Two-thirds of Americans do not have a passport. So what.

Let me take a moment to defend the country that I was randomly lucky enough to be born in. I’ve previously written about how the U.S. is the most popular country in the world, but let’s address an issue that seems to really annoy some people when a story pops up on it every few months.

Two-thirds of Americans don’t have a passport.

grapes on the vine in winery napa

One of my favorite places in the US — Napa Valley

That’s not a bad thing.

Let’s get a few facts out of the way. First, until 2007 you didn’t need a passport to visit Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean. You could have done a fair bit of traveling internationally without one, which partly explains the limited number of Americans with passports.

Second, the number of U.S. citizens that hold a passport is increasing dramatically. The number of people holding a passport has more than doubled in just the last ten years. It is more than 15 times the number that held a passport in 1989.

Third, the United States is pretty damn massive in and of itself. The area of the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) is almost two and a half times the size of the European Union.

I spent about twenty years of my life primarily exploring the United States — and frankly, I could have spent another twenty years doing nothing more than that.

What if the U.S. was Europe?

The European Union currently consists of 27 member states (as said earlier, spread out over less than half the size of the U.S.). Until the Schengen Agreement was incorporated into the EU’s legal framework in the late 1990s, if you were an EU citizen going from one country to another, you’d need a passport to do so.

Think about the size of European countries for a second. The United States is the third largest country by size in the world. The largest EU country is France, which checks in as the 48th largest country in the world, behind Botswana, Burma, and Madagascar.

France is significantly smaller than the state of Texas.

compare size texas verses europe

Just take a look at that map for a second and imagine. Leipzig is right about where Dallas/Ft. Worth is. Vaduz is about where Austin is. Right down there near Vienna would be Houston.

You think if a passport was needed for most of the 20th century to go from Dallas to Houston to Austin that perhaps more US citizens would have them? Of course.

It’s not exactly shocking that the percentages of Europeans holding passports are significantly higher than in the States.

Italy is smaller than New Mexico. Austria is smaller than Maine. Switzerland is smaller than West Virgina. Belgium is smaller than Maryland. If Italians want to go to the beach in Croatia, right next door, they need a passport. If someone in Atlanta wants to go to the beach, they head a few hours down the road to Florida.

And frankly, the US is not only big, it is incredibly diverse. If you were going to choose one country in the world that had the most to see, do, and experience, there is no doubt it would be the U.S.

The United States established the first national park in the world, Yellowstone National Park, in 1872. The total amount of land dedicated to national parks in the US is now around  51.9 million acres (210,000 km2), which is roughly the size of Austria, Ireland and Croatia put together. On top of that are hundreds of state parks covering tens of millions more acres (though I couldn’t find a solid number on their total sizes).

The cultural diversity in the States runs the gamut also, from cities as varied as New Orleans to Los Angeles to Seattle to Memphis to Chicago to Miami to New York City to Boston. The culture and tradition of the Deep South is a world apart from the Pacific Northwest, which is a world apart from Southern California, which Midwesterners would feel alien in also. Music festivals, sporting events, water activities, mountains, beaches, theater — you name it, there is a good chance the U.S. has it.

So if Americans want to spend their time traveling around their own massive and diverse country, I’m really not going to condemn them too much. I was one of those people myself for about 20 years.

maine collage photo

some of the sights of the great state of Maine

I’m trying to think if there is any more diverse country on the planet. Can’t say that I can think of any.

Look, I understand the value of international travel.

Obviously I am a proponent of it. I’ve been living abroad full-time since the end of 2008. I’m certainly not advocating the position that people should only travel in their home country, no matter which one you live in. I strongly believe there are great benefits to getting out and seeing the world — experiencing total alien cultures, seeing how people think and believe coming from different backgrounds, seeing some of the amazing sights all over the world, and so forth.

I’m an international travel advocate. Get out there and see it all (preferably at the ground level).

But to the same extent, lay off the whole BS argument that somehow Americans are backward and inferior because a majority don’t hold a passport. 

It is cheap American bashing. There are plenty of valid reasons to complain about the U.S., but this one is just a simple-minded throwaway “argument.”

