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Insular America

Culture US Insular US Travel

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#1 SparkyCola

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 02:54 PM

In response to the seemingly less than enthusiastic approach the U.S.A took to Live 8 and some rather shocking stats,
I have come to question the insular nature of America, and would like to see different views on this,
particularly from the Americans themselves. Watching Live 8 on BBC 1 it was evident that it was not just those in
Hyde Park, London and the Eden Project, Cornwall who were partaking in Live 8- from the 27 million of Britains who signed up,
and millions watching it was a national movement which far-outstripped the U.S.A. But what I found most shocking is this:

70% of Americans do not own a passport, and of the 30% that do, 80% have never been outside America.

Now i am a typical 17 year old from Buckinghamshire, England and i have been to the following places:

Majorca, Spain
Barcelona, Spain
Wales repeatedly
Germany (school trip)
Florence, Italy (school trip)
And on Wednesday i'm headed to Paris, France. (school trip)
This summer i'm off to Iceland.

Now don't get me wrong, i love the U.K. and there's plenty i want to see here- The Lake District, more of our castles, Cornwall, Bath, etc. however- i'd also LOVE to see:
Italy (especially Rome), Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Switzerland, Norway, Prague, Greece, Thailand....etc. I can't imagine being confined in one albeit very large country.
Arguments i can pre-empt:

Money- yes it must be a lot more expensive for you guys to head to France, say, than us. However- you have Canada (fantastic country) and Mexico right next door to you.
Cultural differences within the USA so vast you have everything already- HA! Nothing you have is anything like Japan, Moscow, Egypt, France, the gorgeous Italy...it doesn't compare. The cultures are so varied and amazing.

Some must sees in your lifetime (a mon avis):


Basically- how on EARTH can you not want to go to all the amazing countries in the world?!!! I can't grasp that concept.
Then again, this is the same country that decided Kerry being fluent in french was a BAD thing..?!?!

What do you guys think? This was not intended as America-bashing btw, i'm just really curious!

On the topic link: http://www.nakedtran...4/04/000130.php


Edited by SparkyCola, 03 July 2005 - 03:32 PM.

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#2 Jid


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Posted 03 July 2005 - 03:11 PM

Not an american, but a Canadian, poking my nose in to say:


However- you have Canada (fantastic country) and Mexico right next door to you.

This may be the case, but keep this in mind:  the U.S., despite how it may look on a map, is a rather vast country in and of itself, and "next door" to Canada or Mexico can be multiple days' driving ;)

It's also worth noting that rail travel isn't as convenient or quick over here, either.  (Does the U.S. have any high-speed lines between major cities?  I honestly don't know.)

As for those that just don't want to travel, well, some people are like that.  I wouldn't dream of trying to knkow what they're thinking, but then, I'm currently in long term planning mode to backpack Europe for around a year ;)
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#3 Josh


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Posted 03 July 2005 - 03:15 PM

I would love to travel to Europe. Right now, it's WAYYYYYYYY outside my budget. On the other hand, Canada is pretty close to me and I'm sure that I'll be visiting it fairly soon. ;)

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 03:17 PM

being a USer with an expired passport, I can understand the difference.
Europeans live close to several countries, it's really no big deal to get on a train and see three countries in one weekend. If I lived in Paris, you really think I'd never go visit Sweden and Denmark, Suisse and Italy?! ;)

The USA is quite big really. Though more Americans should visit Canada - which I did til I read about the new law, I need the new passport just to go to BC now?! - or visit Mexico, which I have never since I'm in the north part of USA.

It's easy squeezy for a UKer to hop on the ferry to Eyre or to France; it's harder for a USer in say Nebraska to hop on a ferry to sail for one hour or less to a foreign country.

