Traveling as an American in the Age of Trump: What to Expect

Note before: I know this is a blog about travel, not politics, but it’s impossible to divide the two subjects, travel is political and politics effects travel in unmeasurable ways. If that’s not for you- ok, there’s plenty of other stuff you can read  Otherwise, let’s get into it.

2016 has been a rough year for a lot of people and November was probably the roughest part.

Like so many I was thrilled when I woke up on election day. I dressed my baby girl in her Future President onesie and told her that history was in the making today… we were going to elect our first woman president!

And then we didn’t. Luckily Marcella was already in bed when things started to come into terrible focus. She didn’t have to see me crying into a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream. It’s been a see-saw since then but it’s hard to mope or dwell on anything when you have an adorable baby demanding your full attention.

Nobody really knows what the next four years will bring, but I’m not terribly optimistic about our new president’s potential as a world leader. A lot could happen that we can’t even foresee now, especially since our almost president is already pissing off foreign powers left and right.

Ugh, I don’t know.

I do know a little bit about traveling under an unpopular president though. Some of you lucky young’uns might not remember, but back before the golden age of Obama we had another president to complain about. At the time it seemed like George W Bush was the worst thing that could happen to our country (they were gentler times) and his unpopularity stretch far and wide across the globe.

it was a different, skinnier time…

I realize that having to travel internationally when you president is an unpopular orange blowhard is small potatoes on the scale of potential issues with a Trump presidency. But as travelers it’s something we have to deal with. So here’s what you can expect:

You Will Be Asked to Explain… A Lot

Why did the United States elect Donald Trump as president? Why do we still have a system like the electoral college? All of a sudden you are the spokesperson for the American people and you have got some explaining to do.

Those of you with international friends might already be experiencing that. In fact, a whole lot of people in the US are still grasping, trying to answer the question of “What happened?”

When this used to happen with Bush I would usually just shake my head. I don’t know. I didn’t vote for him. The US is a big place with a lot of people in it, I can’t speak for all of them. It gets tedious but it is a good chance to let other’s know that we’re not all the same politically.

You Might Get Some Blowback

Boarded up US Embassy in Belgrade, 2008

It’s possible that anti-American sentiment will rise again, particularly if the new administration’s foreign policy decisions are controversial. It’s not fair, but sometimes that animosity towards the US government may be directed towards you as a US citizen.

It’s not that the United States is beloved around the world as it is, but public sentiment has definitely improved significantly since Obama took office. Most people are smart enough to realize that not every American supports every American policy, but you may find yourself subjected to scathing looks, lectures, maybe even the occasional rude comment.

This isn’t to say that you should be afraid to travel abroad. Rudeness is a possibility, actual violence towards innocent Americans is unlikely. Of course you will want to follow your normal safety precautions and keep an eye out for tense situations.

Potential Logistical Issues

Certain policies and appointments that Trump is making may make your travels harder on a practical scale too. For example:

  • Economic policies that favor US trade could lead to a weaker US Dollar. Right now the Dollar is in a fabulous position for travel in Europe, Canada and other places, but this might change.
  • More Visa hoops to jump through. During Obama’s administration many countries (like Argentina) dropped the reciprocal visa fees charged to US Travelers. Less popular US foreign policy might lead to these fees being re-instated and perhaps more visa requirements.
  • Higher airfares. This article posits that Trump’s policies might favor US airlines and shut out foreign ones, leading to less competition and higher prices.

You Shouldn’t try to Hide Your Nationality

I initially wrote you shouldn’t be ashamed of your country, but to be honest I’m not fully onboard with that statement. In some ways I’m proud to be an American, but not in others, and I’m not sure my country is going to make me proud over the next few years.

That said, I will always BE an American and I refuse to lie about that.

Back in the W days US travelers would sometimes sew Canadian flags on their backpacks in an effort to sidestep the bad reputation that came with being an American. I’ve never liked this idea. 1) I don’t think it works very well. 2) it pisses of the Canadians and most importantly, 3) One of the best things about travel is that it helps us put a personal face on foreign people. Like it or not you are an ambassador for the United States

So steel yourself for the next few years of travel. You’re going to need a thick skin, some patience and all the compassion that’s missing in our new leader’s heart. We’ll get through it.

After all it’s only 4 years… hopefully.

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26 thoughts on “Traveling as an American in the Age of Trump: What to Expect”

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