Why Don’t Americans Travel? Here are 7 Reasons…

I’ve been traveling around India for 7 weeks now and I have only met one single American person.  I’m not kidding you.

Not only does this happen in India, but all over the world.  I almost always meet a Brit, an Aussie, a French, a Spaniard, a Dutch, or even a Korean person before meeting an American.   This is not by choice, but simply because they aren’t around.

So then, Why Don’t Americans travel?

Before I dive into this post, I’d like to say that I was born and raised in the U.S.A, and I’m damn proud to be American.  It’s my home country.  It’s the culture that I was born into.  It’s where all of my good friends and family live, and I will always be a proud American.  I consider myself very lucky to come from a country with endless opportunities.

However, time and time again, I fail to meet my fellow Americans when traveling around the world.  And it really makes me upset.  So I decided to investigate why…

I first got the idea to write this blog post after not meeting one single American during my 2-week trip around Myanmar in January this year, and then after this trip in India, I just had to write this post.

Red White and Blue, WHERE ARE YOU? 

Here are 7 reasons that I came up with for why Americans don’t travel the world. Please comment with your thoughts at the end! 

*Discmalimer:  The majority of this post is speaking about the general population of America.  It’s likely that if you’re reading this and you’re American, then you don’t fall into the category of “Americans who don’t travel.”   

1. 65% of Americans don’t have a passport

That number of 65% is vague and keeps changing, but approximately 6.5 out of 10 Americans don’t have a passport. This means that only 110 million Americans (out of 350 million) even have the option to travel abroad.

Compare this with other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, The UK, and The Netherlands, where upwards of 75% of citizens have passports.

Out of the 7 reasons listed in this post for “Why Americans Don’t Travel,” this reason is the only fact.

And it’s my #1 reason for why Americans don’t travel… because they simply can’t.

2. America has everything! .. Right?

The U.S.A. is massive and there are many places to travel domestically, so why bother to travel internationally?

In the opinion of many Americans, the U.S.A. sure does have it all: beaches, forests, national parks, wonders of the world, mountains, prairies, deserts, oceans, tropical sands. There are unlimited places to explore around the country.   And I agree that this is true, because I’ve been to 45 states and I still don’t feel like I’ve seen much of America.  But the truth is, the world is so freaking big and there is SO much more to see than just 50 states.

Furthermore, it’s easier and more convenient for Americans to relax on the beach in California or Florida, than say The Philippines or Bali.  Likewise, it’s much easier to find and enjoy Chinese food in NYC’s Chinatown, as opposed to experiencing the authentic cuisine on the land itself.

Staying in America requires less thinking and planning.  It’s more convenient. It doesn’t require adjusting to a new culture, language and currency. And frankly, some of the beaches and national parks in America are among the best in the world, which is why Americans choose not to leave.

3. Ignorance

It’s amazing to me how the USA has over 350 million people and it tries to be a trend setter and a superpower to the rest of the world, yet most of us don’t give a shit about what’s happening outside our borders. I know that I am generalizing, but this is absolutely true for the majority of Americans. 

I noticed this a lot during my recent trip home to Arizona after 14 months away from American soil while I was teaching English in Korea.    When I turned on the news at home, I saw more state-local news than national or world news.  Most of us aren’t educated about anything happing in the outside word.  Also, I noticed that every time the news mentioned an international story, it was almost always negative.  Like a terrorist attack or a mass killing.

Furthermore, to go along with ignorance of Americans, I can guarantee that the majority of them can’t even point to Myanmar or Cambodia on a map.  I know this because I asked my friends when I was home, and they had no idea.

I wouldn’t be surprised if many Americans couldn’t point out Russia on a map, either.

4. Fear

All we hear about on the news is constant Anti-American threats, riots, crimes, murders, and shootings all over the world.  Violence. Hatred. Horror Stories. 

And because of this, I really don’t blame Americans for being scared of the outside world, because everything we hear about the world is negative.

I think that all of this negativity has made a significant impact on the way that Americans think about foreign countries.  For example, whenever I told my American friends that I’m going to India or Vietnam (for example), they immediately assume that it’s unsafe, dirty, and dangerous.  They start telling things like, “Watch out for ebola,” or “Don’t trust foreign doctors,” or “Don’t talk to strangers.”  It’s all nonsense. And I had to explain to them that ebola is in Africa, not Asia.

To be quite honest, I feel safer in most countries than I do in when I’m at home in the USA.  When I lived in Korea, a murder is virtually unheard of because Korean culture has enormous respect for each other.  The police there don’t even carry guns on them because it’s that safe.  I’m not even kidding!

Another part of me understands why Americans are so scared to travel.  And that’s because we are probably the most hated country in the world.  There are more Anti-American threats everyday then anywhere that I can think of.

Terrorist attacks like 9/11 also scared the living crap out of everyone.  Its impact is still keeping people within American borders today.

I just wish that Americans were better informed about the world, because then, they might be more inclined to explore other cultures.

5. Lack of Languages

82% of Americans can only speak English. (cite)

Compare that with over half the population of the EU, who can fluently speak two or more languages.   I have several friends who can speak 5+ languages.  I even know one guy from Luxembourg who can speak 7 languages fluently!

In the American schooling system, we are mostly taught Spanish (sometimes French, German or Chinese).  However, unless you choose to study abroad or travel to these countries, then it’s essentially useless to know the language because everyone speaks English in America.

And if you want my opinion, I think we only learn Spanish because we need to communicate with the large Spanish-speaking population in our country, NOT because we have intentions to travel to Latin American or Spain.

I do realize that the entire world speaks English, so there is less of an incentive for us to learn other languages.  But not knowing other languages gives people less motivation to travel and explore new cultures.

6. Too Expensive…

Americans think travel is too expensive.

But it’s a myth!

Sure, the USA is located far away from other countries, so plane tickets may be more expensive than say for Europeans, who are more connected to the world by lcoation.   But aside from plane tickets (which are cheaper today than ever before), travel is very cheap.  And luckily, now you can fly to Europe for $99!