It's pretty easy for an Ozer to hop a plane to Southeast Asia isn't it? but then maybe more Americans in Maine and NH should visit Eyre? I wonder how many Texans have never been to Mexico or Costa Rica (I hear it's lovely there)

as a USer the only countries I ever visited were Japan, HongKong (from Japan), and Canada. It's mostly a matter of money for me. And many Americans feel the same way; if they can afford one plane/hotel/resort trip, they'd rather go to Orlando or California or even Hawaii than another country.
But then, this Hawaii-wanna-goer here can't blame them for that last part!
{it's just fairly expensive for an American to visit countries across the Pacific or across the Atlantic ... why do you think the nazis and the imperial Japanese couldn't beat us back then?}
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#5 Cardie


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Posted 03 July 2005 - 03:22 PM

An American citizen still doesn't have to have a passport to go to either Canada or Mexico from the US, so people who have been to those countries may not have been included in the statistics you viewed.  While I agree that Americans are much more insular than we should be, you have to realize that to drive or train across the US would cover the same distance as from London to the Russian border.  There is something psychological about crossing an ocean that doesn't face Europeans travelling within Europe.  And the expense of getting across either of those oceans is much more significant than driving or taking a train across Europe.

On my first trip to Europe (when I was in college) the tour I was on ended in Frankfurt and I had to get back to London to catch my flight back to the states.  It seemed so disorienting to realize that flying from Frankfurt to London, spanning three countries with three different languages, took less time than when I flew from my home in West Virginia to my university in Chicago.

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#6 waterpanther

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 03:24 PM

It's not just international ignorance.  I've had college students who didn't know that New Mexico belongs to the United States, that Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma are the states immediately contiguous to Texas, or that there were no automobiles or television during the Civil War.  Asking them to find Africa on a globe or Britain on a map induced nothing but despair.    :(

And I'm not sure what the number is, but I'll bet the percentage of monolingual English Americans is way over 70%.

Edited by waterpanther, 03 July 2005 - 03:25 PM.

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#7 Norville

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 03:30 PM

Yes, we are more insular than we should be. As for myself... well, I've been to Canada a few times, and that's all I've managed for foreign travel.

I don't have a passport because I don't travel as much as I used to (and the travel that I did do was mostly in the US), and am not sure that I want to pay the rather steep fees for acquiring one. There are places I'd dearly love to go, like the UK and New Zealand, but can I *afford* them? Not really...


Basically- how on EARTH can you not want to go to all the amazing countries in the world?!!! I can't grasp that concept.

For me, it's not a case of *not wanting* to go; it's not being able to afford it all. :cry:
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#8 Julianus

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 03:43 PM

Hello Sparkycola,
Another, possibly older, (in my 50's) USer here.
As has  been noted by others above traveling to Europe these days is a  more expensive proposition than it used to be. In th 1970's I traveled to England, Milan, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, and spent a month traveling around Spain where I met a girl in Cordoba who was from the city next to my hometown back in the states. :) That was also the time when a book titled Europe on $5 a Day was very popular and actually doable. One doesn't get quite so much bang for the buck these days. ;)
Another reason USers may not have passports is that they haven't needed them to visit Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or many of the Carribean islands. A driver's license or photo id has been sufficent.
In the post 9-11 world that is about to change, though, and passports will be required for USers to reenter the country from those destinations in the near future.
Good to read that you enjoy traveling so much.

Edited by Julianus, 03 July 2005 - 03:44 PM.

#9 SparkyCola

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 03:45 PM

I see the point with regard to money, and i'm beginning to feel very lucky to live so close to Europe!

However- I have been to Canada, a fair number of the people i know have been to either Canada or America and that's the same distance. Perhaps the point is actually that because we can do 3 day school trips to Paris or a week in florence for Art History- because we can so *easily* get to other countries- it becomes ingrained in the culture and so venturing further doesn't seem so remote an idea.

The places i wanna go are not just in Europe though, all over the world. I was also under the impression that Americans DID need a passport to get to Mexico/Canada.

But i gotta say that if you can- you should so go for it. As for waterpanther....:eek3: wow that's incredibly bad!

