Should Travel Bloggers Stay Out of Politics?

It’s been an interesting couple of days since the “Muslim Ban” went into effect. As someone who has gotten used to racism and islamophobia over the last 15 years, I was completely shocked at the reaction around the country. The travel community in particular really stepped up to the plate. Airbnb offered free housing to stranded immigrants, Lyft is donating $1 million to the ACLU, airports around the country have been flooded with protesters, and people are boycotting Uber. There’s even an incognito boycott of Trump Hotels that traveler hackers are organizing. Americans around the country have expressed solidarity with people they share no religious, ethnic, or cultural affiliation. That’s amazing.

Podium behind American flag
Should travel bloggers use their platform to make political statements?

A few travel bloggers got flack for getting political. I’ve seen countless tweets telling bloggers to “keep your political opinions to yourself!” and “stick to writing about travel!” Really? Is it not more important to have a conversation about issues that affect us all than to share pictures of our food or react to who Negan killed?

This actually happens quite a bit and is something I experienced during the election. But you know what I’ve noticed? This aversion isn’t restricted to travel bloggers. During the election I saw tons of Facebook posts from people expressing their annoyance with their “friends” for sharing political opinions on social media. Then there’s the old adage about not discussing politics and religion in a social setting. So it seems there isn’t really ever a “proper” time or place to discuss politics, and who can discuss it is extremely limited.

In a democratic society, it’s everyone’s responsibility to actively participate and that involves healthy discussions of political and social issues. Regardless of whether it’s a travel blogger, a politician, or a gas station attendant – we should all be participating in respectful discussions. Those who have a platform, even more so. More importantly, people need to stop being so hypersensitive to talk of politics.

As an Afghan who grew up in Germany and has lived in the U.S. for almost 20 years, I always found this strange about Americans: How they claim to cherish freedom of speech and democracy, yet object to people exercising their rights by either voicing political opinions or protesting. Remember the Tea Party jokes? Occupy Wall Street protesters being dismissed as lazy, unemployed millennials? I find it bizarre that anyone would object to people getting involved in politics. Especially since it’s an essential way for citizens to maintain a healthy democracy. How a person votes shouldn’t have a bearing on whether you feel you “can be friends with that person.” 

This “shut up about politics!” mentality is prevalent in totalitarian countries and should have no place here. What needs to change is everyone’s approach and their reactions. Don’t freak out when your favorite blogger expresses an opinion different than your own. Take the opportunity to have an intelligent conversation. Instead of saying something snarky, say something educational. Instead of resorting to racism or accusations of such, try to see the issue from their point of view. Learn to meet in the middle. That doesn’t happen when you shut people out because they don’t agree with you or “this isn’t the appropriate forum for that.”

In the 80’s, several of my family members in Afghanistan were persecuted under suspicion of opposing the communist government. My aunt’s husband was arrested and never seen again. My grandfather was arrested after his niece turned him in for “being an American sympathizer.” We don’t have to fear getting jailed or off-ed by government hitmen in this country (at least not yet). No one should stay out of politics.

So let’s not take our rights and privileges for granted: That we’re able to travel nearly anywhere in the world, uninhibited, that we’re able to speak and protest openly. After all, the immigrants at the center of this controversy come from countries where they are denied those very rights.

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  1. When someone disagrees with you, they tell you that you shouldn’t speak.

    Or they’ll put you in a box, tell you that what you’re speaking in is outside that box.

    Some bloggers try to write so that as many people possible will read. I think we all have some opinion about who the more milquetoast bloggers are. And that’s fine, for them it’s probably wise to steer clear of controversial topics, for fear they’ll turn off a potential reader/customer.

    When people tell me I should stay away from politics as ‘friendly advice’ or else they’ll stop reading (and I’ve had some twitter unfollows and newsletter unsubscribes the past few days) I suggest that if they don’t want to read what I write they’re certainly welcome not to read but are they such snowflakes that they are shaken being exposed to views other than theirs?

    Certainly no obligation to read anything they don’t enjoy, and I’m totally ok with that. I’m grateful as can be that people do read my blog. But I don’t write so that people will read it. I write what’s interesting to me at the moment, broadly conceived. And people who find what I have to say on what’s interesting to me interesting can read it, and I think that’s fantastic. I’m ok with people who disagree with what I have to say sharing their perspective in the comments — or, if they must, not reading at all.

    I write for me, I write because I enjoy it, and I share what I’m passionate about. There’s no way that I’d have stuck with blogging for 15 years if it was any other way.

    The idea that ‘I am a travel blog’ and I ‘must write only about travel’ (and that a given critic decides what’s travel) is… a bit odd. “Was it Kierkegaard or Dick Van Patten who said ‘if you label me, you negate me?'”