On my recent trip around Myanmar, I was spending about $1 for every meal.  I got a 1-hour traditional Burmese massage for $3.50.  In India, I’ve been renting motorbikes to explore all day for $3.   I got a haircut and beard trim for $1.35 and I bought a new pair of sandals at a market for $0.60 cents.

Need I say more?

The truth is that most of the world is cheaper than the U.S.A. (Except some European Countries and Maybe Japan).  The combined expense for a two-week vacation to South East Asia can easily be cheaper than a two-week resort stay in Miami.

7. No Gap Year

American society doesn’t promote taking a gap year in school to travel.

Instead, we work hard throughout high school to get into a good college. Then when we are out of college, we immediately find a job to start paying off our tens-of-thousands of dollars in student loans and debt.  Then we save up to buy a house and a car.

The so-called American Dream.

Other countries like Australia, Israel, New Zealand, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom heavily promote taking a gap year after high school or college to see the world.   We should adopt this policy!

Moreover, once we enter the work force, we are essentially trapped.  That’s because a typical American work contract provides little vacation times (usually 2 weeks per year).  So inevitably, it becomes harder and harder to travel with every passing year.

As for as the foreseeable future, I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

And lastly, I’ll throw in my two cents.  

In the eyes of many Americans, they are way too concerned about making as much money as they can rather than enriching themselves in experiences (not only travel related).  And before they know it, they are in their 30s with 3 kids.

When it’s all said and done, you’re going to remember that amazing week that you spent in Japan much more than your new 3D TV that you spent $5K on.

If this kind of lifestyle is for you, then that’s great. You are absolutely allowed to spend $5K on a new TV if that make you happy.   You are able to live the life that you want to live.

But if thats the case, then STOP sending me emails and tweets saying “How can you afford to travel so much?”  and “Why are you living the dream?” 

Guys – You can take advantage of the countless opportunities that are available to you.  I was so fed up with answering all your emails about this, that I wrote an entire blog post titled, “I’m NOT Living the Dream, and Here’s Why.”

What are your thoughts?   Please Comment below!

100 thoughts on “Why Don’t Americans Travel? Here are 7 Reasons…

  1. These are powerful points and I agree 100%! I have lots of people try to give me reasons that they can’t travel, but I truly believe that if we want to travel, we can make traveling a priority and it will happen!

    Thanks for the awesome points!

  2. What a crock. You won’t meet many Americans in India, because India SUCKS! But when your country is bigger than Europe, why would you not explore your home country first? And there are a lot of parts of Europe that are just a mess. Do I really want to mingle now with hundreds of thousands of muslims who hate Americans? NO.

  3. Im in LAX coming home from thailand.

    I used google translate to get over the language barrier.

    No one attacked me and I saw a lot of culture.

    I wont be traveling outside the u.s. for some time now and Ill tell you why.

    1) numerous people charged me more money than was agreed upon. I was charged 135 dollars for one load of laundry (usd) no rush service. A few cabbies jack on 50-100 baht more than theyre supposed to here and there and send it through grab taxi expecting you to not care or understand.

    2) ive learned asians are super rude to white people. Talking shit right in front of you, cutting in lines to the point you have to put an arm in to block the little trash pandas from jumping in front of your girlfriend.

    3) theyre incredibly loud and have no personal space boundries.

    More reasons, Im jist too laxy to type on my mobile currently.

    Moral of the story, I tried, it wasnt worth it. You wanna spend time in a 3rd world country where they throw their own trash and excrement in the streets go right ahead. I choose to travel the beauty of the u.s. might cost more… but not as mu h as the two plane tickets and the 24 hours there and back flight time. Hotel fees, taxis, vat fees and so on.

  4. My opinion is this, if you like to travel then do it, but don’t be condescending towards others who don’t. As a liberal I’ll admit there are many deliberately ignorant people in America, but I don’t feel that’s the main reason many Americans do not travel. This blog and most of the posters on here seem to imply the ‘average’ person comes from a relatively privileged background, got a four year college degree, works a 9 to 5 white collar job and has all of this free time and money to just travel the world. I bet most of these posters never even did a hard day’s work let alone struggle just to eat every day.

    Furthermore, so what if many Americans do not want to travel to a foreign country? How does this make them ignorant? There are many ways people can have meaningful experiences such as helping other people, art, music, hobbies, crafts, hiking, etc without foreign travel. I’ve only traveled a few times but my most meaningful experiences did not come from that. It’s your mindset, motivation, intentions and attitude that matters the most no matter what you do in life. Furthermore, what’s so wrong about the appeal of having a nice vehicle or house, things that I’ll use much more than my travel experience? What’s wrong with focusing on a better life? The fact is I’ll spend far more time in my nice house in the countryside than I will in India or France. My travel experience will not feed me a hot meal, land me a ride to work, give me shelter, etc. Perhaps growing up poor simply made me enjoy the simple things in life.

    I love playing chess, but I don’t ridicule others about not liking to play it. I love playing guitar, but I don’t ridicule others who don’t play. I don’t feel that I’m a more enlightened or informed person because of my habits but I perform certain activities because I actually enjoy doing them. People who truly enjoy traveling do not act condescending towards others nor claim they’re more enlightened than those who don’t. The attitude towards Americans on here makes me glad more of us don’t travel. Talk about ignorance. Traveling, embracing multiculturalism, being lingually inclined, etc does not make you a better person. How many of you can build an alternator from scratch in a machine shop? I guess this makes me more enlightened than most of you here then. There’s nothing wrong with traveling but there does appear to be something wrong with many people who do travel. I hope the author does not take my post personally because I was condemning a particular attitude, not any single person.

  5. I have traveled extensively throughout Europe. Do i think im more intelligent than the average american? no, traveling doesnt make u smarter or change your life. i think its very simple minded to think because you are an American who hasnt travled outside the country that you are ignorant. Every where i went in Europe i met hoards of locals who had not left their own country. America is a huge place with so much to offer, you could never see all of it. Traveling is not cheap, i had to save for 5 years straight to go on my 2 month long trip…which meant i had to leave my job as well. I think articles like this are totally stuck up and simple minded. In no way is anyone better because they have traveled. i think this article just breeds the stereotype that americans arent smart about the rest of the world….u do realize most europeans couldnt point out a certain state on the map, how is that any different than someone not being able to point out a different country? traveling is fun but it doesnt change who you are. you can spend time in these cheap 3rd world countries but you are never going to really be part of the culture you are there just taking advantage of the poor people who inhabit the place. As far as Europe….its 2nd America.