 

 

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I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all. Read more by Michael Hodson and connect on Google Plus.

56 Responses to “Two-thirds of Americans do not have a passport. So what.” Subscribe

  1. Ayngelina February 8, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    I hate to do this but I need to poke a hole here. Canada is bigger than the US and we didn’t need a passport to get to any of those places either.

    I hear what you are saying, but…
    Ayngelina recently posted..Warming up to Winter in Niagara on the Lake

    • Michael Hodson February 8, 2013 at 10:37 am #

      Longer reply below — with ALL due respect to Canada. It’s not all about the size ;)

  2. priscilla February 8, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    Well said…
    Never take travel for granted. Never criticize those who dislike some place even if it’s your favorite. Never assume people can afford to go abroad or that it’s even a priority. People who don’t leave the US are just that, people who don’t leave the US. It does not make them ignorant. Ignorance is imposing some sort of hierarchy based upon miles traveled or countries visited and dismissing the armchair traveler who gleans almost as much from reading about our travels as we do in getting to do them.
    Cheers,
    Priscilla

    • Sfaith March 25, 2013 at 7:57 am #

      I am a U.S. citizen with a passport I rarely use. First, international travel is expensive. I am finding that my dollars go further at home, and, frankly, I feel that the economy here could benefit from those of us who can still afford to travel doing so within our own borders.

      Second, I hate air travel. The last time I flew, American Airlines kept us sitting on the tarmac for hours while they tried to figure out how to get the plane operating. I’m not exaggerating! At one point, I actually saw a member of the flight crew taking a manual into the cockpit.

      I won’t even go into how I feel about the ridiculous security measures they force you to submit to at the airport.

      I’ve decided that road trips are the way to go. This makes it even less likely that my passport will be used again.

      I do enjoy learning about other countries and other cultures. I travel abroad, vicariously, through the pages of travel blogs and t.v. shows.

  3. Dan Bibb February 8, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    I agree wholeheartedly with you opinion. I spent the first half of my life traveling the United States since my father was transferred coast to coast. In school most other kids would not believe that I had seen the things we were learning about in class. When in California, I was made fun of because they thought I was lying about seeing Washington, DC (near where I was born). By age 13, I had been in more states than 95% of Americans. The culture is vast, just go down to way south La. (not Los Angeles) and talk to the people from the bayou.

    Now we travel the rest of the world and write just like you. I love my country and have seen just about everything in it. however, our writings and pictures are not just about the international world and our message is not about going overseas. Just get out of your neighborhood and out of your city and see that there is a whole lot of stuff beyond your TV.

  4. Adam @ PergiDulu February 8, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    “I’m trying to think if there is any more diverse country on the planet. Can’t say that I can think of any.”

    I’d say Indonesia is more culturally diverse. Hundreds of different ethnic groups who call the country home with their own languages.

    The American-bashing regarding passport ownership usually goes hand-in-hand with the argument about how inward looking the US is. I’ve never been to the US, so I don’t have that view. But I hear it a lot!
    Adam @ PergiDulu recently posted..Beruang Madu di Luang Prabang: Proyek Konservasi di dekat Kuang Si

    • Michael Hodson February 8, 2013 at 10:40 am #

      I thought about Indonesia (or India), but it isn’t just the number of ethnic groups — it’s more emcompassing than that (like I posted below).

      It is the diversity in people, in geography — much skiing in Indonesia? ;) — in food, in entertainment, in sports, in historical sites, etc.

      I can’t wait to go to Indonesia. Would love to spend months there. But I’ll stick with my original argument — the US has more overall diversity than any other country on the planet.

      With all due respect.

  5. AJD February 8, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    Those are valid reasons. However, the benefit of international travel is life changing. There’s something about being in a country where you don’t know the language to order coffee. I’ve had culture shock coming home and driving on smooth roads and having hot water 24/7.

    I think if more Americans did explore outside of their own borders there would be a different perspective on our policies and general attitude towards being American (greater respect for the privilege, and less internal bashing). Even people who did one study-abroad programs as student recall the impact it had on direction of their life.

