Kate holding a protest sign that says "This time it's different"

No, I will not stop talking about politics on my travel blog.

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I write a lot about politics here — and even more so on the Adventurous Kate Facebook page. Every single time that I post something remotely political, I get plenty of people saying, “Stick to travel.”

Let’s talk about that.

Quote from reader: "Focus on travel stay off politics"

Travel is a political act.

Every time you cross an international border, every time you spend money in another community, every time you take public transportation or visit a public park or beach, you are making a political decision.

Yes, that’s the case even if you’re heading to a resort and not leaving the property for two full weeks.

You are representing your country, whether you like it or not. You are engaging in commerce with another nation and living under a different set of laws, regardless of how it feels to you.

A lot of people think that politics are simply a group of out-of-touch, self-righteous people arguing about boring things and they would much rather tune out. You can go ahead and tune out all you’d like — I feel like political junkies are the only kind of people who can keep it up all the time — but that doesn’t change the truth.

Politics affect every single aspect of how you live your life.

Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Feel the air deep in your lungs and let it out slowly. Wherever you live, that air you just inhaled is the result of your local environmental protection laws. Are you inside? You’re being impacted by housing and construction laws as well — or else your lungs would be full of cancer-causing asbestos.

COVID has made it abundantly clear how political travel is. Within months, countries shut their borders; Americans went from having one of the most desirable passports in the world to being persona non grata.

These political decisions have made have kept loved ones apart — and in some cases, separated parents from young children. These political decisions have cut off revenue sources for entire companies, especially in the travel industry. These political decisions have paused futures — or in some cases, destroyed them.

I know there are people who read travel blogs for the escapism. You want to see Instagrammable cafes and pretty waterfalls and find out the best place for a carbonara in Rome.

That’s fine.

But that’s not this blog.

Dave Barwise: "Guess travel blogs aren't great in shutdown to try politics."
(For the record: Pattaya is the sex tourism capital of Thailand and the most vile place in Southeast Asia.)

It’s impossible to travel without learning about politics — unless you choose to ignore it.

The more you travel, the more you learn about how other countries work differently. The more you travel, the more shocking it is that the United States provides such a limited social safety net.

My friends in Europe get a year or longer of parental leave, complete with full salary, whereas in the United States there isn’t even federally mandated maternity leave. You just need to hope to get offered a job at a company with a good policy.

The transportation in other countries is another revelation. Take my favorite transit country in the world, the Netherlands, where you can get trains all over the country without even leaving the airport.

And healthcare! My God! I’ve received healthcare treatment all over the world, and the difference from the United States shows just how bad we had it.

Like in Thailand, where I got an ultrasound at Bumrungrad, the best private hospital in the country, and paid $83.

Or when I had to go to A&E in the UK (the emergency room) and didn’t have to pay a thing. Not a thing!

And when I got a concussion in Germany a few years ago, the pricey emergency hospital visit and brain scan came to 300 euros — and if I were an EU resident, it would have been free.

You know what I would have have to pay for each of these in the United States?

Several hundred dollars, if not thousands of dollars.

How is that fair, or just, or normal?!

Most Americans who travel internationally are politically liberal.

It’s not a 100% correlation — that would be statistically impossible — but it’s a significant correlation.

This is a map of passport ownership in the United States.

According to CPG Grey, as documented in The Atlantic, the states with the highest passport ownership are New Jersey (68%); Delaware (67%), Alaska (65%), Massachusetts (63%), New York (62%), and California (60%). All but Alaska are largely liberal, safe blue states.

The states with the lowest passport ownership are Mississippi (20%), West Virginia (20%), Kentucky (25%), Alabama (25%), and Arkansas (25%). All of them are largely conservative, safe red states.

People who travel internationally, or are interested in international travel, different countries and different cultures, tend to be more open-minded about people who are different from them. That’s one reason why Democrats work to increase rights of marginalized groups while Republicans work to consolidate power to the few at the top.

Why is passport ownership so low compared to other developed countries? Tons of reasons. Enough for its own post. Some of them positive — the United States has incredible beauty and diversity; you could spend decades exploring the US, always finding something new.

Some of them are negative — the American Exceptionalism that is taught in schools, the little vacation time that Americans receive, the fact that most Americans don’t speak a foreign language.