  6. Have you ever visited anywhere in Canada?
    I mean, I`m biased because I live here, but some places are really sweet and I hope you visit here one day!
    Good luck on your future travels and you really feed into my love of travelling!
    Great blog!

  7. As an American, I always had the fear of traveling. I speak English and I am currently learning French. One of the reasons I feel as if I shouldn’t travel is because of the fear of going on planes. And the other reasons is that “I feel” as if so many countries dislike Americans, if not all the countries, there’s no point in traveling.

  8. Americans are, for the most part, disliked worldwide.
    I know this because during a three year trip around the world I learned early that identifying myself as not American opened many doors and completely changed my interactions with citizens of foreign countries for the better.

    1. My 2 Cents: I am so tired of hearing about how Ugly Americans are. After going to a resort or two like Cancun people think their experts. I found Brits, Aussies, and Brazilians conduct themselves far worse. (Sorry guys just been my experience.) I hear some bad things about Chinese tourists as well but haven’t had any persobal experience with them.

    2. Don’t listen to this ass clown. Anyone who judges you on shallow items like race, religion nationality, and politics is not worth your time.

  9. Hi! I’m really excited about your text, because it’s giving me so many answers!! I always wondered “where are THE AMERICANS???” because I travel a lot and I met Americans only ONCE at the cooking class in Tuscany. That’s amazing how honest, yet polite you are. By the way, I’m from Poland and I’m 16 so I’m really sorry for mistakes in this comment. I just wanted to say that it’s really amazing that you were raised between people who don’t travel and tell you not to do it, but you kept living your dream and now – you are rich in experiences. I hope that in the future I’ll be able to meet Americans abroad the USA and talk to them because you all guys are such a understanding and funny people. And also teenagers like me don’t have too much opportunities to show our English abilities so every chance to speak with American or English people is really exciting! Anyway great post! 🙂

      1. It is not a myth that traveling is expensive, it is very expensive if you actually want to go somewhere nice and not some shit hole like Myanmar that you mentioned. For the most part most Americans would be interested in going to Western Europe and the airfares to Western Europe are not cheap at all my wife and I did a little research on how much a vacation to France would cost for a couple of weeks and it was going to be at minimum including airfare $5,000. Another reason a lot of Americans don’t wish to travel abroad or even travel that much. Is that it’s a giant pain in the ass! You have to make a long drive in many people’s cases to get to the airport then take a long flight somewhere many people including myself hate flying then when you get there you have to figure out what you’re going to do expensive hotels expensive meals inconvenience for not knowing the language etcetera. Why be bothered with all of that there’s plenty to do here in America.

        1. Right David Johns. Who would want to go to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower when they could go to South Dakota and see the “World Famous” Corn Palace?

  10. Hi Drew. I’m your neighbor to the North, from Vancouver, Canada. I really like your posting. It makes much more sense to me now as to why I don’t see Americans traveling abroad. I’m a truck driver, I’ve been doing long haul into USA from Canada actively for 2 years. I love traveling inside North America, I see many places that the average person doesn’t get to see…but I’ve also traveled throughout the world as well. We also have “gap” year in Canada.

    Actually most people who I went to high school with, roughly 85% of them traveled outside of Canada & USA to many other countries. To myself, not judging here, but people who are not traveled, not educated about the world, cannot really have an open positive conversation with you, because your so knowledge based about the big world we live in…sure some places are dangerous, actually there are more chances for someone dying in America first before any country out there….due to Americas gun laws, which is the problem.

    Being a Canadian, raised in Canada…in our schools, when we are educated at a young age, we are taught the world is a wonderful place. Go out there and explore the world….that is the best education I could ask for. Traveling abroad is not for the rich, it’s available to anyone, it’s how bad do you want it…

    Also, Any Americans on here reading this, please stop using our Canadian Flag to go traveling, be proud of your own country….Canadians wear flags to represent Canada & the world loves Canadians, Americans…be patriot, wear your own flag.


      1. lol an american using a canadian flag? thats the stupidest thing ive ever heard. You can keep your maple leaf ….we dont want it

    1. Hey Resh, Why don’t you guys stop wearing your maple leafs in your back packs??? Seriously, it smacks of “Don’t give me grief; I’m not American.” Why don’t you be Patriots and defend your Canadian virtues when confused for a Yank???

  11. Travel is wonderful. However, it entails many costs beyond simple airfare and hotels. Travel documentation, such as visas and passports, are not free- they cost both time (months to process) and money ( $110/ per passport, not exactly cheap.) Then there are the vaccinations if you are going to destinations off the beaten path, the cost of changing currency, fees to to change tickets, luggage fees, duty fees, etc. Also, I wish to politely point out that if you are a young, single woman there are countries where it simply is not safe for you to travel by yourself. Money and, yes, safety concerns are very valid and true reasons why some Americans find it easier to travel in their own country.

  12. Hey! Great post! Would love to travel (have seen most of Northern Europe and East Asia) but I have a question- the problem is the visa. I’m an Indian as you know, the requirements are more onerous. Is it just a mental block I have lol? Thank you and have a great trip!

  13. But how do you pay for all your travels!? I’m a broke college student. I work but all my money goes to paying rent and bills. I think a lot of Americans find themselves in a similar situation where money is tight and traveling is not a priority. You must be either extremely lucky or extremely loaded to have been able to go everywhere you’ve gone.

    1. I am not loaded and I don’t take a penny from my parents. I taught English in Korea after college, and I worked my butt off blogging for 2 years, so now I get sponsored by travel companies who pay for my travels. I have no rent or any bills to pay.

