Why don't many Americans travel much?

Old Dec 23rd, 2000, 12:26 AM
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Jerald, you should compare hotels in Paris, London or Rome with hotels in New York or San Francisco. Try to find something nice in these cities for US$ 50!
Old Dec 23rd, 2000, 04:40 AM
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In reply to the few people who seem to think that Europeans rarely travel much outside Europe.... thats actually not true! In my department at work (IT), which includes young and old and well paid and not well paid, I would say at least 70% have travelled outside Europe. Yes, some of the people have spent their holidays in places such as Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey which are the usual UK touist destinations, but I also know people who have recently been to Hong Kong, Australia, Vietnam, Egypt, Singapore, China and Thailand. Also, I couldnt count the amount of people at work who have been to the US & Canada - and not just to Florida, but to cities all over the US.
In the UK we don't get the same amount of paid holidays as Sjoerd, usually 4-6 weeks (I get 5) plus public holidays (about 8 days), but this all depends which company and area you work in. I have a friend who works within a department store for Wedgewood and gets almost 7 weeks plus public holidays. Wedgewood are obviously a good company to work for with regard to holidays!
Also, in my company if you have been too busy to take all your holiday by the end of the year you may carry it forward until the following March, then if by then you have some days remaining your boss will write to Personnel and you can then keep up to 10 days plus your current years holiday! They make every effort to ensure you take all your holiday and most people do. It is certainly not frowned on to take the amount of leave you are given.
Holiday time is a big priority in the UK, I think a large amount of people would rather earn less and pay more taxes than have only 1 week a year paid holiday!
Old Dec 23rd, 2000, 07:38 AM
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Mark, I not only have already have my Ph.D., I teach grad students. And I'm probably about 3 decades older than you are and have travelled extensively in both the US, Canada, and Europe. I compared things like the Piazza San Marco to the MallAmerica to make some of the very points you are belaboring, not to say I love the MallAmerica. Personally, I abominate it (but parenthetically, I remind you that Venice in high tourist season isn't a lot less touristic than some parts of Epcot). As to Wright's work, it's interesting that you condemn so much of America's architectural efforts for having other than aesthetic priorities and yet condemn his work for its functional failures. I couldn't live in a Bauhaus building but at least I recognize its achievement.

However, there is an essential narrow snobbery in the philosophy that Americans should travel to get away from Americanna -- and it's commonly found among Europeans and especially among Euro-wannabes. Your profoundly parochial comment dismissing Chicago and naming New York as the only great US city reveals exactly that kind of Euro-wannabe chauvinism.

It's notable that a large proportion of Europeans, as described above, tend to talk about travel in terms of going on holiday. But there is also a contingent of Europeans -- often northern Europeans -- who travel as if harboring a residual empire-maintaining mentality: they go to sample other cultures, mine the aesthetic and particularly culinary treasures, and return home convinced of the superiority of their own culture. I have seen Brits and Germans with the same bad manners ("Dreadful, where is the milk for my tea? You call this tea?") as Americans can display. And when Americans mimic that behavior but displace it by condemning their own culture, they can sound about as culturally perceptive as an adolescent carefully analyzing why his parents are as stupid as they are.
Old Dec 23rd, 2000, 07:49 AM
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Time and money... priorities and tradeoffs

If travel is a high priority for you, then you then you don't spend the majority of your disposable income on "stuff" (new cars, bigger houses, nicer furniture, etc). It may also mean that you stay in hostels, B&Bs, and one* hotels so that you can afford the plane tickets... or visit cheaper countries instead.

I live in the USA and over the years, I've lost all sympathy for my co-workers who look up about this time and year and proclaim with surprise "I've still got two weeks of vacation that I'm not going to get to take!" (Sounds like pretty poor planning to me.) My philosophy on that is: schedule it and take it.

The company that my husband works for got bought by "dot com" whose business plan seems to go no further than how to spend money. (It thinks that five weeks is a sabatical!)

About a week before our two week trip to Ireland, my bosses boss asked me if there was an emergency contact number they could have - just in case. I sort of chuckled and explained that we were going to rent a car for two weeks and just drive around - there were places that we knew we wanted to go, but no set itenerary. The only room reservation we had was for the first night and that we were mainly planning to stay in B&Bs anyway.