    • Michael Hodson February 8, 2013 at 10:42 am #

      Totally agree. Like I said, I am very pro-international travel.

      That being said, this whole argument I hear about how appalling it is that only 35% or so of Americans have passports is bogus, IMO.

  6. Rachel February 8, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    Love this. Thanks for the new perspective.

  7. Brian February 8, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    We’ve spent the past 3 years traveling the U.S. full-time and have still not covered it all. It’s true that the country is absolutely huge and geographically diverse. It’s a great country and there is plenty to see and do without a passport. The fact that we Americans can travel far without leaving home is one reason why so few of us have passports. But I wonder if the larger reason isn’t a simple lack of interest in travel. I recall being amazed on our last trip to the Grand Canyon that English felt like a second language there. Almost everyone we ran into out on the trails was a visitor from another country. The same was true for many of the big destinations out west.
    Brian recently posted..The Madness of Crowds

  8. Alison February 8, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    I was actually going to make the same point Ayngelina did. I agree with all of your points. In fact, even though I’m Canadian, I spent my childhood travelling around the US with my parents in an RV. I’m a bit ashamed to say I’ve seen way more of the US than Canada and it it incredibly diverse. But if your argument is based on size, then shouldn’t Canadians have fewer passports than Americans?
    Alison recently posted..Visiting the Opéra National de Paris, France

    • Michael Hodson February 8, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      A couple things (I should post this on Ayngelina’s comment, but I’ll put it up down here as well).

      First, with all due respect to my Canadian friends, Canada is huge in size, but a vast, vast portion of it is basically unused, both in terms of population and internal or external tourism. If I remember my facts right, something like 80% of the entire Canadian population lives within 100 kilometers of the US border. As a practical matter, “occupied Canada,” which is where 99% of all tourism is going to happen, is a much smaller part of Canada than its listed size indicates.

      Second, it doesn’t have nearly the cultural diversity of the US. While Quebec is certainly its own little world, and the Pacific Northwest is different than the Toronto area (or Nova Scotia for that matter), you are basically talking about 4-5 regional areas, while in the States, I think you can make the legitimate case there are a dozen to twenty of them, depending on how you’d define them (Deep South, Texas, Southern Florida, Southern California,Northern California, Pacific Northwest, Mountain West, Midwest, NYC, Northeast, etc.). Add on top of that the vast number of more metro areas to explore verses Canada and you’ve got scads more to do in the US than Canada can ever compete with.

      With all due respect to Canada.

      Add in things like beaches (Florida, California, Hawaii), variety of sporting events, the diversity of food options, historical sites, theater, music, etc.

      I absolutely adore Canada (and Canadians), but Canada doesn’t have 10% of the things to do and see that the US has.

    • Gary Arndt February 8, 2013 at 11:26 am #

      80% of Canadians live within 150km of the US border.

      The only options for driving somewhere in Canada are cold and colder. Most of the land mass in Canada is taken up by the territories and northern, remote parts of provinces. It is difficult to travel there by car and there isn’t much to see. It is all glacier plowed tundra and taiga. (FYI I am writing this in Dawson City, Yukon. No one is here. In the winter, it is dead and half the population leaves.)

      If Canadians want to go somewhere warm for the winter, they need a passport, regardless where they chose to go. American don’t. They can go to Florida, Hawaii, USVI, Guam, CNMI or Puerto Rico. They could also visit San Diego or southern Texas without a passport.

      If you look at passport ownership by state (http://www.gadling.com/2011/03/09/passport-ownership-by-state/) states that border Canada have passport rates similar to those found in Canada. Overall Canadian passport ownership is 60%, but that is heavily skewed towards provinces and cities near the US border.

      US States farther from a border have lower rates of adoption (as is the case with provinces and territories farther away from the border).

      Prior to the EU, almost everyone in Europe lived within a 1 or 2 hour drive of an international border. Prior to 9/11, no one in the US lived within driving distance of a border which required a passport.

