I think everyone knows that Thanksgiving weekend is one of the most heavily traveled times of the year and talking politics while scooping mashed potatoes at the holiday table is also not recommended; kind of depends on who holds the carving knife.
Okay, what do travel and politics have to do with each other?
Well, the first one is easy to talk about. You need to travel, plain and simple, and for whatever reason really floats your boat (or cruise ship). Is it for adventure, vacation, therapy, education, meeting others, or just to get away from the daily grind?
Here is where I throw in politics into those mashed potatoes, add in some cranberries and now it looks like a gruesome murder scene.
(Might be time to throw on some Adele and calm the hell down.)
I recommend traveling as much as you can before or after the 4th Thursday in November and possibly with a political mindset. No, I don’t need you to study the politics of another country, unless that is your thing and you don’t need to even discuss politics. It’s just about getting a different perspective from other places and people around the world.
In his latest book, Travel As a Political Act, Rick Steves suggests that you "get the most value out of your travels, plan to get out of your comfort zone, meet the people, and view other cultures — as well as our own — with an open mind."
"Fear has always been a barrier to travel. And, after 9/11, the US became even more fearful…and more isolated," says Steves. "Of course, there are serious risks that deserve our careful attention. But it’s all too easy to mistake fear for actual danger."
My mother already had a healthy fear of flying; I’m lucky she gets on a plane at all. But she really does love to travel. Her ritual of listening to her favorite music and ordering double scotches in the airport lounge helps smooth the ride.
Digging into some statistics, even in post-9/11, travel to most international destinations remains safer than getting in your car and driving to the grocery store.
Now, in our current political climate, I think travel is more important because we shouldn't be scared of other people and countries, no matter what anyone on the television says.
“My travels have taught me to have a healthy skepticism towards those who peddle fear,” says Steves. "And in so many cases, I’ve learned that the flipside of fear is understanding. The very people who would benefit most from international travel — those who needlessly fear people and places they don’t understand — decide to stay home. Ideally, travel broadens our perspectives personally, culturally, and politically. Suddenly, the palette with which we paint the story of our lives has more colors.”
These days, sometimes you don’t know what to believe with talk about migrant invasions, terrorists on every street corner, real news or fake news. Just go on social media and pick a fear. It’s there. But you just don’t have to believe everything you see or read.
(disclaimer: I realize I doom myself if you don't believe a word I say, sometimes you just have to go on faith)
Do your due diligence and research a destination from multiple sources, not just one and you might just get a clearer picture if that country or region is right for you.
We need to get out of our comfort zone by meeting the people and viewing their cultures through their eyes with an open mind and in turn, find out a little more about who we are.
“If I am an advocate for anything, it's to move, as far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes, or at least, eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.” - Anthony Bourdain
Read: "My Bourdain Moment"
Is this way of travel for everyone? Of course not. On some vacations, I don’t want to see another human being unless they are serving me a Mai Tai while I relax on a sandy beach. Pick and choose what you want to do, if you are up for in-depth travel or just a relaxing vacation. Sometimes you just to need hop a plane and get away and not even think of anything. As human beings, we need both, the rest and relaxation but also the human interaction.
My best travel experiences have been both fun and insanely mind-expanding. Seeing how different people overseas treat an issue that I take for granted helps me elevate my way of thinking and really, just start questioning old ways of thinking. We shape our worldview with how we interact with family, friends, media, and our environment, but we also need to be able to respectfully coexist with people with different “norms” and values.
As I explore more about this topic in my The Time to Travel is Now series, I’ll talk about fear of flying, traveling to destinations with preconceived notions like Russia and the Middle East, and meeting people all around the world that challenged me in becoming a better person.
Cheers, Now Get Lost!