    • Project much? Leftists are the “debate is over” and “safe space” crowd. No conservative questions your right to say what you want. You can take sides all you want, the question is if it is wise to do so. You are turning in to the NYT of travel bloggers, constantly pandering to your base, while turning off 50% of potential readers.

      • If you think “no conservative questions your right to say what you want,” you may want to check the President’s Twitter feed. Also, Gary never said anything about conservatives – he was talking about people in general who don’t like it when travel bloggers bring up political issues. So really, you’re the one projecting.

  2. i love both your blogs, and i also like learning new words so thank you for milquetoast (gary). as for politics and travel, i don’t get people’s problem with writing about the current travel ban — it’s a travel ban, so it affects travel. it’s only a matter of time before other countries reciprocate with restrictions of their own (iran already has), so trump’s muslim ban will ultimately affect american travelers. it’s very relevant for a travel blog to cover it. thanks for another great post, ariana.

    • Thanks Summer. What a lot of people object to is bloggers taking a side and opposing the ban. That’s fine, but you can’t tell people not to express their opinion and “stick to writing about ___.” That’s a completely oppressive attitude, in my opinion.

      • Oh really, it affects you, or any readers here? How many Yemeni or Iranian nationals read these blogs anyway? As far as Iran reciprocating, that’s great, it means less idiot Americans traveling there, getting detained, and then taxpayers having to pay for Iran’s extortion to free them.

        It’s one thing to report on the policy and protests, it’s another to misinform, exaggerate on actual policy implications, and lecture us constantly. We get it, you leftists hate Trump. Sorry, elections have consequences. It’s what most Americans wanted, so suck it up.

        • Well it actually does affect me and as a fellow traveler, it affects you too. Where exactly did anyone misinform or exaggerate policy implications? People were detained at airports, so protesters showed up to express their outrage. No one has “lectured” though that certainly might do you some good. If you want people to hear your point of view, then express yourself like a mature adult and keep the labels to a minimum. Otherwise, they’ll just see you as a crazy caricature and that defeats the entire purpose. Also, we know who won the popular vote so no – it wasn’t “what most Americans wanted.”

  3. Discussing a travel ban on a travel website makes total sense.

    If your travel blog suddenly starts discussing a 20% import tax on Mexican imports, that’s another issue altogether, but the travel ban itself not only affects American values, but also how airlines are reacting to it, which to me is fascinating as well.

  4. First and foremost, it’s your blog and you can write whatever you want.
    Secondly, current travel ban DOES pertain to travel, so I don’t get why people complain.
    But in general I kind of believe bloggers should mostly stick to the area that attracted their readers in the first place (ditto for actors making their political pronouncements). Most people do not have time or desire for something they didn’t “sing up” for. When your fav blogger, your driver, your dentist, your gas station attendant – everyone around you – start pushing their political opinions (often conflicting!), it’s just too much.
    That’s in general. But you in particular – I think you (being a Muslim, an immigrant, a volunteer at refugee shelters) might have a unique perspective that many of us would not be exposed otherwise. So I personally value YOUR input. And love your blog 🙂

    • Thanks! I think this idea that people are “pushing” their political opinions through mere expression is really odd. I hear this far too often and really wish Americans would get more comfortable with political discourse. It’s to everyone’s benefit if people could talk about these things without all these restrictions in place.



  6. Well said!

    Few quotes from the wise:

    “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
    ― Elie Wiesel

    “Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all — the apathy of human beings.”
    ― Helen Keller

    “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

  7. Well said Ariana! We all need to speak out and try to do it in a way that educates. There are forces that want silence and we must not give in. There are forces that want us to fight with each other and we must not give in. We must learn from each other by taking in what makes sense and discarding what does not. That’s the only way we will be able to move forward together. So keep writing, keep giving your unique point of view – and in the process, keep educating!

  8. well said, Ariana.

  9. Thanks for sharing this.

  10. Thank you for posting this! Longtime reader, first time commenter. Thank you for speaking out.

  11. Bravo. Thanks for this post.

  12. Boarding Happiness

    Love your blog and I am with you all the way!

  13. Politics, religion, and probably race are sensitive topics in a multicultural society where it’s almost impossible to discuss without lots of people becoming too emotional and defensive, so most people feel it isn’t worth the trouble. Majority of people, including myself, just vote and get on with our lives. Whenever I see a pro Israel vs pro Palestine protest rally and see few people in each other’s faces shouting at each other, I always think, why?? It’s isn’t as if they’re going to change the other person’s mind.

