Travel Bloggers Weigh In: Dealing With Politics While Living Abroad

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Election years are always hard.

You might think that as travel bloggers we can simply escape the bullshit and enjoy our own happy traveling lives, however the opposite is true. The whole world is watching as the USA decides who will be our next leader, and the lack of optimism we feel as Americans has spread far and wide. No matter where we travel people always want to ask us about our political views and our perspectives on our homelands. There’s simply no escape. We feel a sense of responsibility as ambassadors from our homeland to communicate the reality of the situation as best we can, which often times leaves us feeling more hopeless than ever. Simply put, there’s no good option.

We posed the question to travel bloggers around the world, “How do you deal with the fucked up situations in your homeland while representing your country abroad?” We received great responses from expats from several different countries, each with their own unique perspective.

 

Rachel from USA

The Pearl Cartel

I’m quite over this election, to be honest. Personally, I am a socialist, living abroad under a democratic socialist government, and happy as a clam, but I’m from a conservative Evangelical family.  Even they are embarrassed to support Trump aloud, but the support is there.

It hurts me especially to know that a president like Donald Trump could make it infinitely harder (it’s already quite difficult) for me to come to the U.S. to live with the man I love.  They know and love him, too, but can’t seem to accept that their blind hatred of faceless immigrants also touches one that they know and respect.

As a teacher, I answer a lot of questions from my students about this year’s election. They are incredulous when I explain the system that has made both of these candidates our reality. There’s quite a bit of joking, eye-rolling, and sighing. We’ve made quite a time of drinking and watching the debates and I feel like that’s the healthiest way to deal with something that is so far out of my control.

I’m relieved to be so far away from it all, and Chileans are quite good about consoling those going through moments of disbelief about the current state affairs of their country.  And wine helps.  Lots of wine.  As one of my students said,”Just think of all the memes we’ll have over the next 4 years”.  Laugh to keep from crying, amirite?

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Natasha from the UK

World Inside My Pocket

“I’m a British girl from London and I spent a month studying in France over June this past summer, meaning that I was abroad, in Europe, when my country declared that it was going to leave the European Union.

The morning that I woke, checked my phone and saw the news, I just groaned and went back to bed, hoping that when I woke up again I’d find out that it had all been a horrible nightmare… no such luck, however…
My Facebook newsfeed BLEW UP… everyone was posting about it and I saw even close friends have public brawls online about the result… “The old people have all voted out! They’re ruining our lives!”, “Not enough the young people voted!”, “We need another referendum!”, “Another referendum would have the same outcome!” “Why is everyone complaining about Brexit, shut up!”, “Why is everyone complaining about everyone complaining about Brexit?”… and it went on.
Before long, the Prime Minister had resigned, Scotland wanted independence from the UK, Teresa May was forced upon us as our new Primer Minister (ugh) and there were even rumours that London was going to declare independence from England. It felt like my whole country was falling apart all the way across the Channel and all I could do was watch my computer screen in horror.
Eventually I figured the best thing for me to do was try my best to ignore it. I was in a beautiful country, studying a beautiful language and in all honestly, there was nothing I could do about the result. I did my best to stay off social media, which was definitely better for me. Without the fear of the UK’s political situation haunting me every moment, I was able to truly enjoy my stay in France.”
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John and Kach from UK and Philippines 

Mr. & Mrs. Howe

Being a couple from the UK and the Philippines, we’re both in a good position to give our point of view on this subject at the moment! In the wake of “Brexit,’ the UK was left with a prime minister nobody had asked for, a sudden spate of racist abuse in the streets, a supposedly uncertain future and roughly half the voting electorate asking Google what exactly they had just voted to leave. This sounds like a bloody mess, until I realised that it was not all that different to any other election that happens in the UK! So as we spent the month immediately ‘post-Brexit’ travelling around Europe by Interail, I frequently found myself trying to escape conversations which started with, ‘Oh you’re from UK! So how about Brexit?!’ Usually with a wry smile, as if they were saying something clever.  I grew bored of faking interest in the topic very quickly, so I started replying, ‘I’m tired of hearing about it,’ then changing the subject.

