2016 / 2017 has been an interesting year for politics in the US. Trail and I tend to run in liberal circles. We come from Seattle, a very liberal part of the country, and our views aren’t much out of sync with that city’s demographics. When Trump won the election in 2016 many folks were surprised, ourselves included. And some were also frightened. I started to see folks who aspired to full-time travel shy away, afraid that as they traveled the country, they would find themselves in hostile territory. Some Canadians expressed that they were concerned about crossing the border due to the “dangerous mood” of America. Even before these recent elections, I’ve seen liberal friends express concern about going to “red states” for vacations and the like, concerned they would encounter hostility and possibly danger.
I wanted to write this article to say that there is no need for this concern. Whatever the politics of a traveler, and the places in the US they travel to, the chances of there being any kind of conflict based on political views is incredibly slim.
5 Reasons not to worry
Firstly, when you travel, a good number of the people you meet are either fellow travelers or people who cater to travelers. Fellow travelers come from all walks of life and are going to be asking about your travels rather than your politics. The most common topics are “Where are you from” and “Where are you headed.” The people who cater to travelers tend to be eager to avoid any controversial topics of all sorts. They would like your business so they are not eager to get into any kind of conflict.
The second reason why it should not be a worry is that most Americans don’t discuss politics in public, in person, on any kind of regular basis. Where are you from, what do you do for a living, sports teams, and the weather are pretty much the de-facto conversation topics for strangers in America. Unless you wear your politics emblazoned on a T-Shirt no one is going to even know what your political affiliations are. Even if you did, chances are good folks are likely to avoid the subject anyway.
Thirdly, it is important to understand that the news media and people’s reactions to it provide a pretty distorted view of what day to day life is like. The news reports on only the most sensational and most outrageous things it can find, and it plays them up for as much drama as it can muster. Most of life in America is on the whole, quiet, peaceful, and mundane. People go to work, they go to school, they go home, they go out for meals and so on. Drama is the exception, not the rule.
Fourth, most of America still practices the ancient arts of hospitality. By and large, when a local person meets someone from out of town, they try to put their best foot forward and make their home seem like a nice and welcoming place. Ask folks about the best things to do and the best places to eat and you are sure to get some good tips and engender that hospitality instinct in them. In traveling more than a year and a half, the worst we’ve met with is indifference, and that is rare. We’ve been through deeply liberal parts of the country and deeply conservative parts. The difference in the day to day interactions with people we meet is non-existent. By and large, they are all very nice to strangers.
Finally a word of advice. Don’t make assumptions about people’s attitudes based only on where they live. You will never really know what people think unless you ask. Too often we make assumptions based on appearance or circumstance but everyone all around the world is their own person. Everyone has a unique background and views. If you approach people with warmth and kindness you are most likely to get the same in return. If you come at people with fear and judgment you are likely to get that in return. If you want to learn about someone, just ask, never assume you know the answer unless it came from their own mouth.
When adventure calls and you yearn to see the world, try not to let fear of the people you will meet stay your wanderlust. Travelers are generally welcomed with open arms wherever you go, and strangers are often kinder than you might expect. Just because folks are not the same as you, doesn’t mean they won’t be kind and welcoming. Be respectful of your differences, look for common ground, and you can make friends wherever you roam.