Factor in intersectionality — the effects of race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation — and it gets more complicated.

But no matter the reasons, there’s an obvious correlation — write about international travel and you will be writing for a liberal audience.

Write about travel with the purpose of driving pageviews and conversions — as virtually every professional travel blogger does — and you will be writing for an even more liberal audience.

When you have an audience, it’s your duty to speak out.

A public figure has to make a choice about how personal they are going to be about their political views. While artists and entertainers of all kinds have been forthright in their views for decades — from Muhammad Ali to Jane Fonda to Bruce Springsteen — in the age of social media, it’s a lot harder to keep your views under wraps.

Take Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I find his media strategy fascinating. For years he’s cultivated the most inoffensive image you can possibly imagine — with themes of working hard, staying positive, loving your family, treating yourself when you deserve it, and occasionally saving puppies from drowning.

Beyond that, he stayed so neutral, you couldn’t have even guessed his favorite color.

Well, until now. This year The Rock spoke out against the atrocities of the Trump Administration and endorsed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

“Where are you? Where is our leader? Where are you? Where is our leader at this time? At this time, when our country is down on its knees, begging, pleading, hurt, angry, frustrated, in pain, begging and pleading with its arms out, just wanting to be heard. Begging and pleading and praying for change. Where are you?”

Yeah. It’s serious enough for The Rock to make an Instagram video about it.

When you have a position of influence, you have the power to change minds on a large scale. (For the record — anyone who is an actual influencer, with a proven track record of driving sales and impacting industry trends, detests the word influencer.)

And while it’s unlikely that your words will ever convert a die-hard person of opposite views, they often influence someone with similar views to shift more into line with you on some issues.

I am a white woman; my audience is primarily white women. This means that I am in a position to communicate with that group specifically — a group that demographically is more likely to vote for Republicans. I do my part to ease over people on the edge.

The situation is dire.

I’m not voting for what’s best for me. I’m white. I’m straight. I’m privileged enough to survive most of what can be thrown my way, with the obvious and terrifying exclusion of climate change. Hell, I was able to move out of the country — but I’ll be damned if I use that as an excuse to stop working to make my country better.

I’m not voting for what’s best for me — even though Biden and Harris are, coincidentally, what’s best for me.

I’m voting for those children who were torn away from their parents and put in cages. I can’t stop thinking about them. I can’t believe the sheer level of cruelty of our government in doing this.

I’m voting for every Black person who is driving today. Or running today. Or sleeping today. Not knowing if this is their last day.

I’m voting for my friends with chronic illnesses who are up to their eyeballs in debt and just barely able to get by with their expensive medications.

I’m voting for my friends’ kids — and all kids — who are being trained to hide from shooters in their classrooms.

They need more privileged folks like us to vote for them. It is our responsibility to do what we can to make life easier for them.

Saying “Go vote, America!” isn’t good enough.

Shouldn’t we say, “Go vote! Whatever you do, just make sure you exercise your right to vote!”?

I think that’s a bit minimal.

Call me crazy, but, DON’T VOTE FOR THE FASCIST! seems like a pretty low bar to clear.

Are there Trump-supporting travel bloggers, though?

Believe it or not, there are. While most American travel bloggers tend to be liberals, both those from the United States and elsewhere, there are a handful of conservative travel bloggers. Some of whom are white supremacists.

You can recognize them by seeing them rave on their blog about how madly they are in love with Mexico — the culture, the food, the cities, the beaches — then voting for the man who said that Mexicans were rapists, and defending the caging of children, saying, “Well, if they didn’t want to lose their kids, they shouldn’t have come here.”

You can recognize them for saying they vote Republican because It’s all about Jesus, y’all! — all while voting, canvassing, and cheering for arguably the least Christlike human on the planet, a cruel man working to deny healthcare and ban refugees, a man who said the Nazis chanting “Jews Will Not Replace Us” were “very fine people” — the absolute opposite of what the actual Jesus Christ, a brown Jewish refugee socialist, lived and taught.

