Why Americans Don't Travel
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Surprising Reasons Why Americans Don’t Travel

There are a lot of reasons why Americans don’t travel. Some people say it’s because Americans are narrow-minded, while others say they are afraid to leave their comfort zones. However, there are many reasons! Americans are some of the most hardworking people in the world. They often work long hours and have very little free time. Americans do not get as much paid time off as other countries, and it’s not a cultural norm for Americans to travel the same as other cultures.

Why Don't Americans Travel

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The Surprising Reasons Why Americans Don’t Travel

Paid Time Off Is Not A Federal Requirement

The United States is a part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Of the 38 members, the U.S. is the only OECD country that does not provide a statutory minimum annual leave entitlement for employees at a federal level. What this means is companies have the choice to provide annual paid time off – it is not required.  While many organizations provide their employees 10 to 15 days of paid leave on top of the 10 holidays, it’s not required.

They Don’t Have The Time 

One of the biggest reasons Americans don’t travel is that they feel like they don’t have the time. Americans take an average of ten days off a year – one of the world’s lowest amounts of time off. For example, this is four times lower than Austria. Even more surprising is that most ten days are National holidays vs. annual leave.

Even for those that do get paid time off, it’s not uncommon for American’s not to take their paid leave. It’s also common for Americans to lose their paid time off because they do not use it.

They Don’t Know Where To Travel To

One of the main reasons Americans don’t travel more is that they don’t know where to go. According to a Harris Poll, 60% of respondents said that a lack of knowledge about destinations keeps them from traveling more.

When Americans do travel, they tend to travel domestically vs. internationally.

They’re Afraid To Travel 

It’s estimated that 70% of Americans don’t have a passport, which means they’re missing out on experiences in other countries. For many people, flying or getting lost in a foreign place is too scary.

So why don’t more Americans travel? The fear of flying, the fear of potential political unrest, and the fear of language barriers. The list goes on. Even the fear of getting lost keeps them from traveling more to other countries.

Then there’s the fear of what happens if something goes wrong. Lots of Americans will openly tell you they feel safer on American soil.

They Don’t Have A Passport Or Visa

As mentioned earlier, most Americans don’t travel because they don’t have a passport. Even fewer have visas or understand visa requirements for different countries.

There are various reasons why American citizens don’t have passports or visas. For some, the cost and hassle of acquiring the documents may seem not worth the effort, especially if they don’t have any immediate plans to travel outside the United States.

Others may not know they need a passport or visa to travel to certain countries. Still, others may worry about losing their documents or having them stolen abroad. However, not having a passport or visa can severely limit one’s ability to travel internationally.

I’ve lived in the U.S. for over twenty years and am consistently surprised by how many Americans do not have a passport. 

If you don’t have a passport, here’s how you expedite the process.

American Travel

They Don’t Speak The Language

Perhaps the number one reason why Americans don’t travel. Americans feel like they need to know the local language to communicate with people, which can be a massive barrier to entry for many people.

However, there are plenty of ways to get around this. There are translation apps that can help you communicate in different languages, and plenty of people speak English worldwide.

Don’t let the fear of not knowing the local language stop you from traveling. There are ways to work around it, and you’ll be able to communicate with people just fine.

Can’t Afford To Travel

One reason that’s commonly cited is not having enough money to travel. I’ve heard this time and time again from people. Yet, travel can be really inexpensive if you know how to plan appropriately.

For example, you can earn credit card points for free travel, buy or rent timeshares, and have endless deals to be had.  You can start a savings account that’s designated as a travel fund. Or, pay a deposit on a trip and pay it monthly.  It’s all about making it a priority, not an afterthought. 

Here are some simple strategies to overcome the perception that travel is out of reach:

They Don’t Have The Right Clothes

There is a misconception that you need specific attire for travel – an additional cost. And this is further compounded by concerns around cultural attire. For example, do you need to cover your head if traveling to Dubai? FYI – you don’t unless you visit a mosque.