      Most people get passports for pragmatic reasons.
      Gary Arndt recently posted..Baskets at Market in Aswan, Egypt

  9. Michaela February 8, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    Great points! I’m all for international or national travel. Travel decisions are up to the person and their prerogative.

    As long as a person is exploring and getting outside of their comfort zone, I consider them a traveler. There are too many folks who have passport stamps and haven’t learned or embraced a thing about other cultures.

    Passport stamps mean squat!
    Michaela recently posted..Resident Tourist — No Pants Metro Ride

  10. Alana - Paper Planes February 8, 2013 at 11:46 am #

    How does the actual number of Americans who have a passport compare to other countries – for example, Britain may have a higher percent of citizens holding a passport, but it has less citizens overall…
    Alana – Paper Planes recently posted..>> Explore. Dream. Discover. >>

  11. Ed Graham February 8, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    Saying Canada is bigger is not a fair comparison. 86% of Canadians live in 4 territories and 4/5ths of the population is within 100 miles of the US border. They also have 1/10th the population of the USA and the climate is more uniformly cold. Look I love Canada and I’ve been to most of the territories; just saying it’s not a direct comparison.

    I think there is far too much cultural myopia in the USA…. my way or the highway type stuff. It was a bad sign when we had that vice presidential candidate who had just got a passport the year before (what was her name?) That anyone at all here would take her seriously just says to me that we are still very much an isolationist country. Among other things, we are fighting wars in places some people can’t even find on a map.

    And there are lots of things that other countries do far better – high speed rail for one. I’d guess anyone opposed to high speed rail in favor of their gas guzzling suv (or being frisked by the tsa) hasn’t been to China, Japan, or Europe recently. If we can get rid of the myopia through travel and education we’d go a long ways towards bettering ourselves as a country. So while I like the premise of the USA being diverse with lots to offer, I think far too few Americans have passports and too few of us have an interest in the outside world.

  12. Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans February 8, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    This post made me consider my own discriminatory thoughts about where I travel. Sometimes I snub my nose at traveling in the U.S. because it doesn’t seem foreign or exotic enough, but the U.S. really does offer a great deal to see and experience. Travel is such a privilege and a blessing and I need to remember this wherever my journies take me. Great post!
    Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans recently posted..Rio’s Favelas

  13. George February 8, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    While I would agree with most of your arguments in that the USA is both large and diverse, I would also say you are contradicting yourself by comparing it to Europe on size and then not comparing it on diversity. I haven’t seen much of America so I couldn’t say how diverse it is, but there is no way it is half as diverse as Europe, where cultures meet and divide and completely oppose, how can you say that America is diverse if you compare it to a continent that encompasses both Iceland and Turkey, Greece and Finland, Spain and Russia. All of these are incredibly different cultures and you simply don’t have that in the US.
    George recently posted..Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Being an ALT

  14. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) February 8, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    I’m a Canadian and have had a passport for as long as I can remember… but I also lived for 7 years in the States and am married to an American, so I think I have some perspective! ;) I have to say, since we left on our trip to travel through Asia & Europe back in August, it has been rather startling how few Americans we have encountered on our travels, seeing far more Europeans & Aussies, and even the odd Canadian as well (pun intended?). It is very true that Americans generally don’t seem as interested in traveling abroad, but we both have had to admit that for all the negative reasons one could spin on that, you have really hit upon one of the best ones: the U.S. is wildly diverse and generally quite financially reasonable to travel around given its size and you could really spend your whole life bopping around it and never get bored. Heck, in the 7 years we lived in the States, we limited ourselves to traveling domestically for financial and time reasons, and we never had the same kind of vacation twice. And I have still not seen large swaths of the country. As far as I’m concerned, travel is travel, whether you’re doing it at home, or doing it overseas. The willingness to expose yourself to new things doesn’t require a passport, and I think it’s awesome that so many Americans are keen on discovering their own country. As it is, I’ve been out to California, but never been west of Ontario up in Canada!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Revelations in the Rice Terraces

  15. Eurotrip Tips February 9, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    I, for one, totally agree with you Michael. While I’m a strong promoter of international travel, I also understand that this option is NOT given to anyone – while we, travel bloggers, are seasoned travelers, we should never forget that getting out of the country can be a daunting experience for some people (language barriers, stress, jetlag, fear of the unknown, and most importantly, money).