A few of my co-workers have passports and understand. Other co-workers ask about our trips and want to see our pictures and then say something along the lines of "I wish I could travel like that". I tell them that it doesn't have to cost any more to travel around in Europe than it does to travel around in the US - of course you do have to buy a plane ticket to get there. Most of them probably never will - not because they can't afford it or don't have the time - but because they can't imagine it and therefore it will never be a priority for them.

Old Dec 23rd, 2000, 09:43 AM
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Karen (sweeney) I think you hit the nail on the head.

It's a trade off... In the US I think the path followed by most businesses is to offer high salaries and low annual leave. In the UK our salaries, I believe, are lower than US but our annual leave is more. And looking at Sjoerd's data on Netherlands, they are at the other end of the scale.

Perhaps this reflects the priorities of each nation (I am speaking very generally here)?

Most of my friends would not accept a job with only 2 weeks paid leave a year even with a *significant* salary increase. Would it be true to say that most Americans would actually choose the job with higher wage and lower leave?(I expect this excludes most who frequent this site as we are made up of those who live and breathe travel)

I have often said that I would give up a salary increase in exchange for a couple of days extra annual leave. (Sadly not on offer at my company!)

A few companies in the UK do give more leave, LloydsTSB give employees up to 30, starting on 25 and working up.

Interesting thread... Thanks Sjoerd.
Old Dec 23rd, 2000, 10:23 AM
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Interesting article and it certainly has generated a lot of responce. Why not write an article about why Americans should travel more. Eighty per cent of human thought is negative and for that reason many will never reach their potential.

I was excited to see the reply written by Younger. I wish my first trip to Europe was at 24 and not at over 55. I am sure his trip to Italy will benefit him many years into the future and I wish him bon voyage.

As to the cost. If you think you can't afford it, I am sure you won't disappoint yourself. Look into it, you will be suprised how inexpensive it can be if you research it.

We do have a beautiful country here in the United States, but there are other beautiful countries and people in this world and you should not quickly overlook the great opportunity of world travel.
Old Dec 24th, 2000, 02:47 AM
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I think you are likely to encounter Americans who are abroad for a long period who are working, but certainly as for the 2-10 years hiking around the globe that the Australians, Germans, Swedes seem to do in their 20's, it's not really built into the plan of life or encouraged here, to be frank, so of course comparatively few people are going to be doing it. Also I am guessing that large numbers of Americans who do travel overseas tend to follow guidebook itineraries like Fodor's and its brethren in such masses that wherever they turn up (Giverny, Paris in July) the impression that any serious travelling or cultural investigation is going on is completely lost.
Old Dec 24th, 2000, 06:51 AM
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Jumped off the NY ratrace 2 yrs ago and
moved to Nice, France. We have a great
apt. with large (600 sq ft.) terrace on
top floor in center of town. Cost of living
here about 75% of US cost at current exchange
I'm now able to indulge my lust for Sweetbreads
kidneys, pig's trotters, bouillabaisse, gesiers
(duck or chicken gizzards in confit), Rascasse
& other Mediterranean fish, Belon oysters
Charollais beef, etc. etc.
We've recently taken 4 or 5 day trips to Venice
Bergamo, Barcelona, & Amsterdam. Train travel
cheap & hotels in the 80-90 buck range.
We've also travelled the Nile in Egypt and
to Marrakech in Morrocco. Flights to London
from here cost $130 roundtrip on Easyjet
& a decent hotel in Bayswater is $90.
Theatre tickets at Leicester Sq half-price
booth run 25-30 dollars for the likes of A
"Art" "The witches of Eastwick" and Simon
Callow's "Dickens". Do I miss the US? Only
Sunday NFL. Btw we get "Sopranos" and Drew
Carey, etc. in English on our telly plus I access
the NY Times and NY Mag on the internet
All in all not a bad place to live. Oh. The climate is
ideal and The Alps and Italy are only 20 miles away
and the sea at the Baie des Anges in Nice is gorgeous.
A Bientot a Tous
Old Dec 24th, 2000, 07:03 AM
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Comme tu es admirable pour etre au meme temps ane americain et francais.
Old Dec 24th, 2000, 01:40 PM
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Buzy - you misspelled IGNORANCE!
Old Dec 24th, 2000, 03:05 PM
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This is an interesting question, but I wonder if any of us are in an ideal position to generalize.

Long ago when I was a young, very low-paid high school teacher with summers off, I tried to go to Europe every summer, and most of my young co-workers did too. We went as cheaply as possible, and for most of us, travel was our one extravagance and our greatest pleasure.