      1. Hi, Drew. I think it’s really awesome that you’ve found a way to travel so much despite not being wealthy. However, I think it’s important for you to recognize that the opportunities you have been afforded are not and cannot be open to everybody. Travel companies won’t sponsor every non-wealthy American in the country. There are only so many teaching abroad jobs. Your particular path is only open to a fortunate few, even though you may not feel that way because of how hard you worked to be able to take it yourself.

        Most Americans must find a way to pay for their own travel, and many have no choice but to pay bills, and for many, travel is an unaffordable luxury.

        How do you suggest an American earning $10/hr, who either can’t afford to go to college or did go and is now saddled with student loan debt (but still couldn’t find a better paying job), is supposed to come up with the money for travel? This is a genuine question.

        1. Hey Ashley — I appreciate your comment. But any American working for $10 an hour can start a blog (just like I did) and build up their following if they are motivated enough. You have to have the desire to make it happen and put in the hours, which most people aren’t willing to do

      2. Oh so all of your expenses are paid for so you’re not even living in the real world. No wonder it traveling is so much fun for you hell it’s free!

  14. Hi Drew,
    I’m actually doing a Call to Action speech to convince my classmates to travel abroad at some point in their lives, could you help point me in the direction of your sources? As much as I want to just use your blog, my professor wants sources…

    Thanks in advance,


  15. The article was really interesting. As a person who spent a study abroad in America, living/ studying in England, and originally from Korea, I have always been wondered why Americans don’t travel outside of their country and they are obsessed with being successful. I think it is partly because of the culture and the size of america is huge so you dont really need to go outside of the country to go on a holiday. European people are generally travel a lot even though they do not have a well-payed job. It’s part of the culture. They might work in a restaurant but they could easily go on a holiday to Spain, Italy, and even they think they could save up and go to Thailand. and the social security system in Europe is so much more secure than it is in America. In America, to get health insurance and financial security, you need to be successful and therefore you can’t really take holidays as that will make them falling out of the whole competitive society. Whereas in Europe, health care system is usually free, you could go to university with the loan from the government (if you don’t have enough income to pay it off, you dont need to pay it back), and it allows people to be more free of being successful in their career to have a secure life. Korea is bit like America in many ways as it is really competitive to survive in the society but people value to go travel while they are in university. I have traveled South East Asia for a month and the accommodations for a month I almost payed $600 all together. It could easily be three nights in one of the resort hotel in Florida and I told to my American friends that you could actually could travel cheap if you want to and they didn’t really believed that. In the News, they don’t talk about world news or what’s going on at the moment in the world. In general, Europeans just casually talk about politics and what governments do while drinking or partying. It is not weird thing to discuss but Americans don’t seem to be interested in politics and international news, which is shame. anyway your article made my thoughts clear about my year experience in America. I have traveled 17 countries and still on going. I’m glad that I met another fellow world traveler!

  16. I agree with you, traveling is a powerful mind opener.
    I like the fact you say it like it is even though you are American.
    Would the fact that USA is one of the countries with the least amount of paid leave, or any leave for that matter, also be a factor?

    1. With all due respect, articles like this really get on my nerves. As an American who has traveled to nearly twenty countries, I love to travel abroad. That being said, it IS expensive, even if you travel to SE, where you can get an inexpensive hotel. That being said, with a company to run, vet bills for a sick cat, savings to put away for a rainy day and a future house…international travel sometimes has to take a back seat. You may think it’s “cheap” to travel abroad, and you can find good deals – for one person. Add on the cost of airfare for a spouse and children, and suddenly you’re talking about thousands of dollars. Finally…maybe some people don’t want to go abroad. I have many friends who are smart, very well educated, who have never been abroad. One is a marine biologist, the other a whiz chemist. Doesn’t mean they’re ignorant. It just means they don’t have some of the same interests that I do. Fair enough. To each their own.

      1. Hi Chad, thanks for your commment. I agree with your points, and travel isn’t for everyone. I intended this post for my demographic, which is 16-25 aspiring millenial travelers. To each their own, I agree!

  17. My wife and I take an international trip every year. We rarely exceed $5,000 US dollars total for airfare, Airbnb, food, transportation, as well as a dogsitter. It’s only expensive if you let it be.

  18. Interesting read, if not narcissistic & self-righteous. I say that because I count myself among those you aim to chide: an American citizen who has never traveled abroad…and has zero desire to do so.

    I’m not sure of what the intent was in your musings. I’m inclined to believe that at least part of your intentions were for your entry to be seen by someone like me and thus motivate them to change their mind about international travel. If so, you’ve failed with me.

    Calling those who have no wanderlust “ignorant,” “afraid,” and “poor/cheap” smacks more of bullying than it does motivating. Why is it so hard to accept that some people…who may not be able to find Cambodia on a map…who may want to own a passport…who only prefer to communicate with native English-speakers…who may take seriously the fact that their nationality may bring them harm abroad…may avoid traveling?

    I can tell you one thing for certain; if traveling extensively as you have will turn me into an insufferable, self-righteous douchebag who clings to moments to brag about the countries he’s visited in order to seem relevant to the world, then I’ll just stay in my little corner of the world.

    1. Thanks for the comment Matt, Drew doesn’t seem to appreciate your constructive criticism. This is very narrow minded view of America backed by more speculation then fact.

    2. I agree Matt. i have traveled outside of the USA, but just to the Caribbean and Canada. I have been to 48 of the 50 states many times, but there is so much more to see here in the USA and my own state – that I have no desire to go to Europe/Asia/Africa/etc.

      If that makes me the ignorant American – so be it.

