Journeys // Politics & Travelling On U.S. Passports

It was the morning after the presidential election in 2016. I was deep in the heart of Patagonia on one of the most adventure packed trips in some of the most remote places in the world. We were doing an overland border crossing from Argentina into Chile. The border crossing was conducted at what looked like a shack and those that worked there probably drove for miles to get to it. We were quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

The immigration officer behind the desk called me forward. He didn’t make eye contact as he was rustling through paperwork on his desk. I slid my US passport across the desk. The officer picked up my passport, looked me dead in the eyes, and let out a very grunt that I’d heard before. He shook his head slowly and in an exasperated tone asked “Trump?” It was in that moment that I knew I had my work cut out for me – again.

I say again, as I remember all too well travelling around the world in a time where much of the rest of the world didn’t have respect for or belief in the abilities of former U.S. President. Then it was Bush. I was living in Germany and attending University as part of a study abroad program. I travelled extensively throughout Germany and the rest of Europe. Whether they were fellow students or contacts I made exploring other countries – conversations inevitably always led to the same thing – the President.

It was as if people looked to me for answers like I was the official country spokesperson. I moved to the USA when I was a kid. By the age of 18 I ticked all the boxes & became a U.S. citizen. I am proud to be an American but I am no spokesperson. Sheesh, I’m not really even that political. No lie – it was hard work.

Reprieve came when former President Obama came into office. Whether you think his track record is stellar or not, a significant portion of the rest of the world respected him. That then directly translates to them respecting you more when you are visiting their country. It shouldn’t, but it does. Most people you come across understand that opinions of one leader do not always reflect those of the country’s citizens. Love him or hate him, he made travelling around the world easier for me.

Flash forward again to now. Our journey has taken us through almost 15 different countries since the 2016 presidential election. Not a visit to a country has gone by where someone’s political curiosities open conversations about President Trump. Perceived foreign diplomatic blunders add fuel to the fire and intensify these conversations. People want to know about travel bans, joke about Twitter meltdowns, discuss the rise of hate, and ultimately why there are so many that feel the need to make America great again. From the outside looking in, America IS great. Fantastic in fact. America still has that Hollywood sparkle that makes it such a sought after destination.

While travelling under an unpopular President is hard work, it should not deter you from travelling. In fact, now is the time to travel the most. Change the changing perspective of those you encounter as you take your city breaks, hit the beaches and climb the mountains of the world. Just be prepared.

Here are some things to take into consideration when stamping your passport & exploring the world.


//BE PREPARED TO TALK

Culturally things are different around the world. Discussion taboos that exist in the US may not exist somewhere where you are travelling. Think politics is an off-limits topic? Think again. You will get every question you can think of. The first is always – who did you vote for?” Then there are the standard questions around process – how is it possible for a candidate like Trump to become president or why is he president when the people voted for Clinton? They’ll question beliefs – condoning sexual assault on females, blatant racism & homophobia, gun control, etc. And then there are the questions regarding foreign policy. These are the ones that are more interesting to people you meet abroad as these policies, in many cases, can directly impact them. The latest include questions on immigration, travel bans and trade agreements. If the streak of aggravating foreign parties left and right continues, go ahead an include questions on those occurrences to the list.

What you will notice is that people have an opinion on everything and they will be open in expressing it to you. What I notice is that sometimes people abroad know more about the US political game than I do. I have lived in the UK for almost 8 years – so I have a tad of an excuse. If you want to talk it out – roll with it. If not, politely decline the conversation and change the topic.

//BE PREPARED TO CHALLENGE STEREOTYPES

Like it or not there are stereotypes that the outside world have of Americans. It is often thought that we are obnoxiously loud, we expect others to speak our language while never making an attempt to speak the local language, we always complain about how things are better in America, we only eat fast food while on vacation, we aren’t a well-travelled people and most of us do not even have passports. It is safe to say that stereotypes are built out of experiences that others have had. It is not fair to generalize a group of people based on those instances but it does happen.

Sprinkle those stereotypes on top of a controversial leader and there may be a bit of backlash. I already said before that I dislike the idea of having to be a spokesperson, but it is true that good experiences with people help set perceptions and can actually help improve your experience. Don’t change who you are, but be more aware of your interactions with others to help ensure you avoid any unwanted issues. We are generally a very well-rounded bunch – setting a positive example helps influence any anti-American sentiment you may encounter around the world.

//BE PREPARED FOR CHANGE IN TRAVEL

Policy change has the the ability to start a commotion. When it comes to travel it may mean that you have to be more flexible. Take the proposed travel bans that have sparked much controversy as an example. If the U.S. change policy that prevents or creates limitations on travel, don’t expect things to be smooth sailing. There haven’t been any serious retaliation bans set in place just yet, but there very well could be if policies like these take shape. Discussions are taking place that would introduce the need for travel visas for US citizens travelling to Europe.

You can almost think of the introduction of visas as reciprocity fees. Those countries that do not currently have them may introduce them. As an example, my first visit to Argentina cost me a reciprocity fee of $60. Argentina do this because the USA charge Argentinian citizens a fee for visiting. My second visit to Argentina in 2016 I paid $0. Argentina changed the policy and lifted the fees based on good relations with the then administration. Will these fees once again rear their ugly head?

The newest change at time of publishing is the inability to have large devices like laptops and tablets on non US-carrier flights coming from Turkey, Northern Africa and Middle East to the US. Is this a really security measure or an attempt to reduce competition with the like of Ethiad, Qatar, and Emirates? Less competition means US carriers can increase prices from these destination. See where I am going with this? Regardless of the outcomes of these and other policies that have yet to be introduced you can expect it will change how you travel.


CAVEAT: I know am aware that DomOnTheGo is not a political blog. This is not intended to be an Anti-American or Anti-Administration post. We live in a time that we have and can share our unique experiences.  I share with you my travel experiences in this and other DomOnTheGo // Journeys posts. This has been and currently is what is being experienced.

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