I currently work in a group of moderately paid, mostly middle-aged government lawyers, most of whom rarely if ever travel to a foreign country. A few of them have never been outside the USA, although they have decent, though not exactly high, incomes. They also seem to have relatively little curiosity about foreign places and most do not have a working knowledge of a foreign language, although all have had at least 7 years of higher education. They consider me rather unusual and borderline eccentric because I take one or two European trips a year, and I consider them more than a little strange because they have trouble figuring out how to use up their vacation days at the end of the year or they keep taking the same Caribbean cruise or going to the same US historic sites year after year.

On Saturdays, I take a little adult class with an interesting bunch of people, all of whom are enthusiasic travelers and take at least one foreign trip a year. In terms of income, some of them are probably not as well off as my co-workers (though some are much wealthier, I think), but they are lively, curious people, all of whom have a working knowledge of at least two foreign languages.

One of my acquaintances, a retired professional, takes at least 8 foreign trips a year. Yet I know others in similar health and economic circumstances who never travel abroad.

So I don't know who is typical - my current co-workers who are lawyers, my former co-workers who were teachers, my old friends who love to travel, my adult class buddies who place a high priority on travel.

In general, I have always had the impression that there are more USA-Americans traveling in Europe than there are Europeans traveling in the USA. Or at least it seems that way. (However, maybe I don't notice the Europeans because they don't look like "tourists" or because I don't happen to frequent the popular American tourist sites too often.) Obviously, it is a lot easier for Europeans to travel to other European countries than it is for Americans to cross the entire ocean to do so. And for that reason it is also easier for Europeans to maintain a reasonable level of fluency in the foreign languages they learned in school.

My reasons for not traveling more? For several years, my income was low. I didn't want to spend the money. Now, my vacations are limited by my stingy vacation time allowance. I get 15 discretionary days -- used to get only 12-- and I do need a few for miscellaneous boring business. If I had more vac. time ideally I'd love to take maybe three two-week trips or one full month trip a year.

P.S. Sjoerd, some of the hostile or snippy responses to your question were very strange. I thought it was a good question, but I can't even figure out why my own office mates don't travel, so I can't speculate too well re Americans in general.
Old Dec 25th, 2000, 08:49 AM
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Americans travel much more within the continent of North America than they do to the rest of the planet. Lots of good reasons as have been listed in other posts. But the definitive answer is that most successful Americans "work" far more hours AT work and AWAY from work on their homes than do many other cultures. The rewards are in both intellectual and growth choices, especially for the next generation and are often happily realized here. That is why we still have so many people desiring to come to America and adopt it as their new home. I see them every day.
Old Dec 26th, 2000, 08:52 AM
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My wife and I came (immigrated) to USA 10 years ago from Ex-Soviet Union. We never had a chance to go anywhere in the world. During this 10 years we had visit France twice, Italy - twice, England - once, Belguim, Hollnad - once, Israel - once. We did not have much money or vacation time, but it never stoped us from doing so.
It is wrong to say, Americans do not go, because vacation to short, Europe (etc.) to far and to expensive. I think it just luck of interest. I just came from vacation and we already making plans for next one.
Old Dec 26th, 2000, 09:54 AM
Edmond O`Flaherty
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I live in Ireland and like many from this country I have worked in U.S. and Canada.I could never live my life there for I need the history which we have in Europe to make my life fulfilled.

There are many reasone why Americans do not travel as much as Europeans.Their continent is very large,far larger than Europe but in my experience there is far more variety in Europe because the countries have a long history,speak different languages and until recent years people did not travel much either except for a small educated elite.Every country in Europe is very different whereas most towns and cities in North America are relatively similar with the same shops,hotels and restaurants.

Secondly work is given a higher priority in America as if you don`t work you don`t eat.Savings are important as medical expenses could bankrupt you.In Europe people have not really got those worries as the state helps to a much greater extent.As a result of American insecurity they work long hours.They take few vacations,perhaps half as much as Europeans do.In Ireland everybody is entitled by law to 4 weeks paid vacation as well as a significant number of public holidays.Christmas vacation in U.K and Ireland goes from Dec 23 to Jan 2.

Thirdly Americans do not look out at the world like Europeans do.Their own world is a big enough world for them.It reminds me of the story in the ancient (thirteeth century I think) Irish poem about the child born in prison.The child was happy in prison but the mother was not:"The brightness of the great world outside I have known from the beginning".Most Irish students go to college and a very large number of them work in U.S. for a summer vacation.Ten percent of them now spend a year in Australia too.That is the way we do things in Europe.

