Millennials might want to travel more than they want to reach major milestones (like buying a house or starting a family), but they aren't the only ones. Gen Zers, those born in 1997 or after, are hot on their trail and seem to be just as interested in cultivating experiences and seeing the world.
While research shows traveling (particularly international travel) is good for people's physical health, can help reduce stress, heighten creativity, and increase happiness, young people might not necessarily be looking for those perks when they pack up and head out on their adventures.
According to one study, more than half of millennials said Instagram was a key consideration when deciding where they wanted to go next, making "ego travel" an opportunity to brag about their expeditions rather than enjoy them. But with so many opportunities to snap pictures of the world's most iconic sights, how many travelers are seeing the places they visit?
To find out, we asked 132 people from the U.K. and the U.S. to draw 12 of the world's most iconic and recognizable landmarks from memory. From the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower to the Palm Jumeirah and Big Ben, read on as we break down which sights make the best impressions, which travelers know their stuff, and whether traveling abroad makes you more worldly.
The Final Submissions
Before we dive into the finer details of travelers' memories (and drawing skills), take a look at some of the illustrations we received from our survey participants. From the good to the bad to the downright ugly, let's take a closer look at how well our participants scored.
Rating Their Work
As you can see from the submissions above, some renderings were pretty good (or at least somewhat recognizable), while others missed the mark … slightly.
Considering New York City is one of the most-visited cities in the world (there were more than 13 million overnight visitors in 2018), the Statue of Liberty was the most memorable landmark according to our study. Participants scored an average of 4.7 out of 10 for accuracy, and while more than 42 percent were classified as "good drawings," less than 2 percent of people weren't confident in their ability to capture Lady Liberty's likeness.
Across the pond, the Eiffel Tower (an average accuracy score of 4.0), the Taj Mahal (4.0), the Parthenon (3.5), and the Sydney Opera House (3.2) also earned the best scores. While the average confidence score for the Parthenon was among the lowest of all 12 landmarks (1.9), participants still managed to convey this ancient Greek landmark with surprising accuracy.
Although Dubai hosted nearly 16 million overnight visitors in 2018 (more than New York City, Singapore, and Tokyo), it was landmarks in the Middle East where our artists struggled the most. The Palm Jumeirah in Dubai earned a 2.4 out of 10 for average accuracy, followed only by the Burj Khalifa – the tallest structure in the world since 2010.
A Geographical Advantage?
However, U.S. participants frequently scored higher marks for their drawings (67 percent) than people from the U.K. (33 percent) –and that doesn't just include sights within their country. We found U.K. participants only outscored those from the U.S. when asked to recreate four of the world's most iconic sights: the Parthenon in Greece, the Great Pyramids at Giza and the Sphinx in Egypt, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
In addition to the Golden Gate Bridge and the Statue of Liberty, Americans also managed to draw more faithful pictures of Big Ben in London. U.K. residents scored below 8 percent for their average accuracy and may have forgotten what Big Ben looks like after years of scaffolding and construction.
Not So Memorable After All
Even if their art skills weren't exactly Louvre-worthy, most participants at least recognized the landmarks we asked them to recreate. Similar to landmarks in the Middle East (including the Palm Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa) where more than 50 percent of Americans drew a blank instead of a masterpiece, some locations might be more memorable than others.
While no single American participant was unfamiliar with either the Golden Gate Bridge or the Statue of Liberty, U.K. residents struggled slightly with both. Nearly 3 percent of U.K. residents couldn't recall the Statue of Liberty, and 11 percent couldn't remember the Golden Gate Bridge.
Overall, it was Christ the Redeemer (14 percent of U.K. residents and 19 percent of Americans), the Parthenon (33 percent and 24 percent), Palm Jumeirah (39 percent and 56 percent), and Burj Khalifa (22 percent and 52 percent) that left people drawing the biggest blanks.
We Can't All Be Warhols
When we asked people to draw some of the biggest landmarks around the world, we weren't expecting Picassos and Renoirs. Of course, what we received ran the gamut from painstakingly detailed to flat-out bizarre.
When asked to draw Big Ben, one participant submitted a drawing that included the tiers of the clock face, each hour of the day, and the tower's highest points. While the average participant at least attempted some of these finer details, the worst drawing was of a bell (and not a particularly good-looking bell). Perhaps mistaken for the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, this drawing more than missed the mark.
Big Ben as a bell wasn't the only mismatch, either. When asked to recreate the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, one person drew what can only be described as a taco shell (complete with fixings), and one attempt at Christ The Redeemer looked more like a stick figure cartoon than one of the New 7 Wonders of The World.
Some drawings can't even be described as poor or inaccurate – they were downright ugly, earning no points at all for their attempts. When asked to draw the Sydney Opera House, one participant submitted a dome-shaped building with a rather large front door instead of the multi-dimensional shapes and textures of Sydney's prized architectural landmark.
If some of these drawings left you scratching your head, there may be a simple explanation for why so many were far from accurate. Young people might be more likely to pick their travel destinations based on good social media content; however, if you've never seen these monuments in person, you might not know where to start.
Twenty-six percent of participants who saw the landmarks in person scored a five or higher on our scale, compared to 19 percent who may have only seen them online or not at all. Even traveling internationally just once might not do the trick, as only 16 percent who went outside their native countries at most once managed to score a five or better, compared to 22 percent of people who traveled internationally two or more times.
Seeing the World
If you've never seen the world's biggest landmarks for yourself, you might not even really know what they look like. And if you have seen them in person, you could be missing the magic of the moment if you're too focused on social media. It was only after traveling outside their home countries several times that participants could recreate these impressive landmarks.
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Methodology and Limitations
We conducted a drawing experiment in which 134 people participated. Thirty-eight percent of the participants were men, and 62 percent were women. The ages of participants ranged from 18 to 64 with a mean of 32.9 and a standard deviation of 10.1.
At the start, participants were taught how to use the sketching software to maximize their accuracy. Each person was asked to spend a minute drawing each landmark while using only his or her memory. Afterward, participants were asked to rate their confidence level on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being completely confident in their drawing. This confidence rating was used to calculate the average confidence score.
A panel of marketing experts then rated the drawings. Five independent scores given to each drawing were averaged to find the average accuracy score. Drawings that scored a 5 or higher for accuracy were rated as "good."
It is entirely possible that participants failed to follow instructions, which included not using outside sources to aid drawing accuracy. As such, we cannot guarantee that all drawings were a product of just memory.
Fair Use Statement
Think you could have done better? We'd love for you to share the results of this study in all its artistic glory for any noncommercial use. Give credit where it's due by including a link back to this page in your story.