Saturday, April 14, 2012


I've decided to create a new Twitter hashtag called #travelbyexample inspired by several conversations I've had in the past several months and most recently on Twitter yesterday with Kenji from @PassportLife when he posed the following question:

A gap year off after high school or college to travel is a standard in Europe. In America, not so much. Why is that?

Tracey & Casey #selfportrait
(And yes, I've named my Bags by eBags suitcase.)

My response was simple:  Fear.  The longer answer had I not been in a hurry (and not had the confines of 140 characters on Twitter) would have been:  Fear...from parents (typically the funders of college) that a year off from school could result in any host of worst-case-scenarios, namely getting the travel bug and deciding to continue to travel for more than a year...hence, putting off college; deciding not to go to college at all; finding love in another country and never coming back; yada yada yada.  You get the picture.

And while I acknowledge that travel in many families is considered a luxury and not a lifestyle and while I also acknowledge that many folks are misinformed about how travel doesn't actually have to be luxurious to be enjoyed, there is definitely a pretty big segment of the American population that operates from this base of fear and lack of information.  Because as all of us travelers know, there is more to be gained by travel than not traveling at all.

The solution, IMHO, is what I tell myself when I deal with Fearful Parents that won't let their children go to OBG Adventure Camps and adults who are afraid to venture off on a solo trip, etc.:  Travel by example.  Show people that travel can be fun and safe and mind-blowing and life-changing.  Maybe, just maybe, if all of The Wanderlusts keep traveling and sharing their stories, The Fearful will get The Bug and become Wanderlusts too. 

I'm sure there are loads of other reasons I'm not considering and other solutions as well.  Anyone care to chime in?

In the meantime, get your passport and #travelbyexample.


  1. Here's a reason: American values. There is not a broad based understanding that travel is part of one's education just like speaking or learning another language.

  2. I think because the emphasis of a traditional education is so drilled into certain communities the prospect of education through travel experiences is foreign (no pun intended) I agree with the fear because the thought of sending your child alone in a world that you may not know either sends anxiety through any parent. I think if parents travel with their children in the younger years and experience the travel with the child they overcome their own fears and are less fearful for their children. This also gives a more open mind regarding education within the travel experience. JMHO...smiles....

  3. Spot on. Yes, fear of so many things... and American values. In America, travel is something you do when you retire or if you're rich. I'm currently on a midcareer trip around the world;my friends and family think I'm batty for quitting my well-paying job to travel to countries where lots of bad things could happen to me.

  4. This post is spot on. I was actually walking by La Concha the other day (cue sad trombone) and was telling my kids about the Passport Party Project. They are still in elementary school and seemed bewildered that there are kids who don't get to travel. I only ask that they pay it forward ... and use their adventures to inspire. lead and create.

  5. I agree with all of the above answers said by previous commenters. I went to what is considered to be a very good American university but it chose to not have its own study aborad programs (they are opening campuses in Asia now though). We had to apply to other universities' programs. I'm not sure if it has changed its policy or programs, but it's amazing that U.S. citizens and institutions don't encourage more international experiences . I think that Americans don't feel the need to have an understanding of international perspectives whether they be academic or experiential. Unfortunately, in an increasingly global world, I think that's going to do the U.S. a disservice.

  6. My children are already talking about where they want to go for their gap year - in 8 and 10 years! My children are also fortunate to be able to attend an International school where, not only is everyone from someplace else, and everyone travels, but travel and learning about other cultures is also a big part of the curriculum. Students go on overnight trips, based on a topic they've studied, as early as 2nd grade.

  7. I'd say that for many Americans, there's a lack of recognition in the value of travel, similar to that in the value of learning another language. Besides people feeling that they can't afford to travel abroad, so many Americans have a provincial way of thinking about the world. They feel that everything they need to know can be learned on American shores and if it can't, then it's not worth knowing. I'd even go so far as to say people are more isolationist than we give them credit for.

  8. Being married to one's job. Believing that you can't leave or take a vacation. Americans are trained to work. They are afraid to take time off. The capitalism and materialism forces many Americans to work overtime. Americans value things over experiences. Americans believe that everything is expensive and they have to work hard or hustle hard to accumulate the status symbols. Travel is a status symbol. America's capitalistic beliefs skew the truth about the ease and ability to travel.

    One friend who follows my blog The Skychi Travel Guide questioned are wealthy or what?

    The proximity of other countries in Europe makes travel easier. Europeans have more of an appreciation for the quality of life compared to Americans.

    Americans are told that they live in the best country in the world and that everyone is trying to live in America. Why should they go somewhere else?

    How can parents encourage their children to do something that they don't believe is possible or obtainable?