Thursday, April 13, 2017

Where are the Americans?

I just returned to the Midwest after a month of traveling through Australia and Hawaii. Think koalas, kangaroos, wombats, mountains, beaches and sunshine and you’ve basically summed up my entire journey. However, the most peculiar thing occurred to me when I returned home – I only met one other American traveler during the entire 30 days I was gone.

How is it that I spent a month traveling, 10 days of which were spent in a US state, and I only met one other traveling American?

As a child, the pure idea of travel excited me in ways that I can’t even begin to explain. I left the country for the first time after I graduated high school and haven’t stopped since. College seemed to get in the way of traveling for a few years, but studying abroad helped fill the gap and kept me sane. Since completion of my undergraduate degree I’ve taken up solo traveling and have jetted off to three different continents within the past year. Through travel I’ve met the greatest people, eaten some very exotic foods, experienced cultures different from my own and seen truly magnificent landscapes. 

Traveling is amazing. I try to talk about it, write about it, and inspire others to do it as much as I can. Unfortunately, my love affair with travel and seeing the world has been met with more than a few unflattering responses from those I’ve spoken with. I’ve had more people advise me not to leave the country than to actually leave the United States of America themselves. The advisers in question don’t generally have a lot of travel experience even within my home state. (Trust me; I can tell).

So why don’t more Americans travel? The number of Americans I meet traveling abroad is greatly disproportionate to the population of the US at large. I meet a fair amount of English, German, and Australian travelers, as well as a plethora of travelers from China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and other Asian countries. So what gives? Based on my own experience, here are the top three reasons a lot of Americans don’t travel:

1. Fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change - as great as traveling is, it’s also scary. “I’m in a foreign country, and everyone speaks a foreign language. Do toilets even exist here?!” Let me allay your fears. Yes. Yes they do.

2. No Legal Vacation Requirement. Americans are essentially “slaves to money, then we die”, as so eloquently stated by The Verve. The United States of America is one of the few countries in the entire world that does not require vacation time by law. Some jobs come with vacation time (e.g. PTO), but there is no guarantee of this in the US, and I argue that few people are given enough paid time off to have a proper vacation at all. I had to give up my own job to travel; it wasn’t hard for me to say goodbye. However, many people have other obligations to consider: children, spouses, a roof over one’s head, for example. These obligations become bad excuses to stay home when the government requires people to take a vacation.

3. Little Exposure to Geography or Outside Cultures. And I’m not even pointing fingers at Betsy DeVos! My entire educational journey has seemingly lacked any serious education in regard to geography. Ask your average American to point out Syria on a map and they’ll most likely be dumbfounded. Heck, just ask us to identify any country that isn’t Mexico or Canada. Perhaps growing up I was naive though. I was fascinated by the world and maps and globes. I thought we didn’t need geography classes, because who the heck wouldn’t want to know where Iceland or Laos was in their free time?

I am not trying to take a stab at my fellow Americans, nor should these reflections serve as a reason for non-Americans to point and laugh at our unworldly ways. I share these to expose the problems many Americans face when it comes to travel so that they can be minimized. I would love to see more Americans travel, and I’m sure the world would love to see more Americans travel too. Plus, I hate being the only American representing our country when I travel abroad. 

P.S. – If you travel to Australia like I did, you can absolutely pet a kangaroo!



Lynn Kies is a world traveler and recent graduate of Indiana University. She is a lover of books, animals and running. When she’s not training for a race, she typically spends her time wistfully staring out windows wishing she was a butterfly. She is a dog mom to an over rambunctious ten-year-old beagle mix named Audrey. This year she will be competing in her first Ironman 70.3 with high hopes of surviving. Lynn is originally from the small town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, but currently lives in Indiana.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

In Ireland. Budget airline Norwegian Air recently started new services from the US to Dublin, Cork, Belfast & Shannon & sold 5000 tickets in 6 hours @ circa $69 e/w.. Can you imagine the line/queue to kiss the Blarney Stone?

Lyric Montgomery Kinard said...

And now for a real (not not) comment. I've had the travel bug since I was small. I want to see it all, meet all the people, explore all the places. But you are absolutely right. The high cost of travel, our lack of geographic education, and I'll add news media that seems to think the US is the only country worth covering unless it's a war or terrorism. I've met so many people convinced they will be bombed if they travel abroad. But even in our own national parks, especially the desert southwest parks, I hear far more foreign languages than English being spoken. I do my best to convince people to go. But even for travel bugs like me, we don't have enough time off from work to go like we would like. Two weeks is absolutely nothing.

steve palmberg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve palmberg said...

not all Americans have to travel out of the USA, there are many places in the US...many plan 1 to 2 week vacations just in the USA and see many new, unique place and surprisingly, even different cultures....The USA is expansive to conclusion that Americans are not travelling is not exactly 100% accurate...

Ivor Williams said...

The experience of our American family is just the opposite. Two of them are living in London for a couple of years and rarely a week gies by without friends and family from the U.S. making use if their hospitality

Lola said...

Where I work, managers (and there are a loot of them) have unlimited paid vacation bit it works out for the company because their workload doesn't allow for any

Lola said...

Where I work, managers (and there are a loot of them) have unlimited paid vacation bit it works out for the company because their workload doesn't allow for any

Ujawal Singh said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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