Our European world is very different then.I think it is a more exciting world and we can see it all before we grow too old to enjoy it,which is often what happens to Americans.There is an old Latin phrase-Carpe Diem-seize the day,make something of every day, and I believe Europe offers us better opportunities to do that.
Old Dec 26th, 2000, 10:16 AM
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I've thought about this question several times since it was posted, but I can't come up with much. There are a lot of good reasons people have given here:financial, time restaints are valid. Still, I have to think there is generally something missing in the mindset concerning travel because I'm pretty sure Americans do travel less, although we all know plenty of people who do, of course. I used to think it was because America is isolated, but so is Australia and they do travel more than we Americans. Any Aussies tell us why? Two trips to Las Vegas to see the shows, play slots and eat at the buffets could be one 10 day off-season budget trip to Europe so why not leave your country and get a new perspective? I really don't know but it is an interesting question!
Old Dec 26th, 2000, 10:16 AM
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A question for my fellow Americans; Is it a bad thing that the rest of the world doesn't seem to understand us?
Old Dec 26th, 2000, 11:12 AM
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Interesting posts. I notice that Elvira makes the point that many Americans aren't of white European descent. That's certainly true in Toronto where I live. I take public transit everyday and it's obvious from the faces and the accents of the other passengers that many of them weren't born in Canada. Even those who were may be first generation Canadians. They go back to Italy or Germany or Trinidad or Jamaica or Hong Kong or England, but it's not 'travelling' as far as they are concerned. It's visiting family - the same way my annual trip to the west coast is 'visiting family'.

And for those Europeans who have moved to Canada - does the urge to travel suddenly stop when they arrive in North America? I work with so many people who have become Canadian citizens (i.e, they weren't born in Canada). Do they travel more than those of us who were born here? Not necessarily. I know I travel more than they do. This year many of our friends travelled outside of North America. Many of us are planning trips this year as well.

I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make here - I guess it's that you really can't generalize!
Old Dec 26th, 2000, 11:21 AM
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Has anyone mentioned how we lose vacation time if we change jobs? That's right, European folks, if I left my current employer (where I get 4 weeks' vacation now, plus another sabbatical in 2002), I would go back to ONE week's vacation at my new employer. Oh yup yuppers - 35 years in the workforce, and I would get the SAME VACATION AS A KID RIGHT OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL. So, if I wanted to change jobs, I'd have to give up all my vacation time...that's a tough choice to make. Or, God forbid, you're company closes down and you're forced to find a new job - kiss that vacation time hasta la vista. Not only are you under stress to find another job, but when you get it, your health coverage is different, you've lost vacation time and your new employer might not offer a retirement plan.

Edmond is absolutely correct; having lived most of my life in New England, and now 15 years in the American Southwest, I can't see any differences between the small towns in Vermont and the small towns in Arizona. Tortilla Flats looks just like St J's.
Old Dec 26th, 2000, 01:44 PM
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Elvira is correct about the vacation time issue. I am extremely lucky because at my job I accrue an extra DAY of vacation each year I am employed there. (Everyone starts w/ 2 weeks off and works up to a maximum of 4--I'm up to just over 3 wks). I can also roll my unused vacation time to the following year(s)--and I'm not a govt employee. My husband, on the other hand, gets 2 weeks vacation, and won't get an increase until he works at his current job for 10 years (he's worked in his field for 10 years, but just started a new job 6 months ago). Yeah, that's 2 weeks for the whole year. So if he takes a 2 week trip to Europe or anywhere else (which we would LOVE to do) any other time off he wants during the year, like for leaving a day early on a long weekend to drive to see relatives, taking his or my birthday off, etc. is unpaid. Forget about trying to take more than a week off unpaid for a "vacation"--you might as well set your boss's desk on fire on your way out the door.

So in this situation of having 2 weeks to do as you wish, we take shorter trips within the US. We have taken 4 to 5-day trips to Europe, but it bites! The trip is long and there's hardly time to see half of what you want in one city.
Old Dec 26th, 2000, 02:21 PM
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Respectfully suggest you try a different comparison other than Singapore. Singapore is an ex colony of Britain and there are many expats still living there, even though it is now a republic. Also, Singapore is on the "kangaroo" route for aeroplanes between Australia and the UK and is therefore a very popular stopover for both Australians and Britons. Maybe Vietnam or Japan might be a more objective study.

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