I have noticed that there is something of a popular belief, mostly held amongst Europeans, that those of us here in the United States are not well-travelled. There is probably some truth to this, I know that many amongst my social group have travelled quite widely in Europe and Asia, but my friends tend to have a bit more money and education.

When analyzing this fact, the often stated assumption is that Americans like staying in our own country because we are somehow chauvinistic and are so besotted with the wonders of America that we are willingly turning down the opportunity to go to The Louvre or Sistine Chapel. And while American's lack of travel to other parts of the world may cause some ignorance and chauvinism, it seems silly to assume that is the actual cause of it.

A while ago, I wrote a writeup arguing that the lack of communication between China and the rest of the world, while often analyzed in terms of some cultural preference of the Chinese, could also be explained by the fact that it is just hard to get anywhere from China. I think the same reason may explain why many Americans don't travel much, or at least travel to foreign countries.

I live in Portland, Oregon. If I were to travel to Seattle, the nearest large city, that would be about the distance from Amsterdam to Brussels. If I were to visit my mother in Missoula, would be about the distance between Paris and Berlin. The distance between my home and San Francisco would be the same as the distance between Rome and Prague. If I were to cross the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains, and reach the beginning of the Midwest, in say, Minneapolis, it would be the distance between London and Minsk. If I were to cross the country all the way to the capital, I would have gone about the distance between Paris and Moscow. I hope this laundry list of cities outlines a fact: distances that in Europe would take the traveller into a different country, and sometimes most of the way across the continent, would sometimes only be the distance in the United States separating major cities. In other words, it would seem wrong to assume that Americans are refusing to leave their country because of some chauvinism, when the simple facts of geography show that you can't just visit another country after an afternoon's train ride. Many, or most Americans, have visited Canada or Mexico, the two countries you can get to on the ground. Beyond those countries, however, you need to take an airplane, something that you can't arrange as easily or as cheaply as you can arrange a rail, bus or car trip. For that matter, you could probably bicycle or even walk across the Low Countries, something that it is very hard to do across the Atlantic or Pacific.

So, that, in short, is my rebuttal to those who think that Americans are refusing to travel out of some sort of ignorant pride.

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