Though the number of Americans holding passports has increased, we still don’t travel in the numbers that people from other wealthy nations do. There are a variety of reasons for this and we have heard most of them. Americans have precious little vacation time. We live a good distance from most other countries, save Mexico and Canada, which are by far the most visited countries by Americans, followed by Great Britain. According to a January article in the New York Times: “Americans today are taking less vacation time than at any point in nearly 40 years, according to an October report for the U.S. Travel Association by Oxford Economics.”
When I ask people about why they don’t travel abroad, some will ask me why they should- they have everything they need in the United States. This is an extraordinarily ethnocentric and myopic view of the world. Here is how it was mapped in Buzzfeed:
My fellow Americans! Please! Go travel. See poverty. See the grace with which people deal with tragedy and want. Witness how medical care works in countries where it works! Be humbled. Most importantly, dispel your myths about others by learning about our common humanity.
Anyway, that is what I would love to scream in the proverbial town square. For the last two years I have worked with students from all over Asia, brought together in one school in one dormitory in Bangladesh. Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, atheists, over a dozen different cultures and languages. These young women, with grace and some discomfort, formed a student body. This is what travel can do for people.
Maybe it is just wishful thinking, but it is nice to believe that American can become more modest if they travel.