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#10 The Tyrant

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 03:48 PM

For myself, here in the midwest U.S., I'm pretty much as far from either border as one can get in the continental U.S., so it is not easy or cheap for me to get to either Mexico or Canada...though I'm giving it a try here pretty soon, having decided to go to Gatecon in Vancouver. Yes, it will be my first time in Canada... :p

I did not have a passport until 2001, when I got married and honeymooned in London/Glasgow for 10 days....I always wanted to visit the U.K., but never had the money. In fact, money has always been my biggest obstacle to traveling outside the U.S....not just in travel fees (airline tickets), but having spending money there. The dollar has been pretty weak vs. most foreign currency for some time now, so things are more expensive for me, relatively, and I have to take more money to make up the difference.

I want to travel more....just have to find a better paying job. Then stay in it long enough to build up vacation time... :lol:

P.S. - BTW, to illustrate, getting to Vancouver from where I am is over 2000 miles, and plane fare will cost $530, round trip...if I drove, it'd be a 35 hour trip...so I'm not close to anything...:p

Edited by RichieTyrant, 03 July 2005 - 03:51 PM.

#11 waterpanther

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 03:54 PM


But i gotta say that if you can- you should so go for it. As for waterpanther.... wow that's incredibly bad!

For which we have George Bush and the Texas version of No Child Left Behind to thank.
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#12 SparkyCola

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 03:57 PM

I see. If you only need a driver's license i guess there's not much point getting a passport. Also- in the U.K. a passport is extremely useful for photo identification- whereas in America i think you have ID cards for that purpose (?).

And yeah i had totally forgotten about the dollar - foreign currency ratio- again pretty lucky in the U.K. to mostly end up on the beneficial side of the money exchange.  :unsure: Hmm yes, good point indeed.

Thanks for so much feedback- wow you guys don't waste any time eh!  :lol:

But on a slight tangent- how *was* the response to Live 8 in America, from your POV- is it true that you only had one concert going in Philidelphia?

Incidentally- Julianus, you joined Ex Isle on my birthday!  :look:  :
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#13 Delvo

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 04:09 PM

I notice that the beginning post here mentions destinations that are fairly close to each other. If there were one level of passport to get between countries in Europe and another to leave Europe, how many Europeans would have the latter?

Money is another big factor that I think you underestimate... as is vacation time.

There are also cultural and linguistic problems. It's supposed to be a bad thing to go to another country not knowing the language first, but just a vacation or two apiece in multiple other countries is not enough benefit for the work (and expense) of learning all of those extra languages, if you can even find sufficient classes in your area anyway (and tough luck if you don't have the talent for it; that makes you evil and arrogant, not just lacking in a particular ability). Then we're also labelled "Ugly Americans" if we don't already know enough about the place we're going and the people who live there first before going, but can't know it without going first because book knowledge doesn't count, so neither order works, and as soon as we learn stuff then we're yet another nasty stereotype for knowing too much, or we still get scolded for staying home and doing neither. It's a no-win situation, so we might as well save our money and stay where we don't have to deal with the people who make it that way, instead of spending lots of money and vacation time going someplace where we'll just have fights picked with us for daring not to have been born there.

Edited by Delvo, 09 December 2005 - 06:47 PM.

#14 HubcapDave


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Posted 03 July 2005 - 04:19 PM

waterpanther, on Jul 3 2005, 01:54 PM, said:


But i gotta say that if you can- you should so go for it. As for waterpanther.... wow that's incredibly bad!

For which we have George Bush and the Texas version of No Child Left Behind to thank.


Leave it to panther to throw politics into the fray.

So, are you trying to say that the phenomenon of the majority of Americans speaking only one language is solely a function of the current administration? You must really be joking!

As for the subject at hand, most other people have made my point. The US is approximately the size of Europe, hence travelling to other countries is not a simple as it might be for those in Europe.

Besides, we got some nice stuff to look at in the US as well. Here's a few shots I took on my trip to my mom's place last week.

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#15 Hibblette

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 04:24 PM

I live in Texas and it still would be expensive for me to go to Mexico and have a safe fun trip.