You can recognize them for going on and on and on about the property damaged in the protests after George Floyd was killed — yet not saying a word about the fact that BLACK PEOPLE ARE EXECUTED BY THE POLICE ALL THE TIME WITH NO CONSEQUENCES, the result of 400 years of structural racism.

And you can recognize them when you see a male travel blogger erupting in sexist vitriol against a woman who dared to have a different view from his, as misogyny so often dovetails with white supremacy.

The fact that these people make their living by learning about other places and cultures…the cognitive dissonance is dizzying.

Look for it and you’ll see it, too.

I also have some friends in the blogging world who were lifelong Republicans but are now voting for Biden and Harris; some voted for Clinton in 2016. I’m happy about that.

(For what it’s worth, every right-leaning blogger I know from outside the United States thinks that Trump is a buffoon and America’s healthcare system is cruel and inhumane.)

My travels and education will always be a work in progress.

There is no such thing as getting to a point where you are “complete” in your political education as a traveler. My work at bettering myself will never be complete, and I’m proud of that.

Some examples of that from the past 10 years? I used the word “tranny” a lot on my first trip to Thailand ten years ago. I don’t use that word anymore. Instead, “ladyboy” is a better, more positive term in Thailand.

I used to want to travel to North Korea, but today, I don’t think it’s possible to visit North Korea in an ethical way. That may change in the future. I hope it does.

I used to think the idea of defunding the police was insane. How would you even do that? Today, I think it’s a crucial tool in dismantling structural racism, and we need to create a better system from the ground up.

I’m more careful in my language, saying things like “died by suicide” rather than “committed suicide,” or “people who menstruate” rather than “women of child-bearing age.”

And years ago, I’m sure I would have gladly accepted the lucrative campaign offered to me by the Saudi government. In 2018, it was the most fervent no I’ve ever given since I started my business.

Small steps have a big impact over time.

Protestors in Philadelphia holding signs, one says "Tear down Pence's Fences."

Finally, I am not dumbing down my content so that Trump voters can feel more comfortable on my website.

You’ve made your choice to support him, and you’ll be living with the consequences of that choice for the rest of your lives. I just hope that you’re not going to drag the rest of us down with you.

I will not stop digging into deeper issues.

I will not stop educating my audience.

I will not stop fighting for justice.

And I will not stop talking about politics.

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28 thoughts on “No, I will not stop talking about politics on my travel blog.”

  1. Thank you for this. Thank you for using your voice and you’re platform to speak out. As a Black Jamaican American Travel Blogger who is also a physician that has been battling COVID19 all year and not traveling and terrified about the results of the election tomorrow and the fate of my family and friends in this country-I thank you.

  2. Speaking as an Independent that has voted both Blue and Red I think Tulsi Gabbard was a unifying voice that both The Left and The Right liked. The media simply doesn’t cover her, but she is an extremely compelling candidate.

    Politics in the US has been divisive my whole life, but as trust in our politicians has gone down, it has gotten nuts.

    Look at the latest Gallup poll that says only 19% of Americans approve of Congress.
    https://news.gallup.com/poll/1600/congress-public.aspx

    With that low of an approval rating voting doesn’t fix the problem.
    We have Stockholm syndrome, we are hostages trapped in a relationship with politicians we don’t trust. Yes, vote for the lesser of the two evils, but what about the trust? That is the real issue, and it’s bipartisan.

    1. The only people who thought Tulsi Gabbard was liked by the left were Tulsi Gabbard supporters.

      She was (and is) an opportunist who built her ever-changing views on contrarianism and whatever gets the most screentime.

  3. YES, Kate. This is one of the many reasons why I love your blog! I can’t help but laugh-react at those that are somehow shocked by your political views on your Facebook page. They always seek to silence you, to say somehow that “now you’ve gone too far”. They want you to shut up, and it’s deeply rooted in misogyny. Keep up the AMAZING work and never ever stop using your voice and your privilege and platform, K8!!

  4. Hear, Hear Kate!

    I’m with you 100% of the way. I too find myself offending people because I write about Brexit, British Politics & the relationship between the UK vs the EU.

    I always say that my travel, lifestyle, expat blog isn’t about political issues but somehow, it’s full to the brim with stuff about the UK Referendum, Terrorism in Europe, the Monarchy, being a British expat in Germany, the European Union (EU), Brexit, and racism in Europe.