If you are trekking or climbing mountains, you need hiking boots. Likewise, if you are traveling to a place with a different climate, you will need different clothing. You will need formal attire if you are cruising and plan to attend a formal event.

This said, in general, except for some counties, you can dress as you would anywhere. And, it’s very easy to assess clothing attire long before you travel.

Afraid To Drive Overseas

Many countries do not drive on the right side. This is intimidating to many. Add to this that some countries require an international driving license.

Driving abroad is exciting and gives you freedom, but it’s not required. You can hire a driver anywhere in the world. Or, you can join group tours. 

They’re Afraid Of Getting Sick

With all of the news of diseases and outbreaks, it’s no wonder that people are hesitant to leave the safety of their homes. However, there are some simple steps that you can take to reduce your risk of getting sick while traveling. First, make sure to get vaccinated before you go. It will help protect you from diseases common in other parts of the world.

Second, practice good hygiene while you’re on the go. It means washing your hands often and avoiding contact with anyone sick. Taking these precautions will make you less likely to get sick while traveling. So don’t let your fear of getting sick keep you from seeing the world. Get out there and explore!

Don’t Want To Leave Their Comfort Zone

It’s no secret that Americans love their comfort zones. We like our big houses, familiar routines, and comfortable lives. And when it comes to travel, we’re often content to stay close to home.

Why is that? Part of it may be because we live in such a big country with so much to see. There’s no need to travel far when there’s so much to explore in our backyard.

But I think there’s more to it than that. I think Americans are hesitant to travel because they don’t want to leave their comfort zone.

Why Americans Don't Travel

They’re Just Plain Old Scared

Some Americans may feel they need a passport to travel internationally, which can be daunting and expensive. Others might not have the means to travel or feel like staying local. But for many Americans, the reason they don’t travel is much simpler: they’re just plain old scared.

According to a study by Allianz Global Assistance, 26 percent of Americans surveyed said they don’t travel because they’re afraid of something happening to them while away from home. That fear is likely driven by the 24-hour news cycle, which often focuses on terrorism and natural disaster stories.

Closing Thoughts 

These are just some of the reasons why Americans don’t travel. Some are afraid of the unknown, some don’t have the right information, and others are just plain old scared. However, there are ways to overcome these obstacles and see the world.

There are plenty of ways to travel on a budget, and with careful planning, you can find the time to fit in a trip or two each year to your one-stop destinations.

So don’t let these excuses hold you back any longer. So don’t let anything stop you from exploring all our planet offers. Get out there and start traveling!

What are your thoughts? Why don’t you think Americans travel as much as people from other countries? Let us know in the comments below!

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18 Comments

  1. Can you list your sources, especially on this such as “fear of getting sick” or “fear of driving on the left side of the road”? Or did you just pull these out of thin air. Seems odd to use fear as three of the reasons. I’m also curious as to what part of America you’re from.

    People are afraid of driving on the left? Sure, if you’re only talking about the UK or Japan. Three-fourths (75%) of the world drives on the right side. That includes almost all of mainland Europe, all of the Americas and most of Africa and most of Asia.

    1. Hi Nick,
      Resources are cited and linked in the article. Maybe, I need to re-phrase “fear”. I could think of 100-plus synonyms but they get at the same thing. Thinking out loud I should include them – then we don’t need to debate “words”.
      Nikki

  2. gotta say, the whole being scared and not having the right clothes reasons, are a bit silly and totally inaccurate.
    the number one reason, by far, that Americans don’t travel outside of the country is the cost. it’s just much cheaper and takes less planning to travel at home.
    a lack of interest in other countries is also another reason. sure I like Italian food but I don’t really give a shit to ever visit there.
    I’d only really travel to countries, on my own dime, that I have some kind of ancestral connection to, such as England or Germany. Many people I know feel the same way.
    I’ve traveled, with the Army, to places like Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and South Korea but I have to be honest, I don’t think Americans are missing out on much when they don’t travel to most of the globe.