It is budget as far as I'm concerned.
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#16 Elara


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Posted 03 July 2005 - 04:37 PM

I would love to go to Ireland, where my father's ancestors came from, also to Czech and Slovak for my mother's, but money, or lack of, stands directly in my path.
I would also enjoy visiting Canada, but again, there is that pesky money issue. Nice thing was, we needed no passport to go there, bad thing will be to need one soon.
Yep, we do have picture id's, our driver's licenses.

As for some of what Delvo as said, I would prefer to go to a country not knowing everything in the books. Keeps my mind open to learn what that country truly is like, allows me to visit first hand their culture and history. Makes a more meaningful and lasting impression. If anyone got upset with me for not knowing enough, that is what I would tell them, then ask them to please teach me about their wonderful land.

So, as you can see, SparkyCola, it's not that we don't want to go to other lands, it's that we simply cannot and why waste money on a passport that will sadly, never be used?
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#17 SparkyCola

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 05:08 PM

We usually need two photo ID's over here- driver's license is one and passport is the other.

But yeah, it actually seems quite sad that it's so difficult for you guys to go anywhere else.

Fantastic pics Dave! And don't get me wrong there- i'm not saying that America isn't a good place to visit or that you haven't got your own interesting and sundry places to see inside the USA ~ when i think of the many many places i want to visit within the U.K and how different they all are i can but imagine that on the scale of America.

However, my point was that no matter how big America is, there is no where in America which can parallel a totally different country like Japan for example, or China, or Russia, Greece, etc. with totally different histories, cultures, languages even alphabets...etc.

I would have thought on the language side of things that you lot would be able to speak a passable level of Spanish- just as most Brits know a little French and/or German and/or Spanish or possibly Italian. I guess with so few of you ever leaving it would be fairly pointless, whereas over here we pop over to Europe plenty.

But yeah mainly i guess it's just kinda sad that you don't really have the opportunity to see different places so much.

And i take it that the Kerry being fluent in French thing was simply related to the timing of the anti-french feeling in America after they didn't back the war in Iraq? Poor timing? (Freedom Fries :lol: What was that about?!)

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#18 emsparks

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 05:26 PM

If you check the current trade deficits, the United States can not afford the 0.7 percent of GDP, that “live 8” is asking for, because we are all ready underwriting, Chinese and Mexican economic expansion. There is a de facto process in effect to lower the wages, and standard of living of the American middle class, a very successful process at that. The very class of people “live 8,” is trying to gain the sympathy of. My kids and I would like to help the world’s poor, and travel, but we need to eat too, and my America is a very expensive country to live in even for the poor.

I am not going to waste your time, so I will say this, for the average American; America is not what it was, and America is definitely not what you think it is.

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#19 Atavus


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Posted 03 July 2005 - 06:54 PM

We people in Europe are just plan lucky and that's that. Especially with the rise of cheap plane tickets, even a student can afford to go to Rome for the weekend or (as I have done) commute between the UK and Berlin (where I used to live up until less than a year ago) four times in 9 months without going over 250 Pounds (about $450). Just a few years ago something like that would have not been financially viable, with each flight easily costing the same as I've paid for all four return. That said, if I wanted to I could travel by bus or by train to Berlin from the UK, but I honestly wouldn't want to because it would take me a day or more.

That travel time would barely get you through Texas or across one state in Australia, which is why it's so much harder to travel in those places. My family in Australia moved there 40-odd years ago, three of the five aunts and uncles haven't left Australia since, let alone been back to England to see where home used to be.
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#20 Cheile


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Posted 03 July 2005 - 07:02 PM

i agree with those who said it is easier for Europeans to be well traveled because y'all are closer together than we and you.  the only reason my HS graduation trip sent the parents and myself on a seven-country-twenty-five day trip was by the generosity of my grandfather.

i do agree, Sparky, that Rome, Venice and Florence are must sees.  those were the three cities in Italy included on our tour.  i also say London is a must see, but then i'm in love with London, Britain and the British people so i suppose i'm biased. ;)

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