    We are extremely lucky to be able to travel trans-border on such a frequent basis. But I agree with you that there is plenty to see and do in the US, and that for some people, it’s the only possible option. That doesn’t make them worse people.

    Travel is travel no matter where you go – as long as you are open-minded and interested in the destination, that’s all that matters. Even if you stay in your own country.
    Eurotrip Tips recently posted..An afternoon at the Canterbury Cathedral – In Photos

  16. Mari February 9, 2013 at 7:20 am #

    I understand the point you are making and appreciate that. The conversation is interesting as well. It doesn’t require a passport to be open-minded and to travel; especially in a big country like the US.

    What would be interesting to know though is the amount of US citizens actually traveling around their vast and diverse country. How many of those who don’t have an passport spend for example their holidays outside of their own state?

  17. Susan @ Travel Junkette February 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    Thank you, Michael! Wonderful post. I feel like I’m ALWAYS on the defense about America! I wrote a post last 4th of July called, “I Love America. So What?” It had a lot of similarities with this one. I’m obviously a huge supporter of international travel, but our country’s so huge and diverse (both in terms of culture and landscape) that it makes sense that people don’t leave it as often.

  18. Lauren, Ephemerratic February 9, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    I’m an American that loves to travel in America, but I interpret the passport holder percentage as an indicator of not just a disdain of international travel but of self-selected isolation, xenophobia and pick-your-phobia, poverty or barely-breaking-even, lack of vacation time, resigned acceptance of work-life imbalance, and my-hometown-is-perfect-why-leave narcissism (as a reformed New Yorker, I have personal experience with that).

    I’d see an increase in the number of American passport holders as a positive sign that more Americans are achieving workplace equity and financial success and becoming curious and open to ideas, cultures, and perspectives different from their own. It is only a good thing in my mind.

    I’d like to have more indicators to bring more meaning to the passport number — I gave a quick look for stats on the number of Americans who have never left their state or traveled more than 200 miles from their home, to no avail. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that that percentage is the truly distressing one.
    Lauren, Ephemerratic recently posted..Missed opportunity at El Misti volcano

  19. Ski chalets February 9, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    That puts size and scale into perspective. Europe seems tiny compared to Texas. The USA has so much to offer – it’s easy to see why so few Americans bothered getting a passport.

  20. Stephanie - The Travel Chica February 9, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    I recognize the photo from Tenants Harbor.

    Back on topic… you make a good point.

  21. Rachel February 10, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    Not having a passport isn’t the biggest barrier to travel in the US. The reasons Lauren mentioned above are much greater obstacles. There is a fair bit of privilege attached to global travel which everyone would do well to remember. I was extremely fortunate to grow up exposed to long-distance travel and encouraged to see more of the world. Most of my US friends have passports, but scarcely the money or time to use them.
    Rachel recently posted..The Saturday Six – Margot Lieftinck, Tulsi Crafts

  22. Kora February 10, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    I understand that US is huge in comparison to most of the countries in the world. Many states are so different from each other that visiting a state sometimes is the same as visiting a new country. If two thirds of the Americans don’t have a passport does it mean that they don’t travel at all, or they travel inside US? In any case, I am in love with Europe. Places like Romantic Road in Germany, http://blog.highways.com/destinations/europe/germany/romantic-road-landscapes-germany/ , are simply amazing. There are no places like that in US, so I would recommend Americans to start traveling more abroad.

  23. Jennifer February 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    I also need to poke a whole in this argument. I live overseas amongst 5000 Americans, 80% of which don’t have a tourist passport. I hate to rag on my own country, but how can you be given an opportunity to live overseas and never travel more than 30 minutes from your military instillation? I live 45 minutes from Venice and I’d be a very rich woman if i had a Euro for everyone stationed at this military base that has never even been to Venice.
    Jennifer recently posted..Flying in a Seaplane Over the Maldives

  24. Elaine Schoch February 11, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    Great post and I totally agree. There is so much to see in the US and frankly there are so many different cultures to experience right here. I mean really, think about the vast differences in New Orleans to New York City to Vail, CO. We live a great, big, beautiful country with lots to explore. (I’m very much looking forward to getting my kids history books the summer before school starts to map out our summer travels.)

