The heavy baggage of some international travelers

The heavy baggage we’re talking about is not a suitcase. THAT we could do something about.

The heavy baggage we’re talking about is not a suitcase. THAT we could do something about.

No, the heavy baggage we carry on international trips is our embarrassment at so many of the policies of our country. When we travel abroad and people discover we are from the U.S., how do we get them to understand we do not support so many of our country’s policies?

Of course, this goes beyond being a U.S. problem. How do travelers from the U.K., Turkey or Egypt let it be known that they, too, may not support the policies of their own countries?

Huntington Gardens

Don’t even begin to think this is a new problem caused by the new administration. We remember keeping a low profile as Americans for most of our traveling lives. (Most people mistook us for Northern European in 1986.) It’s just that now, it’s become ever so much worse.

A few months ago we met a lovely person in Argentina, a bird guide, and we started talking about travel. (This was during the Obama administration.)

“Have you been to the US?” we asked naively.

“Oh, I would really like to but it’s very hard to visit the US,” he replied. “To get a visa I would be required to fly down to the capital city, Buenos Aires, for an interview at the US Embassy. If approved, then I would have to pay $160 for a visa. Paying for a flight and hotel for the interview trip to the capital, as well as the visa fee, would make a trip to the US very expensive.”

We couldn’t believe it was true. After all, we never had to go to Washington, DC to meet with anyone from the Embassy of Argentina for an interview with Argentina officials to decide if we were qualified to receive a visa to tour their country.

We couldn’t believe it was true. After all, we never had to go to Washington, DC to meet with anyone from the Embassy of Argentina for an interview with Argentina officials to decide if we were qualified to receive a visa to tour their country.

We were left speechless. And we were left embarrassed.

We wish our friend could have visited the US. He wanted to see our National Parks. He wanted to look at birds he’ll never be able to see in Argentina. (Will he ever see this bird, a rock ptarmigan, which we saw in Olympia National Park in Washington?)

We wish our friend could have visited the US. He wanted to see our National Parks. He wanted to look at birds he’ll never be able to see in Argentina. (Will he ever see this bird, a rock ptarmigan, which we saw in Olympia National Park in Washington?)

Traveling expands understanding and knowledge. We wish more visitors from around the world were free to travel to the US. One bit of knowledge visitors to the US would learn is that in a democracy there are many points of view and government policies do not always represent the diverse views of the people.

And in turn, we (and other Americans) should continue to travel around the globe. The perspectives we have gained have surprised us, informed us, and made us better citizens for our new knowledge and understanding.

The world needs travelers now more than ever. We all have a lot to learn and the best way to do that is to get out there and visit foreign countries, meet new people, listen, and see how things work in other places.

If you want to travel, don’t just stay home because “the climate isn’t right” for crossing international borders. Now is the time to go. (Photo: rice terraces in Ping’An, China)

If you want to travel, don’t just stay home because “the climate isn’t right” for crossing international borders. Now is the time to go. (Photo: rice terraces in Ping’An, China)

As Americans, we’ll just have to be ready to explain the unexplainable: just what IS going on in the U.S.?

 

February 2017

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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7 Responses to The heavy baggage of some international travelers

  1. Unfortunately the climate does seem to be worsening as many countries turn inwards.

    During our current travels in New Zealand we have been amazed at the wide range of countries represented by people we stop and chat with, lets hope that does not change, what a terrible world it would be if we only viewed it through our own national lens.

  2. Marie says:

    Part of the problem is hubris. We (most Americans) believe that everyone wants to move to the US. It is incomprehensible to some Americans that anyone would want to return home after visiting the US. This attitude is apparent in US embassies when they decide who gets a visa and who doesn’t.

  3. Before we went to Hawaii we were able to get an ESTA visa online. It was easy and it only cost $7 each. We’ve heard recently that visa is going to be stopped and we will have to do the same as the gentleman you were talking. For us, that is a two day drive each way and $400…so no USA holiday for us.

  4. Sharon Lawrence says:

    We leave in two weeks for six weeks in Europe. I have been asking myself this same question. Last year our taxi driver in Norway was from Iraq. He told us how he had filed for a VISA to come to the US. We told him we were happy for him and hoped that he got it. What would we say now?
    One friend said she was thinking of telling people she is from Canada. My daughter suggested we tell people we are from California, which we are. She said, the first thing people think of when you say California is Disneyland and Hollywood.
    It will be interesting to see how we will be received.

  5. plaidcamper says:

    Great post – and no easy answers. Travel really does broaden the mind, and countries should encourage citizens to own a passport and get out to other places (and welcome people from other places) otherwise it’s a slippery slope towards narrow mindedness and ignorance…
    Your photograph of the fields is beautiful!

  6. leggypeggy says:

    Yep, this is the heaviest baggage many of us carry when travelling. How I wish it wasn’t so.

  7. Your question ‘just what IS going on in the US’ is a tough one – when you figure it out, I hope you’ll post the answer!
    I love that you bring this issue into the hands of regular people, and completely agree that when we brush shoulders with each other, it is the best of world-wide understanding.
    We asked one man we met in Ukraine why he had never visited the US (he knew so much about us and our history – probably more than me.) He said he’d never be given a travel visa, that he had applied before and been turned down. He was told during his interview that his English language skills would allow him too easily to stay in the US illegally. I am so glad you brought up the difficulties many people have getting a travel visa to the US.

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