Saturday, February 5, 2011

Why More American't Don't Travel Abroad

As this is a blog that also touches upon the prospects of education and upward mobility, I thought I would share this article from CNN:

Why American's Don't Travel Abroad

When explaining why only 30% of Americans hold a passport, the article boiled down the problem down this way:
Tourism experts and avid travelers attribute Americans' lack of interest in international travel to a few key factors, including: the United States' own rich cultural and geographic diversity, an American skepticism and/or ignorance about international destinations, a work culture that prevents Americans from taking long vacations abroad and the prohibitive cost and logistics of going overseas.
Yes, it is like someone from the Land of the Out of Touch had a baby with the NPR Junkie.  Sort of like a Glenn Beck meets the Academic liberal.

"Why there is no such thing as rampant poverty, unemployment, and jobs that don't permit you to travel at will!    Nobody travels because they persist in their backwards, racist, hatred of foreigners!"

Once again, another American commits the crime of believing that foreigners do not engage in racism.  Back in the 1960's, about 20 years after the holocaust, some European hotel let Sammy Davis Junior stay in the same room that other people would stay in.  Now, they've gone from a land of genocide to being a post-racial utopia whose example we can all learn from. 

Anyway, I think it was a bit too depressing for this travel expert to recall the exact number of people who live below the poverty line.  In 2009, one in six in the U.S. experienced food scarcity at some point during the year.   A large portion of those people depended upon handouts to be able to eat, and many got into that position because they had issues with employment, because they were either unemployed or had to take a lower-paying job.  Pray tell, where are those people supposed to find $3,000 to jaunt off to Europe and live off of authentic pizza from Napoli like Julia Roberts?

In spite of the fact that the actual author of Eat, Pray, Love paid with her trip with an advance from her publisher to write about the experience, what that book sells is only slightly different from what is said in the CNN article:  You're supposed to "throw caution to the wind" and live abroad for a year to "find yourself" because the money is going to magically appear in your couch cushion.  Nevermind that you don't have money to eat and pay your bills.

Also, I wonder how many Americans out there who are gainfully employed, but who have had such a big chunk of their salary wiped out by student loans that they can't even think of going to Europe?  Maybe they could have gone on the cheap about 10 years ago with that $30,000 a year salary because they owed much less in student loan debt.  Now, if you're sending about $600 a month to Sallie Mae, on top of paying more in health insurance premiums, rent, and gasoline, a $3,000 trip is much more extravagant.  In fact, I know lots of people who would love to go to Europe, but the cost is too high in spite of what the jackal in the CNN article says.  If people are living at home because they cannot afford to have their own apartment, it would be a tad irresponsible to even go on a "cheap" vacation to Ireland.  If you are already barely making it to the end of the month as far as paying the bills, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you don't have any extra money to pay for a trip to Europe. 

And if we're going to acknowledge that the majority of jobs don't pay enough for a luxury trip, then we can also point the finger at the fact that two weeks of vacation is not enough to live out those fantasies.  That is, unless you want to work through the holidays without going home for Christmas, forego traveling to see your sister in Wisconsin during the summer, having any three day weekends to relax, or taking days off to run some necessary errands.  Unless your family lives in town, you are single, have no children, and have a constitution of iron where you can go for months without taking a day off, and are lucky enough that you will never need to take a day off to meet with a repair person because of plumbing and cable issues, saving up enough vacation time to be able to go somewhere for an extended period of time is difficult. 

...That is, if you are lucky enough to work in a place that offers paid vacation, and does not frown upon their employees taking several days off in a row.

Yes, so, in spite of this person's theory that America is so incredibly affluent that everybody should be spending months in Europe, the reality is that, even for the people who aren't too poor to travel, there are many more who can't simply because of logistics.


  1. There is no extradition for Student Loan Debt from any country in Europe. Vacations are generally 4-6 weeks. In all its a bright horizon for the indentured student loan population.

  2. Where, pray tell, would somebody get extradited for student loan debt? Last time I checked, people do not get extradited for civil cases.

