I hadn’t planned on writing about the U.S. election. I mean, this is a travel blog, what business do I have writing about politics?
But the last two days have reminded me that, oh right, US politics aren’t really just about the US, and they totally affect the world. And the world is pretty key to this whole travel thing.
Plus somehow it just felt weird ignoring this really big thing that happened that everyone who’s heard my American accent has asked me a billion questions about.
This post isn’t going to be some clever or enlightening political commentary, and it’s not going to be about why some people whom I love dearly rejoiced Wednesday morning, or about why some people whom I love dearly were devastated, or about how I myself felt watching the results come in at 5 am alone in my little London hotel room.
This post is about a walk I took later that day which put a smile on my face and maybe even a few tears in my eyes (because yeah, I am a total baby).
I was in London to attend the World Travel Market, which is an enormous trade show for travel professionals, with stands grouped together by country and laid out roughly like a map of the world.
Travel bloggers get free access to the fair as members of the press, which is really helpful because it means we can meet face to face with tourism boards and travel brands we might want to work with, but also a bit awkward when everyone in the press room has badges that say things like BBC and NatGeo and yours says Heart My Backpack. Lol.
I had expected it would be interesting being at WTM after the election results came in, but on the train ride there Wednesday morning I didn’t really feel anything but dread. Because regardless of how colorful a mix of reactions to the election my largely American Facebook feed displayed, I knew that a whole lot of the world’s reaction would be one thing: negative.
I first lived abroad while Bush was president and it was tiresome always having to quickly add a “but!” whenever telling someone where I was from. And somehow I thought that was all about to start again this morning at the World Travel Market. I sat on the train scrolling through Facebook statuses telling me that “hatred had won” and arguments that I thought would now be over instead becoming all the more heated and ugly, and I trembled.
But when I arrived at the World Travel Market? There were hugs. There were sighs and tense whispers, but there was also laughter. There was wine. There was sympathy, and from a lot of people around the world, empathy. There was the woman at a Polish stand who rolled her eyes and was all, governments, right?
I set aside my blogger agenda for the day and simply wandered through the different stalls, chatting with people from around the world. In fact, it seemed like a lot of people were doing the same. No one wanted to talk about work, we just wanted to, well, talk. To connect. To feel love not just from our neighbors, but from those people across the world who seem so different and mysterious, and perhaps to some even a little dangerous.
Somehow I had gotten so caught up in the campaign and election drama, that I had forgotten the biggest lesson travel has taught me, and my greatest motivation to continue seeing the world. I wrote about it in Russia, then again in Ukraine, and even back in Tajikistan, and at the market in Afghanistan.
Yeah this election was big and important and worrisome and my neck is totally stiff from the stress of it all, but it’s not everything. Government and politics are just one part of life, and certainly not the most important. When it comes down to it, people the world over are simply people – utterly imperfect and prone to making all the mistakes, but also filled with so much goodness, love, hope, and humor.
I know, sentimental much?
But being at WTM did make me sentimental. Sometimes I worry that increasing globalization has been pushing people to increasing nationalism, but WTM reminded me that that’s certainly not the case everywhere. And while at times it feels like social media is somehow (how?) making people more close-minded and intolerant, at other times it’s impressively empowering.
Yeah I’m going to miss being met with a big smile and “Obama!” when I tell people where I’m from, but that was always the start of the conversation, rarely the end. We’re so much more than our governments, and there’s a lot more we can do than simply cast a vote for a politician whom we hope will make good choices, whether that be helping our chosen leaders fulfill those promises that gained them our support in the first place, or continuing to work for what’s important to us despite them.
And it seems like especially now, when a blogger can weasel her way into a press room by showing a screenshot of her blog, that we totally have resources to help foster the changes we want in the world. I mean, surely, right?
As that Lonely Planet writer said on the first day of WTM: “watch out for all the young people!”
Maybe he was referring to the fact that all the travel bloggers who were crowding the press room were changing the way the travel industry works, but maybe he was also hinting at the possibility that this generation of ours could change the world.
Or maybe he was just referring to the hoard of hungry Millennials descending on the pastry stand, who knows?
What I do know is that my phone broke Thursday evening for the second time in just a few months and while last time I think I was throwing around words like “devastated” and “heartbroken,” this time it feels totally whatever. So thanks for the healthy dose of perspective on that, Wednesday, I’m going to try really hard not to let it slip away.
And thanks for the perspective on Wednesday, world!
P.S. Can anyone recommend a not too fancy phone that takes descent videos? xx