Mere weeks after turning 16, I flew to Mexico City, alone, which is where my exchange program officially started. For three weeks I lived with a host family in the colonial city of Querétaro, a metropolitan area about 2.5 hours north of Mexico City. Minus the intense homesickness I suffered in the very beginning, I loved just about every element of my time there- the food, the Spanish language and culture classes, touring incredibly old historic sites. But it was my host family comprising Mos, Maria Elena, Carlos, Gabi, and Marie that left its greatest mark. They are the reason I love the Mexican people so and why I would always go back to visit their country (it’s not just the food that draws me there!). So when “someone” insulted my beloved Mexico time and time again it broke my heart because I knew better. I knew how amazing, how hardworking, how truly kind the Mexican people are.
During my semester abroad in Spain in 2006, the Iraq War was at its height, and America’s then president George W. Bush was an immensely unpopular man on a global scale. So a common topic in my host family’s house was naturally Bush, with my host dad frequently asking my (American) roommate and me why was “he” doing this, and why was “he” was doing that. Regardless of the fact that we were two 20 year old American females solely wanting to immerse ourselves in the Spanish language and culture, the bottom line was WE were Americans, he was OUR president, and naturally we should know these things. Our hosts thought that we and other Americans should be able to provide some justification for these actions, even if they were actions we didn’t believe in or subscribe to.
Too often when people travel abroad they are judged solely by their nationality. This makes sense to some degree since in modern times nationalism became an accepted ethos once former colonies won their independence and the former Soviet Union collapsed. And yet, the average traveler has nothing personally to do with the head of government in their country. Travelers like myself journey to other countries to learn, to experience, to become immersed in that country and its culture. They don’t travel there to talk or boast about their homeland because I’ll be honest, I have very little positive to say about my government these days.
Donald Trump may be the head of the government but I didn’t vote for him. And neither did the majority when you look at the Popular Vote tally of the 2016 Presidential Election here in the United States. (The American electoral system is extremely outdated and convoluted so if you’re interested in trying to make more sense of it, click here). If a non-American were to ask me today, why is he doing these things, what is he thinking, I honestly wouldn’t know how to respond. Not even the best excuse can cover what’s been said and done since he burst onto the political stage.
I recently was talking to two volunteers who later this year will be traveling to Europe. One mentioned he’s a bit leery of any anti-American sentiment there (although not remotely enough to cancel any plans). I told him that based on my own experiences when anti-American sentiment has been strong, any reasonable and informed person would see that if these people want to travel abroad, clearly they are not the nativist homebodies of America who are perfectly fine to never apply for a passport and see more of this marvelous world.
My passport makes me an American but truly I am a citizen of the world, a humanist, an information and culture seeker. I care about what’s going on with people in other parts of the world even if their language, their religion, and everything else of their daily being is drastically different from mine. I am someone who never wants to be contained within one set of borders. There is no part of the world I don’t wish to one day explore.
To the people of the world, know that Trump and his supporters who you see at his rallies- that’s not me and that’s not many Americans. We don’t agree with his offensive rhetoric or his often cruel policies and actions. We will continue to travel for many reasons, one of them being to show the world that we’re not all like him.