    Most people don’t like it and I respect that simply by stating these simple words, “This is MY blog & my blog is about me and what I think. If you don’t like what you’re reading, go ahead and write your own blog!
    Funnily enough, they never do.

    1. No Victoria, I guarantee that most people DO like it! It’s just that most of the people who COMMENT tend to be the louder, angrier ones, and we amplify those in our minds anyway. Most blog readers are lurkers.

  5. Thank you, Kate. You are a truly inspirational writer and a badass woman. When you become a world traveler, you realize that there are some countries that do certain things better than we do. We need to be more humble and learn from leaders and countries that do some things better than we do in the U.S. Americans act like they know everything and our country is the best at everything. Trump is an embarrassment because of his anti Christian, impish behavior. I loved McCain, but Trump is no Republican. Bring on socialism because at least democratic socialist countries are happy (happier than U.S. citizens).

  6. As pointed out, people think politics is something you go to university for and then debate in high castle towers with fancy wine. That’s what the elite want you to think – that politics and economics are inaccessible to the average working person.

    But, we experience politics every single day, and even more so when you’re travelling. You see the direct impact of these policies and systems. Apparently, it’s polite not to talk about politics, but that’s only because the ruling elite don’t want it to change.

    So, I applaud you for addressing the need to talk about politics – especially when travelling. Everyone who travels does so to “see the world” and when the world ain’t right, it’s our duty to call it out and force change. Or else, what’s the point? A souvenir made by some poor starving child in Asia to celebrate you witnessing extreme poverty with your own eyes? Pfft.

  7. I don’t think you need to stop talking about politics…but I do think it’s important to note Trump is not a “fascist” and saying this just exacerbating the problem of people letting emotional/loaded terms get in the way of logic (Trump isn’t a fascist, Biden isn’t a socialist – let’s stop with the “scary” terms).

    From my perspective it’s also not about people traveling being more liberal. This is a MONETARY issue. The states with low levels of passport ownership are all poorer states and international travel is expensive (not to mention the cost of the passport itself). Citing NY, MA, CA, and NJ as examples feels like it falls flat because you have a lot of rich people in these states who can afford to travel internationally.

    1. Hi Liz. “Fascist” is not a catch-all insult; it is a very specific authoritarian right-wing form of government whose principle characteristics Trump has embraced since he announced his run for president five years ago.

      Some of the characteristics of fascism include:

      –Playing to people’s fears and insecurities and/or invoking a terrifying enemy that only they can defeat (“I alone can fix it!”)
      –Nationalism, and white nationalism, at all costs
      –Discrediting the media
      –Militarism, including secret forces and/or mobilizing followers into militia-like groups
      –Targeting individuals seen as a threat for removal (Comey, Sessions, and Fauci are three VERY different examples)
      –Identifying dissent or criticism as treason
      –Marginalize voters against them
      –Arbitrary capture and release

      You know that Trump has done every single one of these. It’s not just being a mean man, or even being a traditional Republican. He’s brought fascism closer to the United States than ever before. And his most passionate supporters have no clue.

    2. On the issue of who gets to travel:
      Sure, money is an issues, absolutely.
      But Americans are also restricted because of other things:
      – Not enough vacation time or the need to work two/three jobs to survive.
      – Lack of foreign language skills.

      And in the end, these are the result of political decisions.
      In Europe, there are at least 4 weeks of mandatory vacation time, and many working-class people, students or single mothers can afford a summer vacation.
      If education is seen as an empowering tool rather than merely a means to train people for jobs and if education is free, people stay in school longer. In Europe, it’s very hard to find people who only speak one language, for example.

  8. Debbie Hartman McCulley

    Kate, I am so proud of you for using your voice to help those marginalized people in our society and country who do not have an audience to hear them. Keep stating your informed opinion and push for equality for all Americans and those seeking asylum in our country. We need leaders like you to speak up and say “the Truth”.

  9. Thank your for showing how politics and travel are intertwined. Hell, most everything is intertwined with politics one way or the other.

    And bottom line, this is YOUR website, YOUR platform. Let the haters leave. Good riddance to them.