  25. Caroline @ Traveling 9 to 5 February 13, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    Love this perspective – great article!

  26. Michael February 16, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    I lived in the US for 6 year and even though my family liked to travel, we didn’t have a need because of all the places to see. There are lots and lots of great places to see in America, it’ll many years before someone can truly explore all the parts, so I do understand, in a way, why so many people don’t have passports.

    In Canada, however, a majority of the people have passports because we all love to go shopping in the US :)

  27. Frank February 19, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    I think anyone who is correlating a lack of interest in the outside world with the number Americans who don’t have passports isn’t taking into account a lot of other factors that generally influence travel.

    Firstly, traveling is a luxury. Whether you’re backpacking or doing an all inclusive resort, you either have a surplus of time or money (if you’re lucky, both!) which many other people don’t have. The expense of leaving the US vs the cost/ease of in country travel can be a huge deciding factor. Yes, you can travel cheaper in other places than you could here, I’ve done it many times, but for a lot of Americans it’s financially not an option. It’s a lot cheaper to drive the family from New York to South Carolina than take a trip to Mexico.

    As Michael posted, the US is a huge country with incredibly diverse options for tourism, I’ve traveled quite a bit in the States and have barely touched the surface of what’s available. That being said I’ve also traveled a lot outside of the US and yes there are less Americans than other folks traveling internationally but I think it’s more to do with the following than any sort of inwardly focused xenophobia:

    Culturally the Gap year isn’t the norm here as it is in Canada, Australia, NZ etc. Study abroad programs when available aren’t exactly cheap either.

    When you only have two weeks of vacation a year as a working professional (and you’re lucky if you can take those two weeks in a row) it’s hard to justify the expense and travel time for how long you’ll be visiting somewhere. Western European nations excepting there are fewer places you can go for a week and feel like it was “worth it”.

    On a related note to that, international travel takes a lot more work and stress than going to Florida. I think it’s less a lack of interest in outside places than just wanting to buy a ticket and not having to figure out how things work while you’re on “vacation”. I can’t blame someone for just wanting to relax instead of stumbling over how to order dinner, get a taxi, etc. Call it laziness if you want but anyone who works hard can’t be faulted for wanting a break without worries.

    That being said, do I think it’s important for US citizens to get out of their comfort zone and travel internationally…of course. However, using the “hardly any of you have passports” line of American bashing is uninformed at best and just a cover on why someone really wants to bash America. Just pick foreign policy, the ratings driven fear inducing media or the fact that there are idiots here who are famous for and become more famous for being rich and famous.

    Well hell, then I might join you in discussion on how America could improve. Just don’t ask me to show you my passport.

    • kim sue February 20, 2013 at 1:29 am #

      Good post. I agree that although many Americans may be ignorant of the rest of the world, the lack of passports is strongly influenced by lack of time and money. I could drive to Canada in three days, but I might only have a week off of work. The cost to fly my family across either ocean to places I would like to see is just not practicable.

  28. Daniel McBane February 19, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    I agree. I too want my America bashing to be well thought out….

    What I never got about IDs in the US (and this is a different topic, I know) is the lack of a national ID card. What if you don’t drive and have no need for a license and no time, money or desire to learn how to drive? What do you use as an ID if you also have no passport? More importantly, how do you buy beer?
    Daniel McBane recently posted..Passed Out Koreans Litter the Streets of Seoul

    • Laura February 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      The DMV will issue a photo ID similar to a driver’s license but without driving privileges.

      • Daniel McBane February 20, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

        I did not know that. Thanks.