It’s quite weird for Kach, as her country now has a president who reportedly spent 20 years as a Mayor, cleaning up his city by lining people up and shooting them. It’s ok though, he only shoots the bad ones and he’s a really good judge of character! Now that he’s President of the Philippines, Duterte is apparently taking his cleanup country-wide, having all drug dealers and addicts killed by hit squads. He even publicly announced the names of all politicians and high-level figures who were involved in collusion with the drug cartels, then encouraged them to commit suicide in shame! It took him about 30 minutes to read out the list! Kach is also fed up of answering questions about it, so now she just says, ‘Well I don’t live there and haven’t done for over three years, so I make a point of not commenting.’

Both of these responses seem quite rude, but when people ask questions simply to create an opportunity to voice their uninvited opinions, we feel like it’s justified!

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Adam from USA

Local Nomads

I decided a long time ago not to vote in this year’s election. Truth be told, I’ve never voted for the President of the United States. I believe that choosing not to vote is just as valid an exercise of freedom as voting. The two major american parties are actually two arms of the same fucked up machine that’s been running america (and much of the rest of the world) for far too long now. I feel that voting for either of them would be akin to giving my consent to the system.

The whole world’s been watching this reality tv show of an election, and they’re laughing at us…but it’s a scared laugh. Clinton is clearly being portrayed as the lesser of two evils, and to a certain extent she is. Trumps policies are unquestioningly anti-american, while Clinton’s are mostly status quo. People frequently ask me how I feel about it and I simply shake my head in sadness. I try my best to explain that Americans don’t actually have much of a choice, that the candidates are basically selected for us, and that either Trump or Clinton will surely come with their own set of sad consequences.

The best way I’ve found to deal with politics these days is just to live your life, love each other, be happy, and don’t worry about it. It doesn’t make sense to try to control something you’ve got no control over anyway. The only thing you can control is yourself, your mind, and your actions. “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind.” -Bob Marley

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Dave from USA

Jones Around The World
“As an American who has spent the past 5 years abroad, political issues definitely come into conversation more than one would like.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that the current U.S election has been the most interesting and crazy political times in our country’s history.  I don’t want to dive too much into my personal views, but what I will say is this — a Trump presidency will definitely hurt the worldview of America and Americans.
When I was in Sri Lanka, a person asked me where I was from, and I told them I was from California in the United States.  The shop owner who asked me quickly gave me a head tilt, and just said “Trump”, with a suggestive tone implying “WTF is your country thinking?”  Lol.  I actually found it hilarious.  This random Sri Lankan already made a judgement about me just because where I’m from, and the fact that Trump MIGHT be our next president.
Another good example of dealing with political issues is when I was living in Sydney, Australia.  For some odd reason, everyone just assumed that I would be gun crazy, and would be happy to discuss gun control, haha.  No, I don’t own a gun, and have no desire to buy one anytime soon. That’s just the view of Americans though, and I guess I can’t really blame anyone for that.”
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Michaela from USA

Awe Inclusive

“What stands out when I’m speaking with people in other countries is the difficulty some nationalities experience when trying to visit the United States. It’s exposed my privilege as an American with a golden passport that I can stamp at my whim.

A consideration with this election is how each candidate might affect my ability to travel to foreign places AND how it might influence other people’s ability to visit America. I think it’s important to foster and maintain good relations with other countries for the good of travelers, present and future.

Unfortunately, I’m not confident in either candidate’s ability to paint the world with rainbows. I guess so much focus has been on Trump’s behavior and Clinton’s emails that I have little idea about how they would unite the world in comradeship.

But like most travelers, I always have a back-up plan. In the event that the 45th President starts to increase our reputation as “dirty Americans,” I got a fake Canadian ID made in Toronto. And I was told by many a Canadian that I would be welcomed with open arms!”

