Political considerations when traveling

Sep 19th, 2019, 08:00 PM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
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This is something I wonder about too, Kja.

truthfully, I think itís like anything else in regards to travel. You canít say if itís relevant or not without context. If itís a safety issueóas in are Americans or women in general at risk in a certain destinationóthen itís something that belongs on a travel board.

I think a lot of people take it too far, though, and I always wonder how they choose where they live. No place is ideal. I also think itís very difficult to know what things are like ďon the groundĒ just from news reports about national politics. I wouldnít even be able to travel into the next county over if I based my travel decisions on the local politics.

On TA, thereís been a spate of posts about homelessness in Seattle. It is relevant, because Iíd certainly tell a visitor about places they might want to avoid, or that they should ignore beggars. But the way itís posted is rarely relevant. It doesnít provide any actual practical information for visitors.

You can say the same thing about religion, culture, etc. Wearing a hajib in some places might be a lot more problematic for the local, and not the tourist. Dressing immodestly might be an issue for both groups, or it might not be an issue for a local, but it would be for a tourist who wants to visit churches. So I think itís context that ultimately matters.
marvelousmouse is offline  
Sep 19th, 2019, 08:16 PM
  #22  
 
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It's a big world. Why would you go to someplace you don't endorse? I can understand the concept of not making judgements but going is making a judgement. You're deciding it doesn't matter to you.

Now that's your choice but don't pretend you aren't making a choice.

If you go someplace and stay in an unlicensed apartment knowing that apartment is no longer available to locals that's a choice.
Traveler_Nick is offline  
Sep 20th, 2019, 02:39 AM
  #23  
 
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My use of the word "endorse" was perhaps not entirely what I intended to convey.

When I made my decision not to visit India, it was partly based on comments on these forums but also on the opinions and judgement of a number human rights organisations, with whom I have had dealing, who argued that a key way to influence the thinking of the Indian government and actually take action was to way to make them realise that if they didn’t change things, people would stop visiting and tourist numbers and revenues would drop. Money talks and lack of money speaks volumes. There was an outcry, and visitor numbers did drop ( but only for a while).

The BBC documentary I referred to earlier ( which may still be available online) showed interviews with senior members of the Indian judiciary where they actually blamed the girls themselves for getting gang raped! It is only by ridding the country of this scourge of institutionalised misogyny, that their society can even begin to change. Even so, I suspect it will take a very long time before attitudes change in any meaningful way.

This contrast with Myanmar where Aung San Suu Kyi has long argued for the west to visit the country to bring much needed tourist dollars to the country and put it not in the pockets of the oppressive and corrupt regime ( v. difficult IMO) but in the hands of the local people who need it most. An admirable aim but I do wonder how practical that is. The vast majority of the population will never see a tourist so, for me, it is difficult to see how this helps. Aung San Suu Kyi has been in some sort of power for some years now but seems to have done little to halt the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya. She seems to have moved from being a Noble Laureate with an appetite for real progress to become considered virtual pariah by some for her acceptance of the status quo presumably to keep herself in power - but for what purpose. Will visiting the country make one jot of difference? On these forums at least, the answer seemed to be yes, one should visit. I just happen to disagree.

I agree with TravellerNicks, comment "I can understand the concept of not making judgements but going is making a judgement. You're deciding it doesn't matter to you."
As someone once said, every act is a political act, whether conscious or unconscious.

KJA - thanks for starting this thought provoking thread. It makes a nice change for it not to descend into acrimonious squabbling. Perhaps if you have spare moment, you could hop over to Europe and help sort out the mess that is Brexit?
crellston is offline  
Sep 20th, 2019, 03:53 AM
  #24  
 
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" But I don't think you are addressing my question -- whether there a place for political opinion on a forum devoted to travel."

I think I covered this in my first post: travel related political facts OK, not travel related politics - go to the Fodorite Lounge

Thinking it over again I would say that we should tolerate even political opinions as long as it is travel related. I think free speech is very important especially these days when it is under attack from all sides. We shall be happy to have a platform for exchanging views which is not as restrictive and biased as facebook and co.

What disturbs me are political comments which are uncalled for and not relevant. I've come across a few comments like that.

