More people are traveling to experience new cultures than ever before

There are countless reports discussing how travel is good for developing empathy; experiencing another culture in person is a great way to gain understanding and to humanize that which is foreign to us. So it’s our belief that there is still nothing quite like leaving the comforts of your own community to travel into others.

We pulled data on the total number of people who have traveled from the US to another country over the past 20 years, and one number really stuck out to us.

In 1996, there were 26,825,900 US-outbound trips abroad. In 2016, there were 72,559,988, according to the National Travel & Tourism office. This is a 170% increase over 20 years. We wanted to get to the heart of the reason behind why there was such a big jump over the last 20 years, so we conducted a survey of 1,174 people who said they have traveled outside the US in the past five years and found some interesting data as to why they did so.

Most people cited that it was easier to travel, and that the internet has made planning adventure travel more accessible. Others stated that because of how much more information they had access to, they were able to discover potentially new and exciting places to explore. And last, many people commented on how they would see pictures of their friends’ adventures on social media and decide to take a similar trip.

Because of the above, we expected to see a shift in reasons why people traveled, and it was pretty exciting to see the results. Below you’ll find data on the reason most people traveled last year:

What was the reason for your most recent travel outside the US?


Reason for Travel Response
Business 349
Experience Culture 324
Leisure 201
Visit Family 141
Big Event 38
Other 121

People who are traveling to experience culture is increasing faster than all other reasons combined, as we have seen a 40% jump in the number of people who list that as a reason they have recently traveled abroad. While travel overall has increased, the biggest jump in the reason people travel is for experiencing the unknown, a new culture, a new city, etc. This, to us, is a beautiful thing, that people are looking to broaden their worldview through travel.

When we asked followup questions, here were some of the responses:

“It is so much easier to travel almost anywhere now. The internet has made it really simple to book flights and somewhere to stay in a matter of minutes.”

“I always dreamed of exploring the world as a kid, so I’m just doing more of it now.”

“My dad traveled a lot for work as a kid, I don’t have to travel for work, but I get the privilege of traveling for pleasure, so I take every opportunity to do so.”

What about you? Have you traveled just to experience a new culture in the past year? We’d love to hear about your trip, tell us about it in the comments below!