly get pricey for many folks. If you have time and a little gusto, there’s some ways to get around some of those expenses by using various airline/hotel programs.
Vacation time- For me, this is definitely a limiting factor and it can be for a lot of other folks as well. I don’t know many who have more then 3-4 weeks of vacation unless they’re already in some kind of flexible arrangement or location-independent job. And I know of a few folks who don’t use up what little vacation they do get. The article does point out that many Americans prefer money over leisure time.
This is where I find myself taking a different road then many of my countrymen. I carry no debt and don’t feel a need to keep up with the Joneses or the latest gadgetry out there. If anything, I’m trying to downsize some parts of my lifestyle so I have the means to pursue travel and the other goals on my list. I’m not criticizing anyone who make a different choice then I do. It’s just a matter of different priorities.
Fear- Okay, yes, going into a country where you might not speak the language and or know the culture well can be unnerving. But thanks to travel guides and the Internet, it’s easy to do research and get a feel for the place before going. Besides, half the fun of travel for me is getting to experience new cultures and new perspectives on things. Yes, there are dangers out there in the world, but I also deal with many potential dangers at home. There are few places I would go to because they are “too dangerous”. After my experience in Kenya where I couldn’t drink the water and was in a malarial zone, I came back just fine. With the proper precautions, going almost anywhere in the world doesn’t have to be a dangerous or fearful proposition.
Some other reasons I’ve heard for people not travelling include having to raise children first or just not being interested at all. The children issue is a challenge, but there’s plenty of folks out there like Soul Travelers 3 or Man Vs. Debt who have taken small children aboard for long periods of time.
So, do you have a passport? Or if not, why not? I’m curious what other people’s view on the issue are.