  14. Thanks for opening my eyes.

  15. I think bloggers should blog about whatever they want to blog about, and readers should choose who they follow based on what they’re looking for. That said, we should all accept the consequences of our decisions (bloggers will lose followers, readers who unfollow might miss out on other travel news they’d be interested in).

    For me, personally, I wish travel bloggers would stay out of politics. I don’t mind the odd post here or there, those are easy to ignore, but when politics dominates a blog even for a short time it has a negative effect on my feed. I stopped following VFTW recently for this very reason, Gary seems to talk more about politics than not these days, and I personally don’t view his political thoughts as incredibly insightful.

    It’s not that I don’t enjoy politics (I do) or that I disagree with him (I don’t). It’s that I segment my news to read certain things at certain times. I don’t want political posts filling up my travel feed, and vice-versa.

    As long as people understand and accept what they could miss out on, there’s no “should” or “shouldn’t” about it. Those only come into play if you’re shooting for a particular outcome (many followers, etc)

  16. Next the Muslims need to protest this:

    • Lol! I’ve been there – trust me, nothing you’d want to see/do there anyway. 🙂

        • Thanks for that insightful post, Peter! What I meant was that if you’re not there to participate in the religious rituals, there isn’t much to see/do. You probably won’t get to see the Black Stone, since there are such massive crowds, and circulating the Kaaba can seem pointless if you’re not tuned into the spiritual aspect. I totally understand why a non-Muslim might find it interesting to visit though. But can you imagine how much more hectic it would be if tourists started flocking to this place in addition to the millions of Muslims?

          • Are you saying this is temporary only during the time of hajj?

            Or is it permanent? The kaffirs are too dirty to lay eyes on the tomb of the prophet?

            Frankly there needs to be deep introspection by all parties involved. Are we really as open minded as we claim to the world. Are we?

          • 1.) The tomb of the prophet isn’t in Mecca. 2.) The travel restriction has nothing to do with keeping “dirty” people out. As I said, the city of Mecca is a place of spiritual significant where Muslims are supposed to partake in a series of religious rituals. These rituals are pretty strenuous (esp during Hajj) and require a lot of dedication, patience, and concentration. It’s already difficult enough to do that when the place is packed year-round with Muslims. If it became open to tourists, carrying out religious duties would become downright impossible (with tour buses clogging the streets, tourists standing around and posing for photos everywhere). If it were a matter of life/death (i.e. The world was ending and Mecca was the only safe place where the persecuted masses could seek safety and refuge), I would understand and object to it as well. But that’s not the situation and equating this restriction to an entire country being off-limits is comparing apples and oranges.

  17. YES! Please stick to travel information and keep your leftist propaganda to yourself. Why would any business go out of their way to thumb their nose at 50% of their customers? Of course Gary Leff disagrees, he has been the biggest violator of this basic courtesy.

    • Funny if it is a “Leftist propaganda” as you put it, the conservative Republican Senators are also against it, including to Senate majority leader. This is a Constitutional issue and discrimination which also affects travel, and especially the person writing this blog because of her ethnicity. I am sure what I say would change your mind but labeling and stereotyping is what the Alt-Rights do best, after all. So, go ahead and chalk this up to another leftist propaganda instead of speaking out on legal violation.

      • Which constitution are you talking about? I have never seen a single federal judge say its unconstitutional, all they have been saying is its hardship for those affected and irreversible.

        There are 40 plus refugees who are CONVICTED of terrorism or terrorism related charged. And guess what all those 40 plus refugees came to this country from those banned countries during Bush and Obama Administration.

        Now tell me what is irreversible, life or job or being separated from family?

        Obama immigration plan was completely unconstitutional and it was completely out of his power, yet none of you liberals raised alarm, all you did you support it. Thank god it was finally killed by Supreme court.

    • The better question is why are you so averse to opinions different than your own that you can’t even read about them? That’s how you grow and evolve intellectually. Like I said, it’s the fascist and totalitarians who are unable to cope with more than one way of thought.

      • @Ariana, Only people who are averse to different opinions are the liberals. Who keeps going every other day to protest and destroy public/private property?

        Every election, almost 1/2 the population vote for someone who did not become president. Yet they remain silent but liberals have time and again showed they will not remain silent and respect those 60 millions plus American citizens who voted for Trump.

        Just imagine what will happen, if all 60 million people start protesting for every single thing they disagree with. Do you think anyone will be able to run the country??