      1. Please stay at home watching Fox News…it is people like y’all who make me ashamed of my fellow Americans.

  19. Hi, I am Fatima from Bosnia&Herzegovina and I really liked the post. I was always wondering why Americans don’t travel a lot. Back in my highschool we had English Summer School, where students from the USA used to teach us English language. It was unforgettable experience, and I learned a lot, language and about the American culture. It is always good to learn sth new. But I was surprised that their friends, family etc.thought that my country was unsafe and that the war was going on here. I just could not believe that they didn’t know such a thing, because the war ended here 20 years ago!! And despite our tough political situation, we live in a beautiful country. And I would like to travel to America someday because i found it very beautiful. Thanks

  20. This blog is way too anecdotal – based on your experience in India, really. I grew up going to Greece every summer since I was 4 years old (almost 4 decades ago). 1) Airline prices were way way cheaper then (ticket to Greece than was under $1000; now $1500-1800 during summer); 2) the US dollar was way stronger in most European countries (pre-Euro) – $100 went way farther in the pre-Euro days. It makes more sense for me and my friends to travel to countries closer to the United States than India or Europe because of time and money – so we travel to Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, etc. 3) There are so many incredible places to travel to in the United States as well because of its vast size – I’ve traveled to many European countries, but want to finally start traveling in the U.S. – spent a money going to the Grand Canyon. So, a Frenchman traveling to Switzerland isn’t that far and doesn’t cost that much via the train- same as an American traveling from Illinois to say Indiana or Ohio.

  21. Just to head off people who will like to dismiss my thoughts on Americans traveling with the assumption that I am some provincial, narrow-minded, ignorant, fat American who doesn’t travel, I would like to point out that in the last seven years that my boyfriend and I have been together, we have traveled extensively. We would travel more if we had the money to do it. We have been together to Ireland and then a few years later to Switzerland and France and also to Mexico but just to get antibiotics without a prescription. I have been to North Africa without him. He has been to Australia, Israel, and Afghanistan for work. Before we met, I had been to Germany, Japan, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, England, Jamaica, Mexico and North Africa (some of these places more than once). He had been to Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Iraq. We have both lived at least more than a year abroad.

    So that being said, I think it is very clear that we have traveled pretty extensively and have some idea of what it is like for Americans to travel. My travels have spread over several decades. In my opinion, it is much nastier for Americans to travel now than it used to be.

    I know when traveling that several unpleasant things are going to happen. I am going to hear my country trashed. Foreigners love to boast about how Americans are fat, stupid, and have a bad society–they especially like to rag on our gun ownership. They all seem to think they know everything about America because they have seen American movies and tv shows. They think they know more about my country than I do, yeah, because they saw it on tv or the internet so it must be true!

    I speak fluent Japanese and some French. When traveling in French speaking countries, I expect to use my French but the locals want to use me for language practice even when their English is worse than my French. It is rude and annoying. They want to use me to show off because speaking English is a status thing in other countries but they also can’t stand my country and want to insult me to my face for being an American. How does this make me feel about traveling? It makes me feel a little hostile and guarded. It was NOT like this a couple decades ago. A couple decades ago, I could travel overseas and just blend in without constantly being accosted by assholes trying to practice or show off their English on me or constantly critiquing my country. Even having gone back to some of the identical locations and met some of the exact same people, I can say that this is a real not imagined change. People who 20 years ago were more than happy to speak with me in French, recently started trying to switch to English, clearly to show off to everybody around them because speaking English has become the thing to do. If you can’t do it, in most cultures now it means you aren’t educated. So every asshole who knows five words of English has to try to force me to speak to them in English. Annoying, annoying, annoying.

    What happened to the days when the French would refuse to speak to you if you couldn’t speak French? Not anymore, as soon as I start speaking French, they can’t wait to practice their English. My Dad says that they only do that if you can speak some French to them but they will pretend not to speak French if you only know English. He says that if you don’t speak any French then they are still offended that you would expect them to know English but you can’t be bothered to know French. I am not so sure that my dad is right about that. I think he is familiar with the old France. But I’m not sure.

    Another unpleasant thing about traveling abroad lately is that they assume the culture they see on tv is the same as what I do, like, and listen to. I have often heard horrible American music for the first time when traveling. Last summer I heard that horrible “Happy” song overseas. I still don’t know who the artist is or what the actual name of the song is but it says the word happy so much and has a mindless pop beat that seems made to appeal to five year olds so I call it the happy song. I heard a preteen brother of a friend bopping to it on the computer and I said that the music teenagers listen to makes me want to poke my eardrums out. He said, “But this is an American song!” I said, “Oh, yeah. I never heard it.” He was like, “But it is American music and it is very popular so how can you not have heard it.” I explained to him that American is a very large and diverse country with many distinct regions and distinct lifestyles so the music and culture that is presented by Hollywood is often not representative of what large parts of the country listen to or how many people choose to live.

    Most European countries are tiny relative to America. I would say that as much as the Dutch resent being identified with German culture, there is much less difference between the lifestyle, habits, and beliefs of a Dutch versus a German person than there is between people in different regions of America. I don’t think this is something Europeans can really understand. They also do not understand the ideological differences between the South and the North or between Republicans and Democrats. But since they are all bouncing their heads to the happy song and wearing blue jeans and speaking crap English, they think they know it all about who we are and what we are. I am not sure there is anything so much annoying as somebody thinking they know a lot about you when they really do not know anything.

    Hearing rap and hip hop overseas so much is a personal dislike of mine. In Europe and North Africa at least, it seems I can’t get away from garbage rap and hip hop music. Worse than hearing it, they all assume that I should like it. I was in a taxi in North Africa surrounded by women covered from head to toe in wrappings and carefully not showing their hair out of modesty and the taxi was blasting the absolute most vulgar rap music with graphic and explicit lyrics about sex. I commented to the people I was with that the music was extremely sexual and revolting and that I found it hypocritical of them to play this kind of music in their country while having holier than thou, extremely prescriptive standards for women covering up for supposed modesty. I have definitely started calling people in other countries out on their hypocrisy. “They told me, what do you mean? This is American music. You all listen to this music.” I explained that what they see on tv and what reality is in America is not the same thing. A lot of Americans do not listen to and do not like rap and hip hop and do not want to hear vulgar sexual lyrics. I had to explain to them about the wide range of cultures within America and about the liberal Hollywood bias that results in American movies and music representing a very skewed demographic.