For example: OP is planning a trip around the Baltic Sea(not only the Baltics) and asking about favourite cities and what not. St. Petersburg will be certainly mentioned as a city not to be missed. Than a zealot jumps in saying: I wouldn't travel to Russia because they invaded Ukraine, and treating gays badly. What's the point? It's like when someone is asking about the best national parks of Alaska and I'd go on like, don't go to Alaska, because the USA has invaded Afghanistan, building a border wall and policemen shoot blacks. Isn't that ridiculous? If he'd say St. Petersburg was a dump, it's not safe, the food is terrible, that's all right, we could discuss these and prove that it's not true.

On the other hand if the OP would ask: Do you think travelling in Russia is safe for a gay? In this case it is totally appropriate to discuss the politics of Russia regarding homosexuality.
BDKR is offline  
Sep 20th, 2019, 04:08 AM
  #25  
 
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"It's a big world. Why would you go to someplace you don't endorse?"

It's indeed a big and complex world and almost every country(including my own - Shall I emigrate?) has some issues that I don't endorse.

If you want to be consequent there will be very few countries left to travel, and you'll have to give a miss to many of the most interesting countries of the world. I don't think you can get to know the world without visiting such large and important countries with a very distinct culture like China, Japan, India, Russia, USA, Italy, Egypt and so on.

Let's be honest about this guys: 99,99% of travellers don't care at all about these issues when travelling. Let's say you're not going to China because it occupies Tibet and keeps Uyghurs in concentration camps. What are you going to achieve with this? How does it help Tibetans? Especially if you continue to buy Chinese goods at home?

Japan has an amazing culture and society I admire. Shall I not go there because I don't endorse whale hunting?

Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world and it has a special importance for me as a Christian. Shall I not go there because Israel is a racist state(opinion)?

I could go on and on and would probably end up with Tuvalu(not interested), Bhutan(too expensive) and Andorra(been there)

Last edited by BDKR; Sep 20th, 2019 at 04:12 AM.
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Sep 20th, 2019, 04:17 AM
  #26  
 
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" If you go someplace and stay in an unlicensed apartment knowing that apartment is no longer available to locals that's a choice."

This is a good point and it shows that choosing HOW to travel has a much larger impact on the world than choosing WHERE to travel or not travel.
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Sep 20th, 2019, 05:39 PM
  #27  
kja
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This thread certainly is providing some food for thought, and I think helping me understand my own approach to opinions about travel, political and otherwise!

I believe that opinions of all sorts can be a useful part of travel advice. As a Fodorite, I make decisions about whether to share certain opinions based on my understanding (which could be mistaken) of the value those opinions might have to an OP. If someone else offers an opinion with which I disagree, I might or might not share my opposing opinion -- again it depends on my assessment of the value of doing so -- but as rule, I wouldn't be sharing an opposing opinion with the intent of changing anyone's mind, but instead with the intent of providing input that the OP can use or not. If someone presents an opinion as though it is fact, I'm likely to challenge that opinion, but not with the goal of changing the opinion, but instead with the intent of shedding light on the possibility of alternative interpretations (i.e., trying to make it clear that the statement was opinion, not fact). And of course, I'm quite certain that I deviate from these generalizations with some frequency!

I'm not sure that arguing about opinions has value to a travel forum -- that may be heat, not light. In contrast, exploring opinions or trying to gain a better or fuller understanding of issues can, IMO, be very beneficial. And if those issues are political, they would seem to me just as useful as opinions about reconstructions vs. renovations or about how cruise ships affect a city or about whether an experience is a charming diversion or a tacky waste of time.

JMO -- for now, at least, and subject to change as you all give me reason to consider and reconsider.

@ marvelousmouse: I completely agree that context is critical!

@ Traveler_Nick: I agree that decisions are, in fact, choices. I'd add that some decisions reflect informed choices; others reflect thoughtless ones. And I don't mean "thoughtless" as a pejorative term, but in it's literal sense -- without thought. And maybe that's one of the reasons that expressing opinions, political or otherwise, can be useful? We are, of course, always free to ignore the opinions people share with us, but if they don't share them, maybe we won't ever take certain issues into consideration. Just a thought!

