“To travel,” Aldous Huxley wrote, “is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” For those of us who have traveled to places with autocratic leadership—like Cuba, China, Burma, or Iran—the wisdom of Huxley’s words is undeniable.
Today, the United States itself has become a sketchy destination. Travelers from around the world, put off by the arrogance of the Trump administration and fear of harassment on arrival, are cancelling their visits and vacations. This “Trump Slump,” according to some reports, may cost the U.S. billions of dollars in lost revenue. There is even talk of a travel boycott of the United States, so long as current policies remain in effect.
Ethical Traveler’s mission includes encouraging travel to countries with progressive social and environmental practices. But we rarely advocate boycotts, a blunt tool which can hurt disadvantaged populations well before it forces elites to change policy. We reserve boycotts for clearly urgent, life-threatening situations, and thus we do not support a boycott of travel to the United States at this time.
We believe, now more than ever, that travel is a powerful form of diplomacy. We sincerely hope that people from other nations will not be deterred by the xenophobia displayed by the Trump administration. But though we urge travelers to visit, we also suggest “voting with our wings”: Visiting and supporting the U.S. states and cities that cultivate a welcoming, open-minded and inclusive world view (and let locals know this figured in your choice). Worthy destinations include New York, most of New England, California, Nevada and the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, New Mexico and others, as per this graphic: 270towin.com.
Whether people from other lands choose to visit the U.S. or not, Americans must travel. We cannot be swayed by fears of how we might be received abroad. Every traveler is a de facto ambassador—and every American who travels has the power to reflect the best aspects of our nation. We can represent the open, friendly and compassionate America that remains curious about the world, and committed to human rights and environmental protection.
No one can promise that Americans traveling overseas will not be challenged about the direction this country has taken. Nor can we assure all foreign visitors that they will not be harassed at certain entry points into the U.S.. Surviving the Trump administration will require patience and a steady commitment to civility.
We at Ethical Traveler firmly believe that those who journey to or from the U.S. will find themselves in agreement with the words of one of our country’s most beloved globetrotters. “Travel,” said Mark Twain, “is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
So dig out your passport, wherever you are, and discover that you may indeed be wrong about other countries—including the United States.
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Jeff Greenwald is the executive director of EthicalTraveler.org
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