His sign read, “I’m 91 years old and I’ve never protested before today.” The daily headlines exclaimed hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of the United States from coast to coast on the last day of the month of June 2018. With a message of opposition to the current administration and a resounding message that all immigrants are welcome, the people marched.
Here’s the thing about redefining retirement. It can, if the mind is open, change one’s life in ways one never even began to think possible. Case in point. The two of us. In this our initial chapter of defining our path of retirement we’ve become activists, at least by my definition. Never, in my wildest imaginings, did I ever think that within the scope of two years we would proudly march in five different peaceful protest marches, write hundreds of campaign postcards and engage with others on how to combat the complacency that runs rampant in the United States. But, that’s what this chapter of life is all about… charting a course through the unknown. If the mind is open, so much can be discovered.
Yesterday, on that last day of the month of June, we attended a Families Belong Together Rally held in Lafayette Park, in Washington, DC, which is located directly across the road from the White House, the people’s house. Under the blazing hot sun with temperatures reaching 92 degrees and the humidity nearly unbearable, thousands upon thousands of people gathered and marched in peaceful protest. It’s the American way, to make our voices heard.
Sometimes, it’s the minority number of voices that seem to drown out the voices of reason. Which can lead to… headlines.
I came across a recent headline proclaiming tourism to the United States is on the decline. “Well, that sucks,” I thought. But I wasn’t the least bit surprised given the constant rhetoric and fear-mongering of the daily headlines.
There are 325.7 million people in the United States. And, the contiguous 48 states alone have a combined area of 3,119,884.69 square miles. Let that soak in for a minute. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say, the United States is massive.
We’ve driven across the United States four (or maybe it’s five) times and each time we made the trip we learned something new. Mostly, we’ve learned that it is not at all surprising we have such heated debates among the population. Each state has it’s own government, cultural norms, dialects and traditions. And, those who live in the heart of the mid-west, say Oklahoma for example, may find it challenging to find common ground with those who live in fast-paced New York City, (and vice versa) a city with a population of 8.5 million compared to the population of the entire state of Oklahoma which comes in at 3.9 million.
Travel is a Powerful Teacher
The US is far from being without issues. But, aside from maybe Iceland, I can’t think of too many countries that are considered to be popular travel destinations that don’t have issues. We’ve witnessed multiple protest marches in Paris (and Paris has definitely had its share of horrific headlines) and Berlin. We’ve visited Hungary and Austria, beautiful countries with warm inviting people, and yet their governments are moving further to the right. And, let’s not forget the chaos of Brexit in the UK. And, in the Middle East, Iran is a country misunderstood by so many, but yet you won’t find a more hospitable people and tourism is booming in Iran. All fantastic travel destinations, all with some serious issues.
Depending on which side of the aisle one stands in this country – and really there should be about six aisles in a country this size – the country is either moving forward or backward. But either way, it should not stop visitors from exploring the wealth of wonders this country has to offer. The National Parks alone are awe-inspiring. The Grand Canyon and Yosemite? Come on. It doesn’t get much better. How about San Francisco, New York, Washington, DC and yes, the gaudy over-the-top glitz of Las Vegas? Take a road trip through the New England states in the fall and you’ll swear you’ve never before seen such beauty.
The Voices of Tourism
Although it may seem as if I am, I’m not really “pitching” the United States. I know there are some scary and often sensationalized headlines around the world touting how screwed up everything is. And, truthfully, I wouldn’t find fault with anyone who chooses not to visit under the current climate. I’m simply suggesting to those reading the headlines to keep it all in perspective given the millions – and millions – of people in the US who welcome visitors and immigrants every single day. But, don’t just take my word for it, here’s a couple of other voices who can offer their insight to traveling in the US.
- “I love travelling in the US, the scenery is so diverse, it has the most beautiful national parks and the people everywhere I’ve been are so nice. I’ve been on the west coast for the past few weeks and if anything, I’ve noticed that people are more defiant of Trump than anything. I’ve seen lots of ‘In Our America, love wins, all people are equal…’ signs and when we drove through Portland yesterday [6/30/18] people were getting ready to march.” Amy of Our Big Fat Travel Adventure
- “On our recent US trip we found people warm, friendly and helpful and we found the diversity and beauty of the country really awesome. We were warned people on the East Coast (New York) may be more abrupt or short. We found it more difficult there to engage people, when wanting assistance. However, once people stopped and began talking, and found out we were visiting from Australia, people were really helpful. But overall we found people friendly and helpful. We felt safe throughout our 5 weeks [April/May 2018] travelling on both the West and East Coast, and in both city and the country.” Estelle – Australia
If travel has taught us anything, it’s that more often than not, the government of a country does not necessarily represent the will of the people. In the US, for example, we have an antiquated electoral college system that has put in place an administration the majority of the people did not vote for.