    1. Hi Theo,
      I agree with you on most of what you said – but you are American :) And, aside from the clothes you more or less validated my thoughts. Nikki

  3. Nikki…

    1) You call Americans “scared of travel” twice in your list.

    2) Most of your items are just insults and absurd, utterly inaccurate generalizations that don’t come close to answering the question – for example, the “clothes” item where you claim “Americans dress casually”, as if this is unique to America, as if America isn’t a fashion powerhouse itself, as if 333 million diverse people only dress one way, or as if travel requires you to dress up – it doesn’t

    3) The simple question is: America is a continental country. Why would Americans need to travel? People from other countries travel because their small, less diverse countries provide less opportunities to see new things and meet new people. Such is not the case in America – it is the most “microcosmic” country on the planet. Your attempt to avoid admitting this, rambling into various anti-American slights and inanities, is palpable. America is just a more fulsome, more satisfying, more satisfying, more diverse, and an overall better country to live and travel in than most countries in the world, if any…

    1. Hi Declan,

      It’s always comical to get a comment like this. I’m always tickled by people’s need to chime in on a random website because they don’t like what they read or disagree.

      1. There are no insults – put your big pants on.
      2. Generalizations are exactly that – general. The fact this offends you is ridiculous.
      3. The answer is anything but simple, but there are tons of statistics on the reality of American travel habits – or lack thereof.
      4. There are no anti-American slights and inanities. If you interpret it this way, that’s on you.

      America, as the most microcosmic country on the planet, is not the article’s topic. Plenty of non-American countries would disagree with this opinion.
      As for “America is an overall better country to live and travel in than most countries in the world, if any,” – this is merely an opinion, not a fact.

      How many counties have you lived in to form this opinion? I’ve lived in a few, and I live in America. None are perfect, but one thing is for sure – Americans travel a lot less than those from other developed countries.

      Now, I could interpret your thoughts with many “opinions.” I could also make some assumptions about you, but I’ll leave that and assume good intent.

      Have a great day, and keep enjoying America!

      Nikki

      1. “Generalizations” are almost never constructive, and are also made in bad faith when they slew negative and insulting, as they always tend to when America and Americans are the topic of discussion, because you are prejudiced against Americans. You’re a bigot.

        The idea that America is the most microcosmic country on the planet is hardly up for debate – regard a Köppen climate map. Consider the sheer variety of geographies it offers compared to any other country. Consider the opportunities for wildlife and eco-tourism, for beach travel and a city break. Consider the range of aesthetics on offer, from the historic (Charleston, or Santa Fe) to the post-modern (Las Vegas). Consider the scale of people present in the US – it’s the third most populous country on earth, and it is objective that it has the widest array of ethnic groups within it, people from all over the world. Consider the economic dynamism of the country, too, the diverse sporting culture it has, the opportunities for recreation, from skiing to surfing to pursuits more extreme. Consider the media and the culture it creates and exports globally.

        I don’t consider it arguable that the US offers a superlative variety of things to see and do. What I said was objectively correct, and I don’t care if you’re average to admitting it because it makes you feel bad – if you live in the UK, or the Netherlands, you are from a small country. You’re from a country that’s quite homogeneous in the aesthetic of its cities, the climates available, and the range of geographies on offer. You closely border a continent that is smaller than the USA in landmass, one mad up of a ton of state-sized countries. Of COURSE you would find it necessary to travel abroad, and find it very easy to. If you live in Canada and want to go somewhere warm in the winter, you have to leave. Americans don’t.

        Americans do not need to travel abroad to enjoy new climates and landscapes, new cities, and even new cultures. Of course, if you want to learn about the rest of the world, and have the money to do so, traveling anywhere else is of course it’s own unique experience. But to sit here and bluster about fashion and all this other nonsense, making all these utterly inaccurate generalization about benign, unrelated BS while getting angry that someone pointed out that the US is an exceptionally large, diverse country and receives a massive amount of tourists for that reason – it makes you like you have an anti-America complex.

