I am glad the disgusting display of the USA 2016 election is over. Sadly we likely have 4 more years of disgusting displays ahead of us!
Travel during an election year has been interesting and occasionally uncomfortable. In Europe many people wanted to ask us what we were doing about Donald Trump. They would be pretty confrontational on occasion and really as a traveler from the USA I feel a responsibility to be a good example of the citizens of the USA. I want to be polite and try hard to show how kind and generous we can be. I can assure you I didn’t want to be confronted by a mature lady in an Austrian supermarket. I just wanted to buy my wine and cheese. But I did the best I could to reassure her it would be okay. Sorry mature lady, it may not be okay, but it likely won’t be as bad as you imagine. Most likely Trump won’t be able to do anything at all. That seems normal for the USA now. The government gets little accomplished, with the exception of bickering. The politicians we choose are super good at petty squabbles.
In South America we almost never had anyone ask our opinion of the election and it was a relief. Honestly I remember back (way back) when discussing politics and religion was not acceptable behavior in a social situation. We would of course have private conversations in our home amongst family or close friends but generally it is just bad manners to bring up topics that may create strong feelings in others. But now we have had a few people make comments that are mostly funny. For example yesterday on November 9th there was a strike at the Chile border so we would have to wait for a while to cross. The gentleman explaining this to us said, “It is not a disaster, like Trump, it is just an inconvenience.” Which was funny but also gives a sense of what at least one person is thinking.
Definitely I have felt vulnerable when traveling. Being someplace where there is a language barrier and having people ask me about “my” leader is tricky. It is hard to know how the person asking feels about a controversial leader and how to respond. Obviously I want to get out of these conversations as quickly as possible because who knows what the intent of the person asking is. They could be big fans of the USA or they could feel hostile towards us. I haven’t had a single hostile encounter where I felt threatened but I have felt I should tread lightly to avoid causing conflict. Mostly I smile and shrug. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion it’s just that trying to express my opinion with a language barrier is hard to do. Often I can’t even order food at a restaurant, I am sure I can’t express all that the USA has going on with the politicians. And I don’t want the people I am with to feel alarmed. I don’t think that will accomplish anything. I think enough people feel alarmed already I don’t need to add to it with my bad Spanish and simple understanding of politics.
I can’t imagine being able to have civil discourse even in the USA when I eventually return with the exception of chatting with the people I know and love the best. People are consistently using really inflammatory language. I don’t have any solutions for the USA so I try to keep my dialogue low key. I haven’t met any single person yet or heard any single person yet who seems to have anything like a solution for the USA.
Brad and I are visiting Mexico later this year. I can’t begin to imagine how the people of Mexico will receive us now. I hope they don’t think I want a wall just because of our political representative. I have been to Mexico several times and have always found it enchanting and the people full of humor, kindness and dignity.
I wish the citizens of the USA would travel outside of the country more. They would learn quickly there is little to fear and much to enjoy and appreciate. I am not talking about staying in a western hotel chain and taking a tour with a bunch of other Americans. I am suggesting walking the streets, buying stuff from local vendors, eating where the locals eat, taking a local bus… In the past ten months we have seen few travelers from the USA. And when traveling people would ask if we were from Britain, which is always surprising since neither Brad nor I sound British. I think it is because so few citizens of the USA travel outside of our borders. Our experiences with the people of other countries have been routinely delightful. We have been helped (a lot), never robbed, engaged in meaningful conversations, entertained with stories of people’s families and lives. We have hitchhiked and picked up hitch hikers and learned some good things about the places we are visiting and met some great and interesting people. Overall we have had just great experiences. I am not saying there are not bad people, I am saying most people are good.
I hope it goes well when we are in Mexico! I also wish my Spanish was better so I can explain that the people of the USA aren’t all filled with hate, and that I think the “wall” is as unlikely as Trump convincing the insurance and pharmaceutical companies to kiss the money they have been getting with the Affordable Care Act goodbye.
I will keep you posted on our time in Mexico.