Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why Not Go Abroad?

I came across an interesting article on CNN.com about Americans not traveling over seas. It seems strange to me--someone who cannot wait to explore every corner of this globe--that people would choose to stay in their own country rather than venture to another. What is keeping them here? According to the article, there are a few contributing factors to this reluctance to leave, including cultural ignorance, demanding work schedules, financial issues and America's own diversity.

When it comes to other countries, particularly ones in South America, Asia or the Middle East, Americans are skeptics. They are afraid to travel to these destinations, because media coverage has convinced them to be scared or disgusted. Through images of children swimming in dirty streams and horrible street violence among locals, Americans have seen conditions that deter them from booking a trip to places like India, Nicaragua, Yemen and Columbia. Just recently, the up rise in Egypt forced many to re-evaluate their views of the country, and many chose to cancel trips there or cut travels short. While Egypt was always a popular destination before, this political turmoil may hurt their tourism business, at least when it comes to attracting Americans. The fact is that many U.S. citizens are a bit ignorant about other countries, and that will not go away unless they expose themselves to cultures about which they are uneducated.

For those who are not afraid or nervous about taking trips around the world, another deterrent to traveling abroad is work. Americans have one of the most demanding work schedules of any other population, spending long hours at the office, working on weekends, and receiving the minimal amount of days off possible. While this does help us in out productivity and keeps our economy ticking, the sad truth is that many Americans are worked to the bone, but do not get adequate vacation time in order to relax and take some time off work. Most people are allowed two weeks of vacation, but trips overseas demand at least two or three days in order to get to the final destination, especially if your vacation spot is somewhere like Africa or Australia. Unfortunately, this is a difficult obstacle to get around since vacation time is limited, and most people are unable to negotiate getting more days off. But also, we are not a traveling country, whereas places like Europe put more emphasis on leisure time. In fact, Europeans get between 6 and 8 weeks of vacation a year, while we get about 16 days off, and most people do not use all those days.

With our economy struggling and many people out of work or taking lower-paying jobs, elaborate vacations to Europe or Asia are hard to afford. Flights are pretty pricey, and many Americans are not willing to shell out over $1,000 per person for an airline ticket. It is a lot easier to take a trip to another state, which requires less time and money.

Another reason American's are less inclined to make a leap across the pond is because we have a lot to see in our own country. We have every kind of natural terrain possible: mountains, plains, canyons, beaches, forests, deserts, etc. We have so many unique, beautiful and diverse places right in our own borders, a passport does not always seem necessary. We even have tropical rain forests and volcanoes in Hawaii, and frozen glaciers in Alaska. What other country can say they have all that? Even if people decide to stay within their own state, there are hundreds of cities to visit with interesting attractions and activities. In larger cities like LA, New York and Chicago, visitors can get a taste of various cultures in designated neighborhoods and specialty restaurants.

Despite all these explanations as to why Americans choose to stay put, it is sad to think that international travel is not a top priority for our country. It seems that Americans are going to have to start broadening their horizons soon, because working with other countries will help our economy flourish. Plus, walking the streets of Chinatown or Little Italy may be fun, but it is nothing compared to standing on the Great Wall or throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain.

So I must tell all my readers who have never been out of the country....get going!

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