Do many Americans go outside the USA?

At a family gathering we began listing countries that at least one of us had lived in or visited. None of our jobs make us travel, yet we scored more than half of the countries in the United Nations.

For example, I have always lived in Ireland, yet I have been to about 15 countries in three continents.

While my family’s score is high, Irish people often go abroad. It is extremely rare to find an adult who has never left Ireland, and almost every adult has a passport.

Now, I have been told that 40 % of Americans do not have a passport, and an equivalent number have never left the borders of the USA. I have also been told that many have never even left their home state.

Is that true, even approximately? It gives an odd impression of a country which wants to be a world leader.

If there is a basis for this, what is the cause?

I don’t know how true the statistic is, but I think it’s accurate to say that international travel is as much a part of American culture as it is for Europeans. One other factor is that the US is big - many states are bigger than a lot of countries in Europe. There’s so much regional variation that going from, say, Texas to California might seem like a foreign country anyway :wink:

I think most international travel done by Americans is probably to Canada, a trip for which a passport is not required.

I have a passport. I have left the borders of the good old USA. I have left my home state many a time.

So, since everyone in the USA has got to be just like me, I’m going to say that it isn’t true.

Whoops.

I meant to say international travel is not as much a part of American culture as it is for Europeans.

The states are big and the country is huge! In Europe, you have countries, in Texas we have counties. From where I am sitting right now, it would take about five hours of solid driving to leave the country (not counting waiting in line at the border crossing). People in interior states take even longer.

By the way, travel to the border region of Mexico does not require a passport. I believe that travel into the interior, however, requires some sort of paperwork.

Cross-atlantic travel is for the most part not an option for “Family travel” for americans. $400 would be considered a VERY cheap transatlantic ticket… more than most can afford on vacation travel. Where a British family might go to Spain for a holiday, an American family might go to say, Florida or California, or even the New Jersey Shore to get their dose of the beach. Its not unusual for families to drive 9-12 hours to get where they’re going – heck, it takes like a week to drive across the country!

Only very wealthy families can take their kids to Europe to vacation because of the cost. Most young adults have their first overseas travel experience through college or sometimes after. Many people would like to travel more but can’t afford it.

I think a larger percentage of the population has been to Canada or Mexico – as noted you don’t need a passport.

Plus, as friedo and Hello Again hinted, on, since we’re such a large country that spans between two oceans we have two major mountain chains, a desert, rich forested areas, flat plains, freshwater lakes (and a saltwater one!), several large cities, un-countable cultural centers and neighborhoods and more.

I’m not trying to brag at all - I think Europe would be a truly fascinating place to live. I think the way this ties in with our “wanting to be a world leader” is that we have the attitude that we have a representational smattering of all parts of the world, and we’re thinking “hey, come visit US!!” :slight_smile:

Anyway, although it would be nice to get over to other continents, most Americans feel we’ve got all the culture we need right here, or at least enough that we’re willing to pay for.

Oh yeah, and we have The Discovery Channel! :wink:

I’ve never gotten around to getting a passport, but have been to Jamaica (twice), the Dominican Republic (twice), the Bahamas, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, and Puerto Plata (twice). You just need a birth certificate and a driver’s license (or similar picture ID).

I guess that I like the beach. :slight_smile:

Bill Bryson mentioned in his book I’m A Stranger Here Myself (I think that was it) how, when he moved back to his native America after 20 years or so in England, he was struck by how big the place is. He had forgotten about that aspect of life in the States.

The sheer distances and costs involved make overseas travel prohibitively expensive in terms of both time and money.

I live in South Carolina, one of the smaller states on the east coast. I can drive four hours east and still not reach the coast. Four hours north and I’m still in North Carolina. Four hours south and I’m in Georgia; west, and I’m in Tennessee. Either way, I’m still in what people call the American Deep South. Contrast that with, say, Paris. Figuring four hours ~250 miles or 400 km, north puts you in London, east puts you in Luxembourg; NE – Brussels (assuming I’m reading this tiny little map correctly).

