When I left the United States in May, I left amidst the 2016 Presidential Election. I left in hopes to escape the stress American politics imparts on its people. Although politically inclined, I hoped I could watch the 2016 Presidential Election play out in secret, on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Unfortunately, it does not seem to be the case. Any person who discovers my origin has a follow-up question, “Trump or Clinton?” More often than not, I find myself explaining how Trump could have possibly become the republican nomination. I hear time and time again, how sad the world is to be losing Obama as our President and their hope for Americans to turn out at the poll.
What intrigues most is seemly, the majority of the world knows more about the intricacies of American politics than the Americans themselves. I spent countless hours during my college years attempting to encourage electoral engagement, and yet it seems if given the chance, the rest of the world would gladly take the opportunity at ticking a candidate at an American poll than those claiming the stars and stripes as their nationality.
While reading Civilization by Niall Ferguson, I find myself in a quandary. On the one hand, I am reading about the fall of the western empire, America, and reading supportive evidence on Twitter. Trump’s catch phrase “Make America great again!” suggests Americans recognize their final moments of previous superpower’s reign and hope to restore whatever it is that made it so great.
Yet, if this power has since passed like Ferguson argues, why do I hear American music in every Nairobi nightclub, a McDonalds on every corner in the French territory of Reunion, and am learning to drive manual on a Ford? American idealism continues to transcend its borders. The American dream is alive, literally.
Every person I meet, their dream is to one day see the skyscrapers of New York, dance to a saxophone on Frenchmen Street, and drive with the windows down on Route 66. They ask me what I am doing on the other side of the world if I could be living in America?
I sometimes wonder what it would be like to travel as a Mexican, a Canadian, or an English lad. Would I receive the same response? Would it be such a pleasure?
Occasionally I feel stressed. I feel as though I take people for granted. I know traveling is easier for someone like me with my accent as forceful as an anchor. On the other side of the coin, there is much responsibility fallen onto me without question. Traveling with an American passport, I am constantly watched. Every song I sing along to, every loud conversation I have, and every opinion I share is scrutinized. Not intentionally, but to see if it compares to their abstract fantasy of an American, whether it be good or bad. Am I a lazy American? Am I friendly? Or am I a snobbish American who does not care to try and speak the local language? All stereotypes and potential classifications my actions could group me under.
Not that I don’t appreciate being an American- as it has many benefits, but simultaneously, those benefits induce an equal amount of responsibility- a responsibility to the United States, to its people, and to the world. Traveling is a form of an ambassadorship. Traveling requires knowledge of said nationality, its history, its political situation, and its relationship to the rest of the world. It requires adaptability and concurrently, a yearning for ones finer upbringing. Without it, cultural differences could not possibly be shared nor appreciated.
Not only to those Americans, but also to all those wanderlust out yonder, traveling is not escaping ones homeland, but equally an advertisement for it. The best travelers are the best representatives of their cultural. Be the best representatives one can be because in a sense, us globetrotters are the cheapest liaisons present Keynesian economics can buy, the fixed price of Free.
– MacKenzie Bills