    Foreigners in Europe and and North Africa all also seem to think they know everything about our politics and what America and Americans “should” be doing. I have to frequently point out to them that they don’t really know poop about what is actually going on in America or why it is going on. I haven’t been to Japan recently, but I doubt I would get much commentary about our politics and society from the Japanese because they never cared that much and probably still don’t really care too much what we are doing unless it directly affects them. I watch a lot of Japanese tv, including interviews with Japanese people and educational programming plus talk to Japanese people when I meet them anywhere and so I think I still have at least some small idea of what is happening culturally there and I would say it seems to me that they still don’t spend too much time thinking about or commenting on American culture as far as how our society functions.

    The Japanese do tend to say we are fat but I never get a self righteous tone about it from them. It is more just a statement and compared to them, we are bigger people. Even if we were all anorexic, our bone structure would still be bigger.. So I don’t mind when they say it. Europeans on the other hand tend to call us fat as an insult and say it with an air of arrogance. The European attitude in calling Americans fat is offensive as is the fact that many of them are fat themselves. When I hear them comment about Americans being fat, I often look at them and say, “Have you taken a look around your own country lately? Plenty of you are fat.”

    Another popular topic at least in Europe and North Africa (again, the Japanese mainly worry about their own sphere and don’t concern themselves with jealousy or complaints about America) is American hegemony around the world. To this, I usually respond, “Whom would you like to be the dominant world power instead? Before you wish for a utopian world of your imagining without a dominant American presence, you better think very carefully about what that world would really look like in reality. As they say be careful what you wish for. If you think somebody is a devil and you would like to take them down, make sure there isn’t a worse devil waiting to take his place.” I think the US is incredibly restrained about exercising its powers compared to what it could choose to do if it wished. I’m not so sure that another culture in our position would be as benevolent.

    The cultural dominance of America for one thing has never been pushed by us. THe rest of the world sometimes seems it resents that English is a lingua franca. But adopting English as a lingua franca has been a choice those other countries and people have made on their own not something America has had any direct hand in. Much of it recently is more due to the fact that young people are all crazy about downloading our movies and tv shows because theirs are just not as good or not as prolific. They are addicted to American music and tv and they hate it. And that is what is called hypocrisy. If they don’t like our culture, then why do they insist on imitating and adopting the absolute worst parts of it?

    In sum, traveling abroad is not as nice for Americans as it used to be at least for me. Foreigners have overall become increasingly jealous, insulting, and judgmental about America. They are know it alls who think they know more about who America is and who she ought to be than Americans know about it. After all, they think Americans are all stupid so how could we know anything about our own selves? I don’t quite know how to deal with these attitudes frankly. I have so far started to confront them directly with actual fact or with logically pointing out their own ignorance or hypocrisy when they start spewing their stupid statements about America. I don’t see a reason to be quiet and let them to continue to make these statements at least in my presence. It always helps to have the facts and truth on your side. Since they are generally full of crap, it is not hard to refute their nasty comments about us. I think a lot of Americans buy into it and slink their heads down in shame and let the comments slide. I don’t see what is to be gained for Americans be doing that. I don’t think as an American that I have anything to be ashamed about. If somebody is going to insult my country, I am going to hold my head high and begin a debate. I am sure it makes them uncomfortable. People who are saying lies and bull crap should be uncomfortable. I am happy to make them uncomfortable when they insult my country. If they don’t like to be called out about it, they can learn to keep their arrogant mouths shut in the future.

    1. funny how he totally skimmed over this reply, its the cold hard truth and his self righteous ass couldnt take it…..hes just some yuppy taking advantage of poor people and partying…how does that make him so much smarter than the average american?

  22. Hey Drew,
    I enjoyed your article, here are my thoughts.
    While I agree that americans can easily forget the rest of the world exists, I know that many do travel also. I really think it just depends on the location. While I have never been to India, I spend about 6 months of the year in Rome. Often I think I can find too many Americans 😉
    Really it just boils down to money, I don’t know anyone that is well off in america that doesn’t take a holiday abroad.
    Lastly, about airline tickets, I discovered that when I fly to Italy if I set my round trip ticket with my return destination to Rome (ex. Depart Rome -> Chicago (3 months later) Chicago -> return to Rome) I can save up to $400!!!! Thats crazy right?? same flight, same seats, but my return destination is not America. That’s some ridiculous holiday tax right there.

    1. I think it depends on Location.. Rome, for example, is flooded with Americans. I also saw many when I was there. On the other hand, India is impossible to find Americans. I think that we choose to visit select locations based on safety, what we’ve heard from our friends, and more factors.

      No way about the flight!! Which website/airlines did you use? THat’s an amazing tip!

      1. I usually use skyscanner and american airlines usually ends up being the most convenient from Kalamazoo, MI.
        Here is a link to an image showing the price diff.
        The image on the left shows the price to fly America -> Rome and back.

        The image on the right is the opposite Rome -> America and back.

        You cant see the return date but both of them were set to the 28th of Dec 2015.

  23. I really enjoyed the article. It is very interesting, on the contrary I thought Americans travel the most, but those facts just changed my mind. Thanks for sharing. I live in korea , I have been here for almost 5 years. I read that you were teaching english here. It would be nice if you write something about korea. 🙂

    1. Hey Erika, thanks for the note! You live in Korea? Omg I miss it so much!! I have written so much about Korea, and I even have an entire section of my blog about “Life in Korea.” Hope to see you when I go back to Korea soon 🙂

  24. Yes, lots of these are probably true. I’d have to agree with some of the other comments as Americans we tend to make excuses. Everything I think falls back to wanting to live the American dream and fit into society.

    1. Yep, too many people are too fixed on “The American Dream” and they are worried about what their friends/family will think of them if they dare try something else. Thanks for sharing your opinions!

  25. By Sitting only in front of a$5k one cannot enjoy the actuals around the world I believe. I have travelled north South east west of India
    to see the places about the History; what we have studied in Text books.
    I have toured 9 European countries which explains the culture, nature beauty in Netherland, Roman History in Rome,
    Switzerland Mountains, Paris beauty, London history and all. Most Exiting was the place where Julious ceazer assassinated place they preserved as it was. So, one cannot enjoy such moments without travel. My wife Jayashree
    standing in front of Burjkhalifa in Dubai ; the tallest building in the world and excited like any thing.
    Also we have visited almost all cities of both western and eastern of USA ,where the enjoyment was diferently so wounderful. So I believe and would like to travel where enjoyment is too good and entirely different. Thanks.