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Chiera from Scotland

Young and Undecided
“I recently went to Romania to teach English. There was a group of 12 trainers, 9 of which were from England. The day I arrived was also the day the Brexit vote was announced, so naturally for the next 3 weeks, Politics was a strong talking point.
While I was there I was taken aback by how little my fellow trainers knew about the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014. I heard many comments about how they were angry and thought it was stupid and Scotland was just trying to get away from England. I blame this largely on the British Media (run by the British Government) reporting on whatever they want to report on and not giving the full story. I personally voted Yes in the referendum. I had no doubts that Scotland could thrive as an independent nation. It had absolutely nothing to do with the relationship with England and everything to do with believing Scotland should have full control over their own laws and finances and welfare. It’s that simple.
I love politics. I have grown up in a very politically aware family. I love a good debate. But for those 3 weeks I felt I needed to shy away from the conversation. If I gave my views I was somehow insulting the others? This was silly of course and I eventually got over it, but politics has that power to make a situation uneasy.
One of the saddest moments in Romania for me was when I was teaching my class of 11-12 year olds. We were talking about different cultures of Romania and Scotland and one girl asked “Why do people from Britain hate us so much?” She had seen a documentary on how Romanians are viewed by the UK. She asked about Brexit and if that was to keep Romanian people away. I was heartbroken that this little girl was exposed to such negativity like this at such a young age. I did my best to explain that people who feel that was are not nice people and are just ignorant, but when a whole continent votes for something like Brexit, it’s hard to try and explain that not everyone feels like that.
Political and Social conversations are sometimes very difficult abroad. But I also think it is important to have them. There are a lot of countries that if you asked me about their politics, I would have no idea! It’s important to be informed.”
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Gabby from USA

Local Nomads
I’ve never been a fan of politics. It was always something I tried to pay little attention to. During the last US election Adam and I were in Korea. Far away, from all the noise, where pleasantries easily turn into un-pleasantries, families and friends become divided, and you can’t escape the political media. It was easy to forget about it from Korea. We were hoping that this time around, leaving the country before the election would have the same result. We were wrong. While we’ve separated ourselves from the political thicket, we certainly haven’t escaped the media. This time around, the noise has become a cacophony, and the election… the world’s circus. Back home people get so caught up in their party politics, that they don’t pay attention to any other issues. The 24/7 media focuses solely on the latest scandals of the Democratic and Republican nominees that they “forget to mention” the real issues. I’ve traded in questions like, “who are you voting for?” for concerns like, “what the fuck is happening in your country?” All I can answer is.. “I don’t know, but I really don’t like it, and that’s why I’m not there.” I worry about the way people will view me as an American, and I refuse to let my country dictate who I am as a person. I thought leaving my country would get me away from all the politics, but instead I sit watching from afar, hoping for change, and trying to be a global ambassador. Because right now, the whole world is watching, and waiting for the shit to hit the fan.

 

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Mri from USA 

Lifelong Vagabonds

“I’ve been on the road for over four years now and during that time I’ve had my eyes opened in so many new and heartwrenching ways. Unfortunately, however, I come from a place where at times it seems like the minority of people are able to find compassion for something other than themselves.  My most recent way of handling this has been to try to educate them about the truth instead of just the propaganda they hear on TV.  And when that doesn’t work, as it mostly doesn’t (surprise, surprise) I take to writing an article about it on my blog. I don’t just rant about them though, but instead give a logical and educational break down of why they’re wrong.  Because proving people wrong on the internet is just that important.

And because bombing someone for believing that abusing animals is justified as long as it’s for entertainment and a cool experience, is normally frowned upon. Unless of course, it’s your country that’s doing the bombing.  Then that’s totally okay.”

about-mri

2 Responses

  1. Chiera says:

    Such an interesting read! Thanks for including me !

  2. No matter where we are, it seems that we all have a general discomfort with politics especially when it divides us. Wondering if there is any way that politics can bring people together instead of pulling people apart. Isn’t that in the heart of every traveler? To get a better understanding of different places and different people, and to celebrate what makes us unique?

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