How do you travel?
How do you pick places you want to go?
I’ve always been fascinated by the why’s of peoples travel preferences, maybe because they can be so individualized, or maybe not. Do we go places because that’s where everyone goes, or maybe because you feel like if you didn’t go there you’d be left out? Do we go places because no one goes there? From a tv show, or a book, or the cover of a magazine? Maybe we have friends there, or family there, or even a friend who has family there.
The possibilities are endless. In reality, so are our travel options.
Myself? I used to want to go to the places everyone went, that imaginary ‘list’ of things we are supposed to see. I went to Disney World because everyone thought it was weird I had never been, what kind of family did I come from?? And, after having set foot there, I wanted to go home and shake my parents hands, not a place for me, ironically the only place I actually somewhat liked was the area where they have little sections of other countries, a sign maybe?
According to most sources, there are approximately 195 countries in the world.
And, according to the World Tourism Organization, approximately 900 million people were classified as “tourists” in 2009. The table below shows the most countries visited by International tourist arrivals, take a look.
What should strike you about this chart is the column on the far right, with all those numbers, next to the world ‘millions.’ If you add them up, the total is just about 400 million. Don’t worry, I’ll do the math for you: 44% of all tourism is in these ten nations. Leaving 56% of the tourism in the world split between the remaining 185 countries.
Chew on that for a minute.
Let’s drill down even more, focusing on just Americans, using information from the US Department of Commerce Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, about 26 million of us traveled for leisure outside of the United States in 2009. One guess on the most popular destination….you got it, Europe. 35% of all travel was to Western Europe, which is why you can’t swing your backpack in a circle and not whack it into a fellow American at the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, or Rome Colosseum.
Now, I bet you’re dying to know what the number two spot was, and being oh so creative, Americans choose…ding ding the Caribbean! Coming in at 21%, that means 54% of all American International travel is to Western Europe or the Caribbean.
And of course, I am guilty as charged, because for the most part, the vast majority of places I’ve been to are Western Europe and the Caribbean, ouch that hurts to write.
Part of the reason why I started this blog, was to challenge myself to move outside the comfort zone. If the vast majority of Americans only set foot in England, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Aruba, we are missing out on 184 other countries!
Granted, you go where you choose, for personal reasons, and even though there are some ambitious souls out there who are determined to set foot in all 195, I am not one of them. My aim is 100. I am at around 17, including 9 of the 11 places I listed above. Whoops!
All I know is that there is a ton of the world left to see and I want to see it, all on my own terms and for my own reasons. I don’t want to be the conventional American, whose travel life can be summed up as one of many lumped on a graph. And just because we don’t have huge amounts of time to travel or infinite bank accounts, doesn’t mean we can’t get out there and be unconventional with what we have.
I want to be a travel outlier. Put me in with the 3% to Africa, the 6% to the Middle East and the 3% to Oceania, and at least then, if I do see another American, out there in the bush, it will be the welcome surprise of a kindred spirit.