  3. Well said! My husband and I lament the lack of vacation time frequently. He is actually from Europe and has family scattered around both the world and the U.S. It's impossible to visit his parents for Christmas and his aunt in Paris in the same year because the 2-weeks-a-year policy. When he approached his employers about negotiating more vacation time, they told him that his coworkers have a hard time using up even 2 weeks, so why bother to offer it? All my husband could do was defend by saying that unlike his coworkers, he has family far away.

  4. THANK YOU for pointing out the should-be-bleeding-obvious.

    Most people I know - not all, but most - would LOVE to travel. The few rich friends I have bemoan the lack of time off to get away. My not-rich friends put it in the category of "things to do when I win the lottery." Those of them that have a job that pays above starvation wages and gives them a little bit of vacation, or a flexible enough non-starvation job, sometimes manage to swing a short, cheap vacation, usally a weekend-plus-two-days. They typically go some place in the US that doesn't involve airfare, or maybe to Canada (I live on the East Coast; Canada is driving distance). Who the hell can get a week+ off and afford the airfare to Europe, even if you do it "on the cheap"?

    I have a decent-paying semi-flexible job. I also have a passport. I used it to go to Canada for 4 days a few years ago. That was all I could afford.


  5. This is an awful article. Why in the world would a journalist use a tourist board spokesman as a source without using the article to question the assumptions?

    "Americans are comfortable in their own environment," Bommarito said.

    That's a broad generalization. While completely unscientific, I know many people, myself included, that would love to travel overseas and not just Europe. Many people I know would love to visit parts of Asia, Africa. But everyone I know can't.

    1. Money. Flights are outrageous for overseas. There is no way I can justify in my budget 1700+ for airfare, when I could drive somewhere for less. Or even fly either in America or head to Canada, Mexico or Costa Rica for significantly less. I also do not have the time to pull together information for the cheaper places to stay, like home stays.

    2. And that brings us to Time. Yes, I get two weeks of paid vacation a year. Do I ever take it? Nope. No one in my office does because we are all afraid of being laid off if that starts again. So I take long weekends every now and then and carry over my vacation each year. Sure, next year some one is going to tell me to use it or lose it, but I am going to lose it because I won't risk it.

    3. Language barriers. For me, I only know a smattering of one other language (Spanish). I realize that one does not need to know the language, but I think it's not as fun if at least one of your traveling companions doesn't know a little. I know I had a lot more fun in Quebec b/c my husband knew French. At our bed and breakfast, the owner knew very little English so it was fun to tell him what the English words were when he was caught up short and the same for my husband to learn more French.

    Again, horrendous article. Thanks for calling it out.

  6. 5:55....seriously? "I live on the East Coast; Canada is driving distance" Check out a map. Last I looked, anyone living in the upper United States has Canada easily within driving distance.

    You must have been silly enough to go to law school.

  7. @ 3:17 p.m

    Uh, by "driving distance" I mean I live close enough to get up to Montreal or Quebec in a few hours, making those Canadian cities viable "long weekend" destinations. Canada is not a viable long weekend trip if you live down south - it'll take you too long to get there. Similarly, of course one can technically drive to Mexico from anywhere in the US (or, for that matter, Canada) - but from where I live, Mexico is too far away to make a "long weekend" feasible.

    Could you really not interpret the above from the "4 day vacation" context I gave?

    You must have been silly enough to go to law school...unlike little ol' debt-free me.

  8. Apparently you can't drive into Canada from the WC. Or from the central part of the country, like Michigan or Minnesota. Apparently you have to first go East all the way before you're allowed to go North.

    I'm not the original commenter on this issue, but it's funny to me the person can't admit that she mis-wrote. I understood what she meant but then with her stubbornness she now does really look like an idiot.

    Anyway on the issue at hand. Everyone knows that if you actually take your vacation time you lose your job in the US. Most Americans refuse to admit that our labor situations suck, much like most lawyers refuse to admit we made a mistake entering this profession. American culture is always media driven and consists of ignoring your own problems so as to advocate for the rich for some reason. We can't tax the rich, that's Un-American! But we shouldn't invoke our Constitutional rights on anything, because apparently wanting to follow the Constitution is also Un-American!