If you live in Kansas, travel is generally accomplished, I believe, by tornado.
RR

Why are you measuring travel based on the number of imaginary lines on a map you’ve crossed? North America is a lot bigger than Europe. It’s certainly possible for a North American to be just as well-travelled (in terms of distance from home) as a European, without crossing any borders. If I drive from Zurich to Salzburg through Vaduz, does that mean I am better-travelled than someone who drives from New York to Los Angeles?

I’d have to (partially) disagree with the importance of expense; I suspect a family of four would drop more money during a week at Disney World than they would during a week in most foreign countries, even when you factor in airfare. And Australians certainly travel despite the fact that they come from a big, isolated country. There are probably a few other cultural issues at work in America:

  1. Perceived expense: people tend to think of foreign travel as a major luxury. (A friend of mine, who has never traveled outside of the US, was amazed to find out that you could buy a transatlantic plane ticket for under $500; he would have estimated the cost at $2,000 or so.)

  2. Perceived danger, especially in the wake of the terrorist attacks (which happened in America, but hey, people aren’t always rational).

  3. Less vacation time.

  4. Poor education – many people don’t speak a foreign language or know much about other cultures.

  1. America is an incredibly mobile society and many people have close family living quite a distance away. When you live in DC and you have to go visit the parents in San Francisco once a year, it severely lessens the amount of time/ money you have to also take holidays abroad.

The thing about less vacation time is crucially important, btw. Europeans are generally statutorily entitled to at least four weeks off per year - Americans are statutorily entitled to nothing, and a company which gives more than two weeks per year is considered extremely generous.

I don’t know about that. I just ran a search on Travelocity for two adult and two child tickets from Greenville, SC to London, England, and the resulting air fare totaled $5,006.40. That’s a lot of green just to get there and back. (I chose August 2 - 9 to avoid major holidays and to be leaving on a Friday and returning a week later. That seemed to me to be a reasonable enough trial.)

The good part is that I have lately seen some Internet fares that were extremely cheap, well below the $500 you mentioned. That sort of thing makes the trip much more affordable. The only problem with the internet fares I have seen is that you have to claim them within a short period of time. I’m sure a good travel agent could get much better rates, too.

I must confess I hadn’t even considered the vacation time aspect, although it made a difference the one time my wife and I were trying to arrange a trip to Europe.

Regarding education, that seems to have a bit of “chicken-and-egg” to it. Many people didn’t bother to learn another language because they figured they would never be able to afford to go any place it was needed. Now, with a shrinking world, they may not go places because they never learned the language. too many people, I’m afraid, feel that learning a new language when they are older is too difficult.
Just my $.02,
RR

In the time Before Children - for that matter Before Spouse - I was a foot loose and fancy free American and traveled to Greece, Israel, Italy, Britain, Jamaica, Canada, and, Mexico. I also traveled coast to coast hitting a dozen or more states. Since marriage, however, we have not had a real vacation at all. So my guess is it all has to do with time available, aggravation quotient, and waiting till the little dears are older. Money was never the issue, I never had any, but I scraped by because I wanted to do it.

As far as Porp’s assertion that we’re a bunch of travel ignoramuses, well, though it’s true I only know rudimentary Spanish and Italian, and can only curse colorfully in Cantonese (and this skill won’t net me so much as one cup of rice) I have found that quite and polite work wonders when traveling abroad. Despite press to the contrary, I found most people are quite nice.

It is also true that my business doesn’tIn the time Before Children - for that matter Before Spouse - I was a foot loose and fancy free American and traveled to Greece, Israel, Italy, Britain, Jamaica, Canada, and, Mexico. I also traveled coast to coast hitting a dozen or more states. Since marriage, however, we have not had a real vacation at all. So my guess is it all has to do with time available, aggravation quotient, and waiting till the little dears are older. Money was never the issue, I never had any, but I scraped by because I wanted to do it.

As far as Porp’s assertion that we’re a bunch of travel ignoramuses, well, though it’s true I only know rudimentary Spanish and Italian, and can only curse colorfully in Cantonese (and this skill won’t net me so much as one cup of rice) I have found that quite and polite work wonders when traveling abroad. Despite press to the contrary, I found most people are quite nice.

