For those who’ve caught the travel bug, it’s hard to imagine why many people haven’t ventured outside of Australia.
Some small surveys estimate about 40 per cent of us have never been abroad, which probably isn’t far off the mark given in the year 2017-18, just 57 per cent of Aussies held a passport.
There are many reasons people don’t travel, and despite the stereotype that non-travellers are racist or uncultured, it’s more commonly a lack of interest, financial reasons, fear and responsibilities at home such as getting loans online fast stopping people from seeing the world.
‘My fear probably comes from my naivety’
Work, family and other responsibilities can hold people back from travel, explains psychologist Meredith Fuller.
“And some people just don’t have the money,” she says.
“We make an assumption it’s so easy to travel, but depending on your financial situation it’s a big expense.”
Add to that anxiety around the unknown, and it’s less surprising that people like 49-year-old Alison Whittaker have only left their home state once.
Alison was 30 years old when she left NSW for the first and only time.
She says her kids were old enough to be looked after by others, and she’d saved a little money.
But despite enjoying a trip to Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands, the idea of leaving again — let alone going overseas — has never really been on the cards.
Alison says it’s a combination of fear and just not having “the travel bug”.
Interestingly, she does want something different for her daughter.
“I sent my daughter to China with a school excursion when she was 17. I wanted to give her an experience I would never be able to give her,” she says.
“My fear probably comes from my naivety.”
Fears of the unknown can be anything, from worrying about being kidnapped to not speaking a language or lacking control, says Ms Fuller.
“People who are very habitual and like a routine … don’t want to give over to the loss of control.
“Take Tasmania, for example. There are a lot of people who have never left Launceston or never left Hobart.”
(ABS stats show Tasmania had the lowest proportion of overseas travellers in 2016 of all the states and territories, followed by South Australia and Queensland.)
“The idea of going from one end to the other is just too big, it’s too unknown, too much [for some people].”
Ms Fuller says if you’re genuinely not interested, that’s fine, “but if it’s a bit of anxiety … you can put your hand up and get some help from a professional.”
The same applies for people who fear modes of travel.
“A lot of people have some anxiety about things like planes — like the plane crashing, claustrophobia about being in a confirmed space, fear of heights,” Ms Fuller says.
But with the help of a psychologist, those fears can be overcome, she advises.
“Also just talking to people who have done the thing you afraid of can help.”
‘I don’t see the point’
For other non-travellers, it’s just not something they desire.
“Some people just aren’t interested, it doesn’t hold appeal,” Ms Fuller says.
“They are not as curious about other cultures, other places, they literally don’t have that curiosity gene in them.”
Brisbane’s Joseph Jurek, 23, can relate.
“Most of my friends have been somewhere, but after listening to the stories, it just all sounds the same,” he says.
“I don’t see the point.”
Joseph took his first flight as a child, moving from Darwin to Brisbane.
Since then he’s done a couple of coastal trips and journeyed interstate, but he has no plans to head abroad.
He says that may change if he meets a partner.
“Maybe if I was with someone I would go with them just to experience it with them, but by myself probably not — it’s just a motivation thing.”
Disability and breaking the family script
A lesser addressed reason behind a lack of travel is family expectations.
“Some people are worried that in the family script the idea is, ‘Don’t do better than me’,” Ms Fuller says.
“That parental injunction, that if you betray us by having a life where you travel overseas that’s wrong — don’t get too big for your boots.”
Physical disability and fitness can also prevent people from travel.
“You might have a colostomy bag and that really impacts how you feel about being on a long-haul flight, or maybe you have a bad back,” Ms Fuller says.
“Or you think it’d be nice to go away, ‘But I can hardly huff and puff up my stairs’.”
Making plans to travel for the first time
Most people who know Alison aren’t surprised she hasn’t been abroad, but having only left NSW once does raise a few eyebrows.
“They are all like, ‘What? Fair dinkum! Are you for real?’ They are just dismayed.”
But for her 50th birthday, Alison is breaking the mould.
She’s planned a three-week trip around Tasmania with a friend.
“It’s huge for me. We’re going to ride a motorbike around and have a ball.
If you do want to travel but feel something is holding you back, Ms Fuller says it’s worth addressing.
“If you have the opportunity to travel somewhere, the benefit of being there is real; smelling the smells, feeling the wind and the sun, and walking through ancient history somewhere else — all of the physical and emotional things that go with it make it such a rich learning opportunity.
“You might think ‘I don’t want to go now but I might want to go in 20 years when we’ve paid the house off or the kids are old enough’.
“You need to make sure that it’s written down, and it’s reviewed, and you don’t leave it too late.”
It’s OK not to travel
If people simply aren’t interested, they shouldn’t have to justify themselves, Ms Fuller says.
“Everyone doesn’t have to travel … just like some people aren’t interested in sport.
“And if you aren’t interested in travelling and you have travelling friends giving you a hard time, it’s very hard to defend your position.
“We need to respect different people’s opinions.”