According to most reports, about 30% of Americans have Passports, compared to 75% in the United Kingdom and 60% in Canada. Consider that up until 2007 when a Passport became required to visit our neighbors to the North and South, the number was only 20%.
There are proponents on both side of the fight.
Some, prefer to characterize most Americans as homers, uninterested and uninspired by any country other than their own. Statements like that can be backed up with the idea that the United States, being over twice the size of the European Union (9.6 million km v. 4.3 million km) has everything in one place. Oceans, mountains, plains, deserts, snow, heat, the US has it all and with about 35 million international tourists a year, the proof is on the map.
Not only does the size of America play a role, but also the diversity. We all know, I am from New England, which is a hugely different area culturally from the Deep South, the Mountain West or the Pacific Northwest, in six hours I can go from the snowdrifts of Boston to the beach of San Diego in the middle of February, a distance of about 3,100 miles. For perspective, the distance from Paris to New York is 3,600 miles.
For most Europeans a passport is a part of everyday life, in some of those countries, a drive of just a few hours in any direction will bring you to a ‘foreign’ place. An English person going to the warm waters of the Mediterranean on vacation is the same as me going to Florida.
Another factor is the cost. A US passport costs $135 per person. If you’re a family of four going on your first vacation, that really adds up. Not to mention just the cost of flying out of the country. Flights to Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and the like run over $1,000 a seat easy, and with the dollar not really holding its own versus the Euro and Pound, most of us are losing money before we even set foot on the plane. There’s always the option of ‘cheaper’ locations, like Southeast Asia, but if you have saved $2,000 for vacation, and have to spend $1,800 on the flight, it can put a bit of a damper on the trip.
And of course, let us not forget that America is the ‘no vacation nation.’ With the vast majority of us only getting two weeks of vacation, if we get vacation at all, some locations can be too far for people when 2 days are used just sitting on a plane.
But what about the other side of the equation. Not to get political here, but it doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that the states that are generally the ‘most educated,’ ‘healthiest,’ and ‘best to live’ are also the ones with the highest amount of passport holders.
Can an argument be made that those states (comprised largely of the New England and Mid Atlantic groups) foster an environment of citizens that feel foreign travel is a necessary part of life? There are a million great blogs out there of regular people who have spent months and even years traveling on only a couple of grand, are all of these people from the high passport states, are they outliers, or are they just proof that with efficiency and planning, foreign travel can be done?
Beyond only the size and geography of the US, are we just more insular than citizens of other countries? Being American, we have the luxury of having (good or bad) the eyes of the world upon us, but unless you are actively searching out information, we don’t hear much about other countries in the news or on TV. Is the view others see a ‘dumbed down’ edited version of America, probably.
For me, the jury is still out.
As someone who loves to travel, I could not imagine not having a passport, yet there are millions of people who are not like me, who don’t care too much about travel, or would rather spend money on their own pursuits, or feel they can’t afford the luxury of it all.
Sometimes the lure of the ‘exotic’ makes foreign trips seem more exciting. I am the first to admit I have seen way more of Europe than my own country, something that I am working on changing. Am I a travel snob, perhaps, but more and more I am understanding how much natural beauty the US has to offer, and I fully attend to view it, maybe at the expense of my tourist dollars in another country.
So what’s your take, do Americans not have passports for a reason?