  26. I did most of my traveling during the late 70s and throughout the 80s. Before bottled water or water purifiers, rolling suitcases and just about every convenience travelers have today. What adventures we had! Now, at 69, I love to travel to Mexico and enjoy the warm water. I cannot imagine ever letting my passport expire or let my Spanish lapse. Thanks for the great article. I am going to share it on my FB page.
    PS Once I ran into a teacher from my same school district when I was in Athens, so Americans used to travel.

  27. Hi Drew! We agree with you also on so many of these points. We have been traveling full time for a year and half now, very rarely do we ever meet other Americans on the road. Just as odd, people are usually excited to meet us and never guess American when they ask us where we are from. I can 100% agree with you on the fear aspect, so many people from home are constantly emailing us and telling us to be safe because they have been watching the news and are terrified for us. It’s a shame because they are all so scared to leave the country. Media is really sensationalized in America and it’s a real issue for our people to overcome and look past that. We have traveled for many years but living out of our home country for so many months has really made us realize that we do have a great country though, and you’re right, we can get anything we want there and usually in an easy way. We see ‘Merica in a whole new light now. Great post!

    1. Good post Lina. I have been in the military for almost 19 years and I am currently living in Germany. I have a international permit to drive anywhere in Europe. My family and I have traveled all throughout Europe and people have been very friendly to us. The media does have a role in why a lot of Americans don’t want to travel. And they dont realize that its actually more safer in Europe than it is in America. Europeans are very disciplined! But I also do think that America is still the greatest country on Earth! But its pretty sad how close minded Americans can be. I always see Asians traveling in Europe and not too many Americans. My wife is Asian American and im a black American and our experiences overseas is not too bad.

  28. After living in the UK and NZ for 3 years each I can honestly say that America DOES have it all and a lot of other countries are over-hyped and underwhelming. I LOVE to travel but I will never live anywhere else in the world other than the USA for an extended period of time-living in another country reminds me of why, despite all the problems America has its still the greatest country in the world.

    1. Michele glad to hear you thoughts! I agree that when it comes down to it, I will definitely live in the USA for a long period of time. Cheers 🙂

  29. I see what you’re saying with the, but there are two flaws in the traditional argument against Americans:
    1. Those who get to travel never truly ingrain themselves in foreign culture. They stay, at most, for 4 or 5 months. The culture shock is limited by the underlying knowledge the traveler will eventually leave. It has been our (Barcelona Experience, a private tour company in BCN) that Spaniards, and particularly Catalans, are just as self-absorbed and regionally-focused as anyone. We only know this because we’ve lived here for several years and we don’t have plans to go back to the United States. We certainly don’t want to devalue world travel, but we believe world travel must take place with the acknowledgement that you won’t have the earned right to speak as an authority on any culture unless you decide to live amid that culture for more than a few weeks or few months.

    2. All of us supremely undervalue the luxury Europeans have of living in a condensed continent where travelers can move from country to country, and therefore language to language, much easier than Americans. In fact, in the time it takes you to drive from San Diego to to the California-Oregon border, you can drive from Spain, through France, into Switzerland and down to Italy…that’s four distinct countries and cultures in the same amount of time it takes you to drive through one state where everyone’s first language is the same.

    These contentions are thoughts we’ve wrestled with for a long time, and they’re coming from Americans who traveled the world but who have also spent the last two years (myself) and 15 years (my boss) in Spain.

    1. Thanks for sharing. I agree, especially with #2. It’s so easy to hop borders in Europe, and much harder (and more expensive) to do it in the USA! Cheers!

  30. 1. Passports is easy to get, I let my expire so many years ago. If I want to travel I’ll just renew it
    2.Yes, America has everything here, even the culture of different countries because their people live here. I also don’t have the desire to travel so far away.
    3. You probably be surprise at how many DO know where Russia or Myanmar or Cambodia is. Is no big deal if we don’t, doesn’t make some of us ignorant. There IS enough here to worry about. Not that I don’t care, because I do when I read or hear on the news… that’s enough for some of us.
    4. Fear, HECK YEAH!!! So many things happening here too like Oklahoma bombing & 911 & many others. It could happen anywhere. I’ll just stay local & near my family & continue to be happy while also fearing of what’s next… but that’s not constantly in my mind or I might die for fearing fear.
    5. EXPENSIVE! You’re right expensive it is. You probably paid as little as you did because you have probably travel to wherever so many times you know where the “cheap” things are. I rather go to the Caribbean Islands, take some sun, drink a few drinks & relax than to go hiking or taking a tour… although I do take tours of the Islands I visit.
    6. Oops 5 is Language, what Language got to do w/it? Almost every country has someone or 2 or 3 who speaks English.
    7. A Gap? What for… things are expensive in US of A, we need to work in order to make it, let alone travel… Except for the Rich & Famous & the Rich, of course.

    This is only MY opinion. I use “some” at times because traveling has come up in conversations I have had with others, but staying local & having stay cations is cool with me!

  31. I think that many, perhaps most, Americans would like to travel overseas, at least to someplace relatively easy like England or Ireland. I think it’s a) the cost that’s stopping them and b) their lack of vacation time. If you only have a week off in a year, there’s not enough time!

  32. We are traveling Americans and couldn’t agree with you more. Travel isn’t or everyone, but the ingnorace piece is a shame. We too love our country, but are ashamed at how closed minded (generalization) people in our country can be. We have experienced people with every “reason” you have listed and they too think we are lucky for our life choice. Little by little things can change.

    1. Heidi, thanks for sharing you opinions and I’m glad that you agree with me! It is unfortunate that too many of us don’t get out and see the world. Anyways, cheers from Chi town 🙂

  33. Ironically though, I would say the majority of the travel blogs that I personally follow are written by Americans, despite the fact that I too see hardly any of them when I’m travelling. It’s weird that so few of us actually see the rest of the world but a lot of the ones that do manage to turn those experiences into businesses. I wonder why that is?

