Trading Places

This week's Economist has a briefing on world tourism. These two sentences caught my attention:

About 85% of American travel and tourism is domestic. Only one-fifth of American citizens have passports.

As a kid, I traveled within the continental United States extensively (over 40 states by the time I was 16), but once I started college, my domestic tourism wholly ceased and all my travels were all to Europe. Indeed, aside from one drive to Michigan for a wedding a year ago, I can’t think of any noteworthy travel within the US I’ve done since I was in high school. To me, traveling became synonymous with traveling to Europe, and the idea of traveling within the US did not enter my mind.

After having spent the past five years focused on Europe, however, I find myself thinking more and more about finally visiting the places in the US I’ve never been, and perhaps achieving a goal I had when I was younger to visit all 50 states. It now seems such utter foolishness to have ignored low-hanging domestic fruit in favor of the harder-to-reach exotic types.

***

Playing golf some time ago, a German lawyer mentioned to me that the farthest east he had traveled in Europe was to Berlin—in other words, he had never been to Central or Eastern Europe. How strange, I remarked, not to have been even in those countries which border your own, like Poland or the Czech Republic.

As we finished the hole, the lawyer mentioned how much he does however enjoy his visits to Mexico.

Never been, I replied.