People around the world are just trying to live their best lives, often times in spite of their government. I suppose the silver lining in such trying times is that adversity can awaken the complacent and bring about change. Change for the betterment of all.
In the meantime, travel is such a powerful teacher and if the mind is open, so much can be discovered.
Great article Patti. I loved my time in the US and I’m glad DT didn’t put me off visiting. It’s not like things are smooth sailing politically here in the UK, or any of the other countries I’ve lived in Asia!
Thank you, Amy, and thank you for sharing your thoughts for the article!
What a thought provoking article. Good on you Patti & Abi for redefining your retirement path by becoming activist & combatting complacency . You have been anything bar complacent – keeping an open mind, & striving to bring about positive change in a peaceful way. Yes the US is a stunningly beautiful country & has so much to offer international tourists. While tourism may have declined in the current climate, let’s hope this is a hiccup, as the US has so much beauty to offer.
Thanks so much Estelle for sharing your insight to travel in the US and for your thoughtful comment. I look forward to our paths crossing one day.
Having just participated in the same June 30th protest while I was visiting my son and grand in Denver, I can so appreciate the feeling of participating in a pivotal moment of our nation’s history as well as a chance to lend my voice in support of those seeking asylum and humane treatment. I can definitely understand why tourism is on the decline in the US (our Canadian housemates sold their home in Florida last summer as they no longer felt safe among their gun-toting neighbors and they couldn’t talk their foreign friends into visiting them) and why people are choosing friendlier countries to visit. If targeted minorities (Muslims, black and browns, those from the banned countries, etc.) and those seeking asylum aren’t welcome then I really have to think about visiting a country with a government that supports those policies. That said, we too have loved our cross-country road trips around the US and seeing our home country with the eyes of a tourist. Happy 4th Patti & Abi! (I may not make it up to see the fireworks since I’m still on Portugal time but I do plan on scouting out and scarfing down a hot dog with relish at some point today!)
I’m so glad the timing was such that you could participate in marching in Denver. You have an interesting perspective as well as an expat living in Portugal. Did you get that hot dog?! 🙂
Totally agree with Suzanne above about immigration. It’s the reason that many years ago I stopped transiting through the US on our flights from Canada to Latin America. I’ll pay extra to avoid the hassle.
I want to see more of the US. But right now I have to admit I’m put off, not just by DT but by the 42% or so that support him. It makes me wonder about just how open and friendly a large minority of Americans feel towards the rest of the world. And I guess now as Canadians we’re a security risk anyway so….
Good on you for protesting. I hope many more get angry.
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As I understand it, from my UK friends who have traveled to – or through – the US, it depends on the particular airport in which one enters the US. This is completely unacceptable of course. There are millions of us who are angry and fighting as best we can, so many grass organizations have formed but the mainstream media does not cover the efforts. ::sigh::
Yep, we found that flying to Fort Lauderdale was a nightmare – it took four hours to get through immigration. Flying into LA though was super fast and easy by contrast.
Thanks for the feedback, Amy. I know even as US citizens traveling in/out of some airports are far more challenging than others. No reason for it, but it is what it is… unfortunately.
I think just the thought of having to go through US immigration is offputting to some given the rhetoric by our current president. I have some friends who say they will not visit the US while DT is president. Most potential travelers realize we’re not all like that, but I don’t blame those who are choosing to take their tourism dollars elsewhere right now.
I don’t blame them either, Suzanne, I just find it sad because it puts the win points in the wrong pocket. So-to-speak.
I too understand why internationals wouldn’t want to visit the US right now but also agree there is so much to see here where it is safe and full of friendly helpful people. Also true in other parts of the world.
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Very much so on both accounts, Gaelyn.
My wife and I have traveled pretty extensively in the last 5 years and much of what you say here is perspective and I respect that but also respectfully disagree with some of your assertions. The vast majority of people we spoke to in the UK were for Brexit. There support for it had nothing to do with being prejudice towards one group or another, it was about fairness. I could go into much more on that and gladly debate or discuss any issue with people. In regards to your assertion that we have an “antiquated electoral college system” is simply wrong. It’s easy for someone to look at our system and say that, thinking it should be a simple “majority rule”. If you really study the electoral college system you see how brilliant our founding fathers were in foreseeing what a diverse and spread out population we would eventually have. The core belief being that to the best of our ability, everyone in our country should have an equal say in how our country is run. If it were not for the electoral college, the United States could basically be run by 4 or 5 states, dictating to the other 80% of the states what they are supposed to believe and how they are supposed to act. There is no perfect system, but in my humble opinion, the electoral college system at least attempts to be fair.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, David. Differing perspectives are what keep the world interesting.