Leaving Amerikkka: Travel in the Trump Era

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29. Nerd. Lover of ladies, queer things, and fan fiction.

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My wife and I love to travel. We have been around the U.S. and the world, taking every opportunity to immerse ourselves in new cultures. I had never been much of a traveler before I met her; she’d been to nearly 40 countries, and I had been content to nurse a dormant wanderlust and stay in my small hometown.

She certainly opened my eyes and showed me what I was missing.

Now, I’m especially grateful to have opportunities to leave the country now that America the Beautiful has become Amerikkka the Not-So-Beautiful. My phone autocorrects to this new spelling — even technology cannot deny that blatant racism, bigotry, and hatred has spilled over the confines of civility and has become an accepted part of this new political climate.

I used to be proud to call myself an American. Like so many others, my ancestors left their native countries in search of better lives and built homes in this land of the free. Now, whenever we leave the country, I desperately hope no one will ask where we are from. I’m ashamed to call myself an American.

In Japan a week before the inauguration, an elderly Japanese man pegged us as Americans and asked if we voted for Trump. “No!” I replied emphatically. His response was similar to others we received: “Good. Crazy, crazy man.”

Now, on the other side of the inauguration, the world appears divided about the state of Amerikkka. We had dinner in London with an Australian woman wearing a “Resist 45” t-shirt, proudly showing her solidarity with her American guests and reminding us that the world is not aligned with this political regime. However, two hours later, we had an Iraqi uber driver tell us that he respects Trump as a self-made man. He also told us that he didn’t think Trump would last the full four years of his term. If only. On a tour of the Palatine Hill in Rome, our tour guide reminded us that many ancient emperors were Trump-like; he did not mean this as a compliment.

In the wake of proposed travel bans, it’s more important than ever to travel and experience what the world has to offer. Humans are nomadic creatures — even if a person doesn’t have the means to leave the country, leaving their geographic area in some way is necessary to realize that political views can shift from county to state to region. It’s important to realize that what you hear at home is not always the status quo.

In lieu of the travel ban, it’s also important to be vigilant. The world may not share these political views, but ignorance and hatred can still be found anywhere in these dark times. Never before have I experienced such genuine fear and intimidation in a Homeland Security checkpoint as I did in the Dublin airport, where the American agent displayed such disdain and disapproval for our same-sex marriage. I’ve never felt so uncomfortable or outraged in an airport abroad, with this man threatening to withhold our luggage, nor have I ever witnessed such a blatant flaunting of power. That said, these experiences are not the norm, and I certainly don’t plan to stop traveling because of it.

I live in a beautiful, liberal bubble. There are times when I’m actually afraid to leave that bubble because of hate crimes against people like me and acts of violence happening around the world. I was afraid to attend London Pride because it happened so shortly after a terrorist attack — I went despite that fear and had an incredible time. The resilience of that London community was heartening and reminded me just how important it is to face that fear and go anyway  I refuse to stay home because of terrorism. I will continue to live my life and experience what the world has to offer.

We should be embracing new cultures and new experiences. America isn’t supposed to be Amerikkka — we are built on a foundation of immigrants and diversity, not hate and exclusion. Any opportunity to see the world through someone else’s eyes grants us a new perspective and perhaps a little more understanding.

Keep resisting. Keep traveling.