  34. LOVE this post – I feel like you read my mind because I’ve had these same thoughts running through my mind for years from my travels. It’s so sad, but absolutely true. I have encountered many of these same questions over the years “how can you afford to travel?” “Aren’t you afraid?” — the list goes on. Sometimes I’m so shocked at the question, I don’t even know how to respond. Honestly, I feel safer in MOST of the world than I ever did living in Atlanta – that’s for sure! But the thing is, SO many Americans have a distorted image of life inside the USA and outside the USA. They really think we have it better than anyone else, so why leave!?! AND so many of them honestly think that any country outside the US is a 3rd world country. Over the years, I can’t count how many times my blood was boiling by the most ridiculously ignorant and arrogant statements that I heard from people in the US about the rest of the world — when they don’t even have a passport and have barely left their own state. It just gets me ticked off! I totally agree that perspectives in the US would be a lot different if more people traveled, and if it was encouraged the way that it is in many other countries.

    1. WOW Elizabeth- I was reading this comment thinking, “Yes, yes, yes and YES.” I agree with everything you said to a T! Thanks for sharing. Have a nice day 🙂

  35. I think this is a very interesting read and as an American abroad I mostly agree with you. I think the fear factor is a huge part of why many Americans I know do not travel to places like Asia and Africa. I think it is crazy you have not met more Americans during your travels in India and Myanmar. We have met a fair amount so far in Thailand and when I lived in India I met a lot – well more like briefly saw a lot of Americans lol. Totally agree with the ignorance point too- I have people we know from home ask me to put maps in our blog posts so they know where we are talking about… like are you kidding?! You don’t know where Thailand is on a map? And even still, how hard is it to look at google maps? Point being, great post and I think you bring up a great topic.

  36. I definitely think Americans need to travel more. Out of all my friends from high school, I’m pretty much the only one who really travels. They have no desire for it. I don’t understand why. I think it’s crazy you havent met any other Americans in India or Myanmar though! In the past year I’ve spent in Asia, I’ve actually met a bunch more Americans than I thought I would…I definitely meet the most English, Germans, and Dutch people though.

    1. Yes Dave I am also the only one from my high school friends that travels! I jus don’t understand why! And yeah, I didn’t meet any Americans in Myanmar or India. Strange

  37. Oh baby- This is damn on point. I was shocked to personally feel how persuasive all of the social pressure is when I was deciding whether or not to really go for my own trip. Here I am now, a full year and 23 countries later and I can say it’s the best decision of my life. I actually met an elderly American couple in Rome who really solidified my motivation for this trip. They had waited for retirement to visit Italy and were held back by their aged bodies. The woman said she was still 18 in her head and couldn’t understand why her body couldn’t keep up.

    I wrote about them- over a year ago when I first started blogging here:http://twopeasinapack.blogspot.co.nz/2013/10/a-trip-around-world-story.html

    Today I just wrote about what our trip has been for us now that we are only 15 days away from the end: http://twopeasinapack.blogspot.co.nz/2015/04/coming-to-terms-with-coming-to-end-in.html

    If you are American (or from anywhere) and on the fence about long-term travel- GO FOR IT. Work hard, save your $$, do your research, and get on that plane. Your car will rust and you better believe those shoes won’t last long either, but no one can take experiences away from you.

    Thanks Drew for inspiring fellow Americans to travel and grow.

  38. so well said.. in all of our trips abroad we find the same thing… preconceived notions IF (and it’s a big if) we even run into other Americans. On our 14mth RTW we met exactly 3. It’s pretty sad statistics and just confirms my theory of Americans being the most arrogantly ignorant people I’ve yet to meet. Yes, we DO, in fact, have so much available to us here that many find no reason to leave. And, while not my choice, more power to you.. but then don’t think you get to join in the discussion about all that is wrong with the rest of the world. How do you know? You’ve never seen it!

    1. This idea that Americans are supremely ignorant and close-minded doesn’t make you are anyone else on this board as intelligent or as open-minded as you think.

      Yes, you now know, as a result of your travels, that the world is bigger than America and that our culture has some flaws. But have you ever been to a country where its citizens valued other countries more than their own?

      Spain is a place where people are fiercly nationalistic and regionalistic…perhaps equal to the levels we’d find in the United States.

      The problem you and your colleagues have uncovered isn’t an American problem….it’s a Western culture problem, and you’d be foolish to think you or any other world traveler could shed their culture’s weaknesses simply by traveling.

      And I’m not even going to get started on the false sense of superiority mixed into all these comments.

      The most transformational people — and perhaps the wisest ones — realize their culture’s flaws without spending thousands of dollars taking advantage of weak economies in “budget” countries where their “friendships” are merely the result of financial transactions.

      1. It’s not just a Western problem, it’s a human problem. I’ve lived almost my whole life in Asia, and can guarantee you people are just as regionalistic, often downright xenophobic and insular, than they are in America. In fact, I would say even more so – America is a country of immigrants and is generally more open-minded and less tribal. Americans who travel love to come back super self-righteous, looking down on the less fortunate Americans around them who haven’t had the opportunity to travel. If you actually settle down overseas, live there for at least 3 years, you’ll see people everywhere aren’t really that different.

  39. Preach! I agree with all of this. I also think fear of traveling plays into it-the longer you’ve stayed at home, the more scary it will be to leave. I’ve talked to a lot of people who genuinely WANT to travel but they’re just too afraid because they’re in their 30s or later and have never left the country and they’re afraid they won’t know how to get by once they do.
    And also the “2 Weak Vacation” system that America loves so much. It’s hard to go anywhere when you have 10 days off a year, especially if you have to use some of that time for visiting family for holidays and taking mental health days every now and then. The American Dream doesn’t help either. Work hard, retire, then travel is the leading thought here and that’s silly to me to waste your prime years slaving away, hoping you’re healthy and fit enough at 65 to start your travels.

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