        1. Oh, Declan, you must have time to burn writing novel-worthy comments. Get off your high horse with the name-calling and assumptions.
          You come off like a painfully patriotic, untravelled American who has never been anywhere.
          Troll along and find a page where someone cares what you “think.”
          Nikki

        2. It’s amusing that Nikki is having a hard time taking criticism of her opinions. So much for being a well-traveled Brit.

          1. No Jean, not having a hard time with it at all – just defending “My” opinions on “My” page. Everyone has an opinion – that does not make it right or wrong. Nikki

      2. This is hilarious. You say “There are no insults” and immediately insult the person by telling them to put their “big” pants on.

        The main reason Americans don’t is that they don’t need to. They have every possible resource available in their own country.

    2. Hi Declan, I’m American and I’ve traveled quite a bit, most recently to Cambodia and Vietnam at the end of 2022. Your comments offend me as an American. Everything Nikki said is on-target – including the fact Americans don’t travel because unlike other countries we don’t have federally-mandated time off, which we should. My traveling companions on most of my trips have been Australians, Canadians, and residents of the UK, all countries where workers are treated better than the US. Your small-mindedness is not the answer. The answer is to expect better of American policies and employers, and to travel to the other countries that have contributed to America’s diversity.

      1. Declan may be overtly sensitive, but you’re doing yourself no favor by going on a similar rant as a bleeding heart.

        > Your small-mindedness is not the answer.

        I can assure you mistake you attitude for open-mindedness and reason. It is neither.

        Also, you’re making a straw man, Laura. Depending on the company, Americans can have anywhere between two weeks to a month off. Those who fall in the latter group tend to have that amount because they have been at their company for a number of years. You also imply that if the US just treated its workers better (aka 4 week paid vacation perhaps) that more would travel internationally — as you ignored what Declan said about the geography of the US.

        1. Hi Jean,
          Welcome to a slice of reality, a page where you don’t get to drop in and say whatever you like without a response. A few things you need to accept. 1. I don’t bow down just because someone does not agree with me. 2. I don’t have any obligation to address anything. All the comments are moderated; I could simply delete them :). 3. People love making assumptions, judging, and going off as they see fit on the internet. That’s fine, but it works both ways.

          Small-mindedness – the irony of that comment. I don’t need assurance from random strangers. I also don’t care what you “think”.

          Now, have a great day and find a better place to debate for the sake of it. Nikki

  4. In my opinion, the main reason why Americans don’t travel abroad is because it is expensive, it takes extensive planning, and it takes a long time to get there. America is enormous. There are 50 different states to visit, all with different cultures, attractions, and spectacular sights. You can load the family in the car and go, pretty cheaply. Lots of Americans go to Canada and Mexico because they’re so close. Europeans can hop from country to country without even getting on a plane. If I wanted to go just to Mexico, it would take 2-3 days to drive, or an entire day switching flights. Also, I’m not afraid to travel out of the country out of any fears and I don’t know anyone who is scared of traveling outside the US.

    1. Hi Casey,
      I agree that many don’t because it’s expensive and requires planning, flights, etc. However, I think the cultural differences of going further than Canada and Mexico are mind-blowing – educational and beyond what we get on TV. In general, only 1/3 of the US population has a passport, and it’s estimated that more than 50% never leave their birth state :( I’ve been to every state in the US, most twice, and a vast majority of them many times. It never gets old for me, and it’s one of the most amazing countries to explore. Heck, I am still uncovering gems in Florida. I’m glad you don’t have a fear of travel, but I know many people who do. Their fears are everything from language barriers to potential crime and back. Thanks for stopping by and thank you for sharing your take on this. Nikki

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