According to the US State Department, there were 131,840,062 valid American passports in circulation in 2016. That is up significantly from a few years ago when barely one-third of American’s had passports and a large portion of those people had only ever used their passports to go to Mexico or Canada, but it is still a lower percentage of the population than in a lot of foreign countries.
So why don’t Americans travel more? One explanation is that our country is just so big that people feel like they can get plenty of summer vacation road trip travel in while staying within our own borders. Another explanation is that Americans overall get and take much less vacation time than people do in other countries. If you have six weeks to travel instead of two, or one, or none, it makes sense to go further afield. America also has the fifth most expensive passport in the world, making it less accessible to people with low income. And if you don’t want to go to Canada or Mexico, international travel involves a relatively expensive flight or cruise. With the average American household credit card debt load hovering right around $8k, a money is a significant consideration. And last of all, Americans tend to be afraid. In spite of the fact that we are all far more likely to be shot and killed in American than pretty much any other developed, non-war zone country in the world, we still feel like it is safer to stay home than travel abroad.
But how much do we lose by not traveling to other countries and interacting other cultures? Travel takes us out of our habitual routines. It breaks out of the norm and activates our brains in new ways. A lot of people try to break out of old habits and addictions like smoking or drinking while on vacation because the habitual triggers that usually signal it is time to have a cigarette or a drink are not there on vacation. This article explains some of the reasons why traveling on vacation is the best time to quit smoking!
I recently came across a quote from Brat Pack actor Andrew McCarthy of Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire fame. Before finding this quote I had no idea that he became a travel obsessed travel writer in recent years.
“Travel changed my life—who I was and how I saw myself, even when I wasn’t traveling,” Andrew McCarthy said at the Boston Globe Travel show in 2012. He talked about walking across the Camino de Santiago in Spain, feeling lonely and miserable. He hit bottom and wanted to go home. The next day he realized that fear had run his life, and he felt like himself for the first time. He discovered in his travels that he is more at home in himself the farther he gets from home. – excerpt from this article on Travelfreak.net
Alyson Kilday also understands the transformative power of travel. She is the CEO of Hop & Jaunt, a creative agency based in New Orleans as well as the co-founder of Damesly which is not your average travel agency. She launched her first company while backpacking and sailing across the Caribbean to Colombia and now calls New Orleans home. Alyson grew up in over a dozen countries, speaks Japanese and Spanish fluently and is currently on passport number 5. When I heard how much Alyson moved when she was a child, I at first thought her family must have been military, but instead, she explained that they were corporate nomads who loved to sail. What an amazing way to grow up.
Now, along with co-founder Kelly Lewis, Alyson operates Damesly, a thoroughly original tour company for women. Damesly offers workshops and learning opportunities from amazing women in the field with people who share a similar passion or interest. They just happen to do it in epic locations, because what better way to form lasting friendships and connections than by sharing an adventure together? Personally, I have to agree. Some of my best and longest lasting friendships have been with people I toured with when I played in indie bands and the people I stayed with while I was traveling.
Alyson and Kelly have recently launched “Damesly Minis” which are weekend workshops and retreats to amazing locations around the United States. Want to learn how to be your own PR agent while cruising on a boat in Lake Powell? Or maybe you want to learn how to unleash and harness your creativity from successful makers and artists in New Orleans. Or you can hone your Photography skills while hiking in the Grand Canyon with a National Geographic professional photographer.
Whether you travel nationally or internationally, with a tour company or on your own, getting out of your personal comfort zone and stretching your horizons is good for us all!
If you want to hear my entire conversation with Alyson Kilday you can find that right here. Now go update your passport and plan some travel!