It is also true that where I work, they generally do not have to approve any vacation time requested before an individual works at least two years – buggers

One thing that has not been figured into the equation is the number of Americans, who are afraid of flying. To them there is a whole big country to drive around in, without getting on an airplane. I know nothing about the number of Europeans, who are afraid of flying, but there are three continents available to them, however inconvenient, without getting on an airplane.

There are many Americans, who never travel far from home. My neighbor served in Vietnam, but has probably never been more than 100 miles from home, before or since. The same probably holds true in Europe, but the people on this board do not mingle much with those “stay-at-home” types.

I have no explanation as to the glitch in the above post. Very confuzzled. Apologies.

FWIW, I just checked and Ireland, in terms of size, is somewhere between South Carolina and West Virginia, the 40th and 41st largest states, respectively.

As for the OP, those big oceans and big countries in between the USA and other countries (beyond Canada and Mexico) do present a bit of a challenge for the American of average means. Still, there are a few Americans who manage to escape the USA’s gravity well.

I think the difference in geography is the answer here, really. Americans (or Canadians; I’m Canadian) are probably just as well travelled, it’s just that they don’t happen to cross many bvorders.

I believe, and it is my direct experience, that Europeans do not comprehend that “country” and “foreign” have completely different connotations in North America in terms of scale. I can drive for days, and days, and days more, over thousands of miles, drive from once ocean over a mountain range over deserts and plains and forests, and still be in the same country. Hell, I can drive for a couple of days and still be in Ontario. If I wanted to drive west across Canada, it would take me two days of driving just to leave my province.

The same distance, time, and expense of travel will get a European to ten countries that wouldn’t get an American a quarter of the way across the country. When i was in London last year, English friends of ours were talking about how they’d just been over in France, on a day trip. My cousin, who lives in Belgium, can be in three different countries on a few hours’ drive. That’s physically impossible here. Unless you live right near the US/Canada or US/Mexico border, it’s impossible to just nip over to a foreign country. Casual trips out of the country don’t exist, because there aren’t other countires to casually visit. A short trip gets you to another state, maybe another province. Getting to Spain takes thousands of dollars, days of time, and planning well in advance.

More on the geography thing: Just for fun I took a few country listings from the CIA Fact book:

Austria - slightly smaller than Maine
Belgium - about the size of Maryland
Bosnia and Herzegovina - slightly smaller than West Virginia
Bulgaria - slightly larger than Tennessee
Czech Republic - slightly smaller than South Carolina
Denmarkslightly less than twice the size of Massachusetts
Finland - slightly smaller than Montana
France - slightly less than twice the size of Colorado
Germany - slightly smaller than Montana
Hungary - slightly smaller than Indiana
Ireland - slightly larger than West Virginia
Italy - slightly larger than Arizona
Liechtenstein - about 0.9 times the size of Washington, DC
Netherlands - slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey
Norway - slightly larger than New Mexico
Romania - slightly smaller than Oregon
Russia - slightly less than 1.8 times the size of the US
Spain - slightly more than twice the size of Oregon
Sweden - slightly larger than California
Switzerland - slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey
Turkey - slightly larger than Texas
United Kingdom - slightly smaller than Oregon

The largest Texas county (Brewster) is 16039.8 sq km making it over half the size of Belgium (30,230 sq km), about half the size of The Netherlands (33,883 sq km), and 75% as large as Slovenia (20,253 sq km). I would love to visit outher countries but it is just not financially possible.

NP: Slayer - God Hates Us All

For international travel a travel agency will usually beat all the internet sites. I flew to Rome last spring from Kansas City for $420. I got the tickets from a “bucket shop” - a travel agency that buys tickets in bulk at low rates. You can find these agencies in the New York times travel section - but don’t call and ask if they are a bucket shop, they don’t like the term. I booked the flight 3 months in advance and it was during March, which I don’t think is the real busy season.