  29. Greg Prohl February 21, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    Good points made all around here, both in the article and the many astute comments. My own view would be this: Yes, the US is huge and more geographically diverse than most any country in the world. However if you are going to compare cultural diversity to something like the EU I think it goes to EU hands down. One of the things my wife and I enjoy about Europe is the sense of history which permeates everything everywhere you go. A 230 year old country like the US simply can’t compete. Show me the castles, the grand cathedrals, the ancient monasteries, etc. They just aren’t here. On the other hand when it comes to natural wonders I think the US leads that race easily. It all depends on what kind of travel experience you’re looking for. Plenty to do right here, yessiree, and I love domestic travel. But I’ll always keep my passport current too.
    Greg Prohl recently posted..Bellevue Botanical Garden

  30. a February 25, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    In Brazil one can go from the German settlements and temperate climate of the South to the urban cosmopolitan italian/ japanese/ arab/ jew/ portuguese/lebanese/chinese/korean chaos of Sao Paulo to the not less cosmopolitan chaos of Rio but with beaches to the African culture of Bahia to the Amazon rainforest and native american heritage to the colonial cities of inner state of Minas Gerais to the grain belt of the Center West and its canions, swamps, the rainfalls of Iguazu.. not to mention all the differences in food, music, literature, art..

    In Chile from Atacama / native american to Patagonia / German settled areas passing through Valparaiso, Santiago, Vina del Mar..not to mention Argentina..

    USA? I dont think so.. too politically correct, homogeneous, controlled. Even main travel destinations look American (Cancun lies in Mexico?) Dividing people into “groups” so that have “rights” makes it boring.

    • Michael Hodson February 28, 2013 at 7:02 am #

      If you think the USA is too homogeneous, you might want to travel more around it. Chinatown in San Fran, Mexican districts of San Antonio, Harlem in NYC, the Asian influences in Seattle, New Orleans, Memphis, and more. The USA is the biggest immigrant culture in the world… it doesn’t take much looking to find some massive, massive differences there.

      And for future reference, there isn’t any need to hide behind “a” at a@a.com — I publish all comments, whether positive or negative and unless you aren’t confident of whatever you are expressing (or aren’t embarrassed by it) as a comment… no need to hide who you are.

  31. Lance February 26, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    This is a very passionate defense of the United States. I think to a large extent, we’re the country the world loves to hate – both the perception of Americans of ignorant hicks, plus the jealousy of America’s success. But it’s time for those assumptions to die. This was a beautiful post. Thanks.
    Lance recently posted..The Hot Springs and Antique Pool of Pamukkale, Turkey

    • Michael Hodson February 28, 2013 at 6:38 am #

      Thank you so much Lance. I’m actually surprised with the generally positive reply to this post. Encouraging that folks seem willing to ditch the anti-American argument to the rubbish bin.

  32. Paul February 27, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    The disdain held by others for the lack of international travelers within America is a smaller microcosm of the overall disdain for American’s as an ignorant country. I am American myself, and often times laugh at the backwardness of our citizens thought processes – things like the Bible Belt and LGBT rights (lack of), show that as a civilized first-world country, America is behind the rest of Western Europe in certain aspects.

    With that being said, I agree with your main point about the vastness of America, both geographically and culturally, making the passport point somewhat moot.
    Paul recently posted..Why Should You Care About Personal Wellness? by Paul

    • Michael Hodson February 28, 2013 at 6:22 am #

      Agreed. Part of the whole subset of this particular argument is just anti-Americanism among certain people, especially some folks on the internet trying to gather controversial headlines… and therefore more links and readers back to them.

  33. Jeff | Planet Bell February 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    It is estimated that about 63 million Americans travel overseas each year. Think about that for a second. Many European countries don’t even have that many people.
    Jeff | Planet Bell recently posted..The World Cup of Touts (You Get to Vote!)

    • Michael Hodson February 28, 2013 at 6:18 am #

      Agreed, Jeff. Sometimes the numbers people through out in this argument ignore the basic fact that there are a ton of Americans that travel.

      • Jeff April 22, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

        I am a proud American, and frankly I’m not sure I want anymore of us traveling. There are enough of us overseas as it is!
        Jeff recently posted..Three Pretentious Days: Manila

  34. Ryan @ Pause The Moment March 8, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Excellent article Michael. You’ve got some great points that really make a lot of sense. You had me thinking deep with this one.
    Ryan @ Pause The Moment recently posted..How to Start a Blog for Under $100!

