By Keith Still
In the coming weeks and months, two members of my family will be taking major “first” trips. As we have been preparing our daughter for her first trip to Europe and my husband for his first trip to Asia, I ran across this CNN story that surprised me. At least, it surprised me at first. The report states that only 30 percent of American citizens hold passports.
If that seems to you like a pretty low number, you’re not alone. In the story, the U.S. Travel Association’s Bruce Bommarito said 30 percent is too low for such an affluent country as the United States. As I read, I nodded along. Why don’t more Americans have passports? I mean, really, my young daughter has one.
Then, I remembered. My own passport has expired, and while I have said several times over the past year that I need to renew it…I haven’t yet.
The reason? I haven’t needed it. I haven’t planned a trip abroad since my passport expired – mainly because every time I think about visiting friends and family in Europe, a conflict of some sort comes up early in the planning stages. (Airfare for five to Paris and Vienna at the time we want to go has been the “conflict” more than once, I must admit.)
I have been a domestic traveler as of late, and haven’t even crossed over into Canada since 2009, when travelers had to begin showing their passports (or passcards) at the border of Canada and Mexico.
And while I love Europe (like my husband, I haven’t been to Asia yet), I haven’t felt my trend toward domestic travel to be “lacking” in anything. That’s one of the reasons that CNN attributed to the low numbers of Americans traveling abroad as well. Our country is so large and so geographically and culturally diverse that many Americans don’t feel that they have to leave the U.S. to satiate their hunger for interesting travel destinations.
There were other reasons, too, of course, including the fact that travel abroad for Americans is more expensive and time-consuming because of our geographic size and location in the world than it is for say, citizens of France or the U.K.
We are thinking of taking the kids up to Ontario for a few days this summer, so I will have to get my act together soon and renew that passport. (Knowing me, I will still wait too long and will end up paying the expedite fee to get the document back in time.) Otherwise, my family will have to leave me at a U.S. hotel at the border while they enjoy summer in Canada.
Do you hold a U.S. passport? If so, do you feel that having one makes you more likely to travel abroad? If you don’t have a passport, do you feel constrained by your domestic travel options?
Does the number of Americans who hold passports (or who don’t hold them) shock you? Would you agree with the story about the reasons for those travel statistics?
What are your best reasons for traveling abroad? What are your favorite reasons for simply traveling about the U.S.?