  10. I actually like your blog more since I have noticed that you speak out on politics and especially on racism and sexism. On the former, it may be because we happen to have similar views on some issues, maybe. But on the latter two issues, it has been helping me to think about race and gender.

    On my own travel blog, I often write about history, which sometimes gets into politics. And sometimes quite explicitly so, for example when I am witnessing a revolution or other political upheaval.
    And that’s great.
    Nobody needs another blog with people holding hands in the sunset.

    I still do think that most travel bloggers are terribly unconscious of class, even the ones who try to be woke. I am trying to be different in that aspect, too. That’s why I write about poverty, about hitchhiking, about sleeping in parks or cemeteries, about the times I run out of money and how it confines my choices (and admitting that I am still better off than half of the world, even when I go hungry for a day.)

  11. I think some American readers will always be angry as soon as you imply that the USA are not the greatest country in the world. But as you travel, you naturally discover that things are quite fine elsewhere, and sometimes even better.
    Actually, this belief in American exceptionalism is one reason why it is so hard to have a meaningful debate. Because any idea to improve/change things is seen as an attack on the American way of life. (Except cutting taxes, apparently.)
    Sadly, Mr Biden yesterday touted the same line when he said that “the American system of government is the envy of the world”. He really should travel more.

  12. Hi Kate, I know you said you want to educate your readers so I’m hoping you will publicly respond to my question. I wrote to you about your comment stating: BLACK PEOPLE ARE EXECUTED BY THE POLICE ALL THE TIME WITH NO CONSEQUENCES, but have not yet received an answer from you. I find it shocking that people of color are being executed all time by police without consequences. Certainly if that is the case I will be on a crusade to stop this. Please educate me and tell me where you got this fact. Thanks

      1. This is an article that reports the death of 10 people of color who came in contact with the police over the course of 6 years. That is very sad and tragic. But it does not answer my question. You said “BLACK PEOPLE ARE EXECUTED BY THE POLICE ALL THE TIME WITH NO CONSEQUENCES”. Where is this happening “all the time and with no consequences”? What exactly does “all the time” mean to you? All the time implies daily and with regularity. Police officers facing murder charges. That’s not a consequence? I am not implying that tragic deaths haven’t happened at the hands of police. However your blanket statement is a gross exaggeration. It is clearly your opinion and you have every right to your opinion. But please don’t disguise it as something you want to educate your readers about. Thanks

  13. Thank you, Kate! Honestly, one of the reasons you are one of my favorite travel bloggers/creators is that you DO talk about politics. I always appreciate your honest opinions and the way you support your assertions with FaCtS. (I know, what a concept.) I often notice when I travel (especially anywhere outside of popular Western European cities or Mexican/Central American resorts), that most of the American tourists I meet are fairly liberal, and most of the Americans the locals have met are fairly liberal. I’ve always assumed broad policy preferences and values are responsible for this correlation, and while I still believe that’s true, I was really interested by the map you posted showing passport ownership by state, and that also got me thinking about the way wealth and privilege correlate to geography in the U.S. Thank you for sharing and always giving me something new to think about!

  14. Glad you’re talking about this! Not sure how folks plan to unite the country by not discussing anything challenging – it’s the only way!

    Also happy to see you fulfill your role as a person of influence 🙂 Hope your followers continue to show you respect.

  15. Thank you for speaking up. I have always noticed when I travel that people aren’t mad at individual Americans, they don’t like our govt. Also, they assume the traveler is more liberal, because the conservatives are home hiding in their bunkers, not getting the benefit of seeing people and cultures different from theirs.

  16. Thank you for speaking up! Every person you reach and starts to think about something more (deeply) and as a result changes it’s actions, that’s one person who has started to think hopefully wisely.
    Funny thing is you mention that The Netherlands has a good transportation system, with our trains. We do, but it’s also a national sport to bash at the NS (Dutch Railways) for everything that’s wrong with it.

  17. Typically a lurker, but want to chime in and say I really appreciate you continuing to speak up. As a reader for almost seven years now, it’s been wonderful to watch your views evolve over time, and has been encouraging proof that little steps add up over time. You are far and away the #1 travel blog that I recommend to everyone in my network—especially women—and I’m really glad I’ve never had to question whether our ethics align!

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