@ crellston: I think your descriptions are illustrating what I would hope would occur when opinions are voiced -- not an acceptance of one opinion or another, but rather a goad to further research and some soul searching to make one's own decision. And sure, as soon as I solve the few problems we've got here in the U.S., I'll be happy to fix Brexit. (We do live in a strange world, don't we?!?)

@ BDKR: I think we're getting a better sense that you and I approach things a bit differently -- and vive la difference! For all the reasons I just articulated, I do think it's relevant to know if someone has an opinion about political or other reasons to either visit or not visit a place. But I'm not going to try to change your opinion! It does seem that we agree that sharing opinions about HOW to travel can be important.
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Sep 26th, 2019, 03:33 PM
  #28  
 
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99,99% of travellers don't care at all about these issues when travelling

I don't believe that is true.
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Sep 26th, 2019, 10:39 PM
  #29  
 
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Originally Posted by suze View Post
99,99% of travellers don't care at all about these issues when travelling

I don't believe that is true.
Neither do I. Many, many people in my experience, do care about these issue. Whether they are prepared to actually do anything about it is less clear. I wouldnít like to put a number on by what percentage "ethical/responsible" travel has grown in recent years but judging by the number of advertisements I see for this type of travel. Anyway, as they say "87.4% of statistics are made up on the spot"
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Sep 27th, 2019, 03:27 PM
  #30  
kja
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I'm also of the belief that many people do care, whether it ends up affecting their behavior in discernible ways or not -- but I have no evidence to back that up.
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Sep 28th, 2019, 09:06 PM
  #31  
 
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I actually think most people care *if* they know whatever it is. I generally know cultural stuff, for example, human rights, but I donít closely follow environmental or politics.

Whether it changes whether they visit somewhere, that, Iím not so sure of. Shades of gray present like anything else. For me it kind of comes down to: is it safe? Are they deliberately violating the rights of a particular population in a horrific way? Otherwise I do my best (within my power) to not patronize businesses that I disagree with while Iím there, like owl cafes in Tokyo, elephant attractions in Thailand or anything that involves potential exploitation of human beings.
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Sep 29th, 2019, 06:59 AM
  #32  
 
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"For me it kind of comes down to: is it safe? Are they deliberately violating the rights of a particular population in a horrific way?"

What do you do if you find out it is safe, but they're deliberately violating the rights(and lives) of a particular population in a horrific way?
BDKR is offline  
Sep 29th, 2019, 08:59 AM
  #33  
kja
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@ marvelousmouse: Good point about ways to avoid specific places!
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Sep 30th, 2019, 05:31 PM
  #34  
kja
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I won't presume to answer for marvelousmouse (who I hope will chime in again to answer BDKR's question), but...

I can say that for me, safety considerations beat just about anything: I hope to travel solo for as long as I can, and as a woman with more than enough travel interests to be certain that I will never, ever have the time or money to see all the places I want to see, deferring any location that leaves me convinced that safety is a serious concern to women traveling alone is more or less a "no brainer." That doesn't mean I'll refuse to go anywhere that anyone has said might not be safe -- just that I'll weigh information related to safety concerns to decide whether I find them sufficiently credible to warrant deferring a specific location (for me, for now) or not. As an example, I can't imagine going to Somalia right now; in contrast, I'm seriously considering going to Egypt within the next year (with both safety and political considerations within the scope of my research).

I never make decisions about where to go (or not) solely with respect to political issues -- there are many, many other things I consider, always with the understanding that there is a real opportunity cost, for me, in deciding on any location. So sometimes, for me, political issues can be a "simple" way to narrow down a next-trip wish list. But not necessarily! Most of my travel decisions are based on multiple and sometimes complicated considerations.

Which, again, makes me think that honest expressions of concerns about political issues can be valuable to Fodorites. If someone has a political concern about a place I'm thinking of visiting, I'd welcome knowing about the concern -- not to debate it's accuracy or legitimacy, but as a spur to research, outside of Fodor's forums, to better understand the issues so that I can make an informed decision within my own, personal, sense of priorities.

Last edited by kja; Sep 30th, 2019 at 05:49 PM.
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