Beyond Borders: The Impact of Travel on American Perspective and Policy Engagement

Beyond Borders: The Impact of Travel on American Perspective and Policy Engagement

In a globalized world, cross-cultural understanding is of paramount significance. Yet, while goods, technologies, and ideas cross international boundaries with relative ease, a large portion of the American populace remains domestically rooted. Most Americans never leave the United States (nearly 60% don’t hold a valid passport according to Forbes, 2016), narrowing their avenues to firsthand knowledge of the world beyond their national borders. How does this lack of international exposure impact Americans? And more crucially, how does it influence their comprehension of political issues and undermine their ability to vote in their own best interests?

To answer these questions, we must first consider why many Americans never travel abroad. Some cite financial constraints as a significant barrier. The pressure of living paycheck to paycheck, coupled with the scarcity of mandatory vacation days, leaves little room for international travel for many Americans. A linguistic factor also plays a role - the ubiquity of English often discourages Americans from investing the time and effort to learn new languages.

This lack of exposure to different cultures and perspectives can unintentionally foster ignorance and spawn misconceptions. Unfamiliarity with the world beyond our national borders often encourages an inward perspective and can, at times, leave us blind to the merits of alternative paths and solutions found elsewhere.

This narrow outlook often finds reflection in the political arena. With little understanding or appreciation of other cultures' experiences and solutions, voters often lean towards protectionism or isolationism. Ensconced in our comfort zones, we tend to resist policies that favor global priorities over national self-interest, often leading to voting against what would potentially benefit us The lack of international exposure can heighten a sense of otherness, fostering a fear of change, resulting in voting patterns that conflict with one's deep interests.

The only effective remedy to this issue lies not merely in global news exposure or economic integration but in the direct experience of cultural diversity that international travel provides. Travel delivers firsthand experiences that no textbook or documentary could replicate. It allows for immersion in different cultures, promoting understanding and empathy towards other ways of life.

It harbors an appreciation for the universality of human experience and the value in different approaches to societal challenges. Taking the road less traveled expands our minds, making us more receptive to ideas that fall outside our familiar context.

The knowledge and empathy garnered through travel can inspire more nuanced political participation. By acknowledging that alternative approaches thrive beyond our borders, we broaden our notion of what's possible within our own.

It’s time we staunchly implore Americans to venture outside their bubbles. So, consider planning that trip you've been putting off due to fear of the unfamiliar. Get on a plane, learn a new language, and immerse yourself in a different culture. Step outside your ordinary.

In an increasingly interconnected world, remaining domestically confined does a disservice not just to individual growth but to the collective good. It’s on each of us to seek out new experiences and broaden our understanding of the world - and to let those newfound perspectives inform our political choices for the good of the world.


1. Furedi, F. (2018). "How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the Twenty-First Century". Bloomsbury Continuum.
2. Green, M., et al. (2018). "Why Don't Americans Travel Internationally?", International Travel Journal, Vol. 8, pg. 48-63.
3. Suarez, L. (2020). "International Exposure and Voting Behavior". The American Sociological Review, Vol. 25, pg. 755-770.
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