I’m constantly asked why more American’s don’t travel. It’s a complicated question. But the more I travel, the simpler my answers become. And at the top of that list is our government just doesn’t have a vested interest in promoting international travel. It’s my belief that American’s travel abroad and seeing how other countries deal with common problems is the biggest threat to the political status quo and politicians are well aware of that. It’s far easier to control a population that has limited global knowledge and experience. But let’s play in fantasy land for a minute. Let’s say the US Government decided to put considerable effort into getting more American’s traveling abroad. What would that look like? Let’s go down the rabbit hole, shall we?
Invest in Study Abroad For Everyone
Study Abroad is the first international travel experience for many Americans. Unfortunately, the statistics show a ridiculous disparity in not only how many people participate but who participates. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education and statistics from the Department of Education, less than 10 percent of all undergraduates in the US go overseas. Of that 10%, accordingly to the Institute of International Education, only 20% are students of color (African American, Latino, Asian). A pretty obvious disparity right? But WHY?!?!?!?! I have a few theories.
One of the primary reasons more students of color don’t study abroad is quite simple. Many don’t know about it. The advantage that many white students have is a legacy. A legacy of education. A legacy of economic advantage. And yes, a legacy of travel. Many had parents or siblings that studied abroad. So they are aware of these programs and the funding options which exist. Many students of color are not.
Students of color, who make up over half of the public school population, need to be exposed not only to Study Abroad programs but options as for how to fund these programs. Our government has an opportunity to make significant strides in this area by devoting more of the national education budget to Study Abroad programs. Study Abroad has the potential to become a required part of every college students curriculum. And an extremely beneficial one at that.
Stop Picking Fights and Reporting Bullshit
FEAR FEAR FEAR……….let me say it again, FEAR. Fear is a paralyzing and parasitic emotion. It paralyzes people from doing anything that might put them in perceived danger. It eats away at all the things that make us and travel great. Curiosity, compassion, open-mindedness. All seem to go out of the window when we’re constantly inundated with fear based media. Now, don’t get me wrong. Some of it is valid. The world of travel isn’t all rainbows and sunshine.
It’s unfortunate our national security policy is basically “Kill people and break their shit”. Throughout history we’ve seen strides towards a more inclusive and welcoming global culture, lately, we’re going backwards at high speed. And this can’t only be blamed on our politicians. The media has a huge hand in this, as well as people who refuse to listen to anything outside of these comfortable echo chambers we create for ourselves. Not only do politicians and media have to change, we have to demand it as voters and media consumers.
Fund Peace Corps
If there’s one group doing “Gods Work”, it’s the Peace Corps. I’ve been blessed to run across them all over the world. Young, idealistic, and passionate men and women of all colors and backgrounds. I’ve noticed that the mix of cultures in Peace Corps is significantly higher than Study Abroad and regular backpackers. Peace Corps not only opens young people up to travel, but service as well. Which is an excellent way to combat the rise of selfishness an arrogance we see in so many young people these days (geez I feel old just writing this).
Peace Corps needs a serious PR push. The public truly needs to see what they are doing on the ground, around the world. Take advantage of social media and hire a dedicated team to not only post relevant and up to date content, but increase engagement as well. Check out what Peace Corp is up to here on their Facebook Page.
Stop Big Oil and Airline Lobbyist
One of the primary reasons people don’t travel abroad or feel the need to get passports is the prevailing notion that flights are expensive. When you fly within the US it’s ridiculous. While prices over the pond have dropped drastically over the last 5 years, the news is slow to spread. And the reason being is Big Oil and Big Air have lobbyists in DC lobbying for the interests of these companies. When Norwegian Airlines decided to open hubs in the US and offer low-cost flights to Europe and Asia, guess who sued? Big Air. Since 1998, these industries have spent $1,318,916,120 (Airlines) and $1,997,343,124 (Oil) influencing politicians.
SOLUTION: Just STOP allowing a for-profit lobbyist to influence our government. I was extremely disappointed in President Obama behind his inaction on Citizens United. I’m the king of playing devil’s advocate and I can’t find one logical reason beyond greed and corruption to justify allowing corporations the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money in our political system. And people are worried about Russia. We need to be worried about Exxon, Eli Lilly, and Dupont.
Increase Passport Ownership
There’s one positive that will come out of The REAL ID Act of 2005 finally kicking in. More people are being forced to get passports. Over 131 million Americans have active passports as of December 2016. Approximately 40%. And a large number of people started getting passports once they became required for Canada and Mexico. Meaning, many Americans still don’t travel internationally. There are several reasons for this. Work/Vacation balance, socioeconomics, fear. But one reason can easily be dealt with. Lack of a passport.
Currently, the cheapest option for a passport is $135. There are thousands of programs and grants that exist to help the less fortunate in our country. Why not create a program that gives free or discounted passports to the less fortunate? A passport can also double as an ID, which makes it valuable regardless if people chose to travel. Similar to the way people travel in the European Union. They only need their EU ID.
Well, these are a few ideas that I believe will help the US Government in getting more American’s traveling abroad. But this is just one man’s opinion. Do you have anything to add?