  35. Cacinda Maloney March 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    Here Here! This proud Texan could not agree more! I am also an international travel advocate, but the notion that somehow the Americans without a passport are somehow inferior is a ridiculous notion. Thanks for writing this article and thanks for the passion I hear behind it!
    Cacinda Maloney recently posted..RoamRight photo contest winner: Cacinda Maloney!

  36. Robert April 16, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    It is true, there is so much to see in the United States. Great Article!

  37. MDPD April 21, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    First of all it’s not about the size of the country. I don’t care how big your country is. Russia is the bigges country on the planet, yet there it’s very difficult to explore the whole country. (sorry for my english i’m French and very tired tonight) . “US has more overall diversity than any other country on the planet.” How can you say that ? Have you been to all countries on the planet ? I haven’t. But I have traveled quite a lot in Europe (your know that tiny continent). And it has diversity. A lot. We have cultural diversity (and… You don’t. I know, I know, you have China Town, little Italy, taco Bell… )t we have more cultural diversity than you can never imagine, because the countries are all so different, and it’s not only minorities trying to recreate what their home looked like. Do you get what i mean ? It’s so difficult to explain things in another language than my mothertongue. What i’m saying, is you have the same brands all over your country, same food, same shops, same malls. Where is the diversity ? ,Don’t think I’m just a French kid hating the US. I’m saying this because it’s true. Go to Florida, to Vermont, same culture everywhere. I’m not saying this is bad ! Just saying this is not what diversity is supposed to be like. I’ve been to the US six times, once as an exchange student so don’t say i don’t know what i’m talking about. One thing you have is nature diversity. You have beautiful, beautiful landscapes, i agree. But we do too. We have moutains, we have seas (grey and cold in the north, blue and warm in the south) we have hills, and fields… It is diverse i swear. Just look at France. Alsace has nothing to do with Britanny. Provence has nothing to do with Paris. Another thing that we have and you don’t is history. History made the diversity of our continent. You don’t have castles, you don’t have those olds churchs, those old houses that were built way before you country was discovered. Then you made a mistake. We don’t need passports to travel in Europe. You only need an ID card. I rarely take my passport traveling in Europe, i keep it safe for big journeys. Once again I’m not jealous. I’m glad you love your country, it’s very important nowadays, but i’m trying to show you that you don’t need to judge other cultures and countries and to say “my country is the best in the wordl ! No one can compete !” to express your love.

  38. Natalia April 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    You just gotta love flawed arguments backed up by “facts” that do not really support it. I don’t think having a passport makes you more of an avid traveler and a world explorer. It definitely doesn’t make you more open minded. It’s just a document that gets you across the border, not a right of passage.
    Natalia recently posted..Accidentally on Purpose – Engrish in Korea

  39. Scott April 27, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    Michael,

    Unless there is a poll somewhere that shows what percentage of Americans are curious about the world and would like to see it eventually under the right circumstances compared to other countries, then yes the passport argument is completely pointless.

    Sure, there are a ton of jerks at home who say things like “I don’t need to go nowhere else, we “gots” it all in the U.S. of A”, but probably at similar percentage to other countries.

    As they say, don’t let ever let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?

  40. nicolep May 2, 2013 at 4:00 am #

    Bigger doesn’t mean better… and honestly… how can you comparing European countries to US’ states… there is no point at all… The old continent has much more history, culture and DIVERSITY than the US, you probably don’t know it because you haven’t visited. Your blog entry is so ignorant it makes me wanna puke

  41. Claudia June 4, 2013 at 3:20 am #

    One point brought up alot is that travel is necessarily expensive and somehow a deterrant. What a load if bull. If you are truly curious you can also travel to many places that are cheap. E.g – Thailand? Sure the ticket is exxy but within the country, food is cheap as is other entertainment. Americans just need to be more curious and realise the value of seeing other cultures other than their own. And no, TV is nowhere near the same.

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