Sad Fact of the Day: Only 30% Of Americans Have Passports

Feb 7, 2011

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I found this CNN article ,which outlines the key reasons why Americans don’t travel internationally, to be extremely interesting and on the money. The key fact is that only 30% of Americans have passports compared to 60% of Canadians.  While the US and Canada are two very different countries, I have to agree that 30% is a pretty low number considering the wealth and educational opportunities afforded to so many of the American people.

The article outlines four major points when delving into the reasons why Americans don’t travel more:

1) We work too much. Seriously. A lot of the people who can afford to travel internationally just want to spend time at home when they have time off.
2) Most people have little to no vacation. Having two measly weeks of vacation doesn’t leave much time once you factor in holiday travel to see family. I feel blessed to have four weeks, but that pales in comparison to the 6+ weeks that is the norm in Europe.
3) International travel is expensive and our government doesn’t make it easy for us. Just getting a passport is $165, which isn’t an insignificant amount of money. I traveled to Brazil and Argentina recently and both governments have instituted reciprocity fees to retaliate against what the US government charges their citizens. Collectively I had to shell out $280 – just for visas.
4) The media makes the world out to be a perilous place. This reminds me of my recent trip to Rio, where I actually found myself surprised it wasn’t more treacherous, given all I had ‘heard’! Sure there are dicey areas and you need to be smart (just like when traveling anywhere else), but it wasn’t nearly as dangerous as it’s made out to be.  The same goes with Columbia … the impression Americans have of this country is that it’s made up of nothing but drug cartels and kidnappings – giving no justice to such a vibrant destination, full of diverse offerings.

While I can understand the article’s reasons, I don’t think it’s okay to have such a stagnant status quo in the United States. The most visited international destination for Americans shouldn’t be Tijuana, Mexico. Seeing the world has transformed me as a person and as a citizen and I think America would benefit by encouraging its people to travel, work, and study abroad.

I find this topic particularly close to heart as I am about to book my summer trip. My hope is to visit Scotland, Paris, Normandy, Amsterdam, Bangkok, and either Chiang Mai or Siem Reap or Ho Chi Minh (torn between the three and my time is somewhat limited). I go to sleep at night pondering the options and envisioning the interesting experiences I’m sure to have. I feel very fortunate to be able to do all of this travel in comfort and with relative small cost – thanks to my miles and points. I can only imagine how many more people would travel internationally if they understood the points game – you really don’t have to be a millionaire to travel like one!

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