For those of us lucky enough to travel extensively, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has the same opportunities.
As you’ll see with the data below, the international adventures and the quick weekend jet-a-ways that many of us take for granted are only dreams for a large portion of the population.
As it turns out, there’s a significant number of Americans who have never even been on an airplane, never left the country, and some who have never even left their home state!
I hope that after reading this post, you’ll walk away with a renewed sense of gratitude for how lucky you are when travel opportunities arise. The experience of visiting a new destination, meeting the locals, and soaking up the culture isn’t something to take for granted — it’s something you should celebrate knowing how rare it actually is!
Now let’s talk about how Americans travel (or don’t):
1. 16% of Americans have never left their own state
To be honest, this is one of the more shocking statistics I’ve seen:
Nearly 1 in 6 Americans have never left their home state in their entire life.
It’s easy to imagine why you might not travel internationally: historically high cost, large time commitment, etc. But some people haven’t even made it to the state border.
If you’ve enjoyed an inter-state road trip with friends, or even driven over the border to go shopping, just know that there are many who haven’t made it that far!
2. 80% of the world hasn’t been on an airplane
It can be hard to believe but a whole 80% of people in the world have never set foot on an airplane. Whether it’s money, fear of flying, lack of opportunity, or scheduling conflicts, these folks have just never made it on board at all.
The good news is that this number is expected to drop going forward, which means billions of people will be introduced to the magic that is Biscoff cookies!
3. 63% of Americans don’t have a passport
When you want to visit a foreign country, you need a passport.
It’s your government-issued proof that you are who you say you are, and it shows that you have the lawful right to be in a country. It’s also where you’ll keep your visas and any passport stamps you’ll need to show border control.
Right now, only about 1-in-3 American’s holds a valid passport. Until several years ago, this number was even higher, since US citizens used to be able to travel to Mexico and Canada (closest international destinations to the US) without a passport. But since those countries started requiring passports, the number of US passport holders has been steadily climbing (though still far below 50%).
4. Just 1% of air travelers cause 50% of all carbon emmisions
Maybe we shouldn’t feel quite so bad about the emissions from our flights after all…
As it turns out, the bulk of airplane carbon emissions is a result of just 1% of the population (known as “super-emitters”). These folks are mostly who you would expect: the global elite, wealthy individuals with multiple homes, international politicians, etc.
According to an article by ScienceNorway: “One of these wealthy jetsetters contributes 225,000 times as much to global warming as one of the worlds’ poor inhabitants.“
5. 63% of Americans who have never left the country think that an international trip is out of their price range
It’s certainly understandable why most folks who have never left the country think it’s out of their price range.
But this statistic also makes me sad, because I know that it doesn’t have to be true!
I constantly track airfare prices from my home city. In many ways, we are in a golden age of cheap airfare and affordable international flights are pretty abundant. For example, it’s often cheaper to fly from Philadelphia to Costa Rica or Europe than it is to fly from Philadelphia to Seattle. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve seen it several times!
There’s really no shortage of airfare deals, sales, and mistake fares if you don’t mind monitoring flights once in a while, and keep some flexibility in mind with travel dates. There are even a handful of cheap flight alert services that will take care of this for you on auto-pilot.
And thanks to the abundance of affordable accommodations through services like Airbnb, hostels, housesitting and even international petsitting opportunities, the world is more open and accessible than it’s ever been.
The remaining stereotypes of expensive international travel keep people trapped in a mindset where they don’t even consider it, but it’s now more accessible than you might think!
6. Only 4% of the world’s population travels abroad each year
Based on travel numbers from 2018, only about 1-in-10 people board an airplane at all, and only 4% travel outside their home country in a given year.
If it feels like you and everyone you know are flying away all the time, a quick reminder that you might be living in a travel bubble!
7. 10% of people have no interest in going anywhere
As crazy as this sounds to an adventure lover, for some people, travel is just not their cup of tea. Nearly 10% of people just want to stay at home forever.
This is another great reminder that we all have different priorities and activities that give us enjoyment in life. But man, it’s hard to resonate with these folks when you’ve really got adventure in your heart!
Hopefully now you have a newfound appreciation for how special travel really is.
If you’re able to visit another country or even another state, please remember not to take it for granted and to enjoy it to the fullest. Visiting new destinations helps us learn more about who we are and where we fit in, and every trip is another opportunity for adventure, learning, and growth.