Australians: the world's best travellers

Anyone would think our own country sucked. It seems all Australians ever want to do is get away from the place they live.

Sure, we holiday in our homeland sometimes, but there's a disproportionate number of Aussies wandering the globe in far-off lands. You've seen the anecdotal evidence for yourself – doesn't matter where you are, every hostel, hotel, tourist attraction and bar around the world always has its token Australian contingent.

We love to travel.

There's hard evidence, too. A recent study by HSBC found that Australians spend about $US23 billion on travel annually, which puts us 10th in the world. Not bad for a small country.

When you look at spending per capita, however, we're the clear winners, with about $US1000 each per year nudging us just above Germany, Canada and the UK as the world's top travellers.

So it's official: Australians spend more on travel than any other nationality.

Why this obsession with travel? These stats won't come as a surprise, as everyone knows we like to get out and about, but what hasn't been answered is why?

Is it in our genes? We are, after all, a nation of wanderers, of adventurers and risk-takers. Our earliest settlers arrived by boat some 50,000 years ago, and that trend has continued throughout our history.

Some Australians arrived from Asia fleeing wars, others arrived from Britain fleeing crappy weather, but most of us have a recent history of adventure from faraway lands. That has to contribute in some way to a willingness to travel, even if it's only to visit the relatives who opted to stay behind.

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The mentality of most Australians suits travel. We're an easygoing lot, generally, from a multicultural country, which means that while we haven't seen it all, we're less likely to be shocked or offended by "it all" when we do see it. Enjoying travel takes a certain amount of open-mindedness – hopefully that's something most Australians possess.

There's also the tyranny of distance to consider. When Australians travel, they're forced to do it properly. We can't take a weekend in Paris, or a couple of days in Tuscany. We're talking long-haul flights – more time spent in a plane than your typical European tourist might spend on an entire city break.

Travel for us means covering massive distances, even if we're staying in our own country, which makes spending a lot of time away a more attractive proposition. More time away, more money spent.

There's also the general attitude towards travel in Australia to consider. As more people travel – especially given the advent of low-cost carriers – the more the pursuit is seen as a credible way to spend your money.

People used to think you were mad going off on long holidays when you could be saving up for a deposit on a house, but I think that's changed a fair bit now. Kids are almost expected to head off on gap years; young workers are taken seriously when they talk about career breaks.

Of course, the fact we're able to indulge these whims is the product of living in a first-world country with a stable economy that allows us the disposable income for luxuries like recreational travel. So that helps.

But it's not the only reason. In short, we've got the money, the urge, and the right spirit to travel. So it's no wonder we're all doing it.

Why do you think Australians travel so much?

Contact Ben Groundwater through his website, follow him on Twitter, or email bengroundwater@gmail.com

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