        • The right to protest is protected by the constitution and no one should be scorned for it. Protesting doesn’t make you unpatriotic or whatever other nonsense people get labeled with. Taking an active role in the political process (whether its by voting, protesting, or writing your congressperson) should be commended. As I said, it’s in totalitarian countries where these actions are abhorred, not in democracies. If it’s just the liberals who object to differing opinions, then does that make you a liberal for objecting to people who are protesting the President’s actions?

          I don’t recall people remaining silent when Obama was elected – in fact, I remember a lot of racist rhetoric and people questioning if he was even born in this country. In fact, the current President (a former birther) stated during the election that if he did not win, he would contest the election results. So let’s not let party loyalty blind us to facts. Most politicians don’t care about the Average Joe – so let’s not turn on each other over them.

  18. I mostly agree with you and I completely do on people need to discuss politics.
    1. I do believe how a person votes can have an impact on whether you are friends with them or not. Sorry, if you voted for somebody that made their campaign based on hate and disrespect, why would I want to be friends with you or have any respect for you.
    2. We don’t (yet) have to worry about getting jailed for her opinions. That doesn’t mean it won’t get to that. Our current president threatened to jail his adversary. He threatens the media when it tells the truth.

    • @David,

      Based on your own logic, what impacts should we have with the people who voted for a corrupt liar? Should you lose respect too just because you voted for her. What if your spouse voted for him. Would you divorce him/her? What if your employer support the opposite candidate? would you resign your job??

      I don’t think so.

      Your views will only create hatred and more hatred.

      I strongly do not agree with your views yet I respect your opinion and Yes I did vote for Trump.

  19. I agree with you. You may enjoy this (slightly NSFW) piece by the writer Chuck Wendig. I’ll just quote a section:

    “I received a helpful — sorry, “helpful” — email that asked me to, and I quote, “get back to the writing advice, please.” The core idea of the email being that I’m spending too much time on the blog talking about other things (cough cough the bread and circuses of politics) and not enough time on talking to you about characters and commas and how to defeat the bleak unrelenting despair of being a creative human being.

    Or, put differently, I am a monkey doing the wrong monkey dance.”

    Full piece here:

    • Love it! Thanks for sharing this Brian. I feel exactly the same, esp. the sentiment about “I am a monkey doing the wrong monkey dance.” It does feel like this is all silly sometimes and when you try to write about something more meaningful, people reprimand you for it.

  20. Got linked here from DoC. You know what? You just got a new reader. *bookmark*

  21. Yes Yes & Yes

  22. Politics. Yawn..I prefer other topics. That being said, I never thought American constitutional rights extend to non citizens and non permanent residents outside of the country, so don’t get why people keep saying it’s unconstitutional if we’re temporarily closing the doors to some people.

  23. YoLaViajera

    @Josh – Looks like you need to read up on the issue. Those rights you mention DO actually extend to non citizens and non permanent residents.

    Relevant quote from a useful Politico article that explains all this in great detail:

    “It doesn’t matter, by the way, whether the Muslims in question are citizens or noncitizens, green card holders, visa holders or refugees. The Equal Protection Clause [14th Amendment] explicitly prohibits “deny[ing] to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Supreme Court made this clear in Plyler v. Doe, when it protected the rights of non-citizen children in Texas, striking down a denial of school funds to the children of undocumented parents. This means that all foreign travelers on U.S. soil—those waiting at U.S. airports, for example—are protected.” […] “Recent case law suggests that no act by a government official—no matter to whom it applies—can be based on disapproval of a race, ethnicity or religion. In other words, when it comes to Equal Protection, it’s the motive of the government and its agents that matters. If a government official seeks to carry out Trump’s order and bar entry into the country, that is a violation of the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

  24. The travel ban haa been lifted, if temporarily. The rule of law worked as it is supposed to. The legal Muslims are free to come in now.

    Let’s hope the “Muslim countries” adopt a rule of law (not religious law) in their own home countries. Let’s hope the Muslims will march and picket for the rights of everyone, not just their own.

  25. Where was all the hoopla when Obama banned the same people from coming into this country in 2011 for six months? Trump is temporarily doing this for 4 months and liberals go crazy! There is a double standard here.

    • context man, context! Under Obama, it was presented as a review and strengthening of the visa vetting process in response to specifically identified mistakes, with little hateful rhetoric. Trump specifically proposed banning muslims (months ago, before he actually had the power). Now he takes a step towards implementing that hate-inspired policy. Of course people react differently.

  26. Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Libya, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen. Those are the countries that do not allow Israeli citizens to enter their countries. Not only Israeli citizens but those who have Israeli stamp in their passports as well. Where is the travel bloggers’ outrage about that?
    just saying….

  27. What I am sick of is the travel bloggers that are trying to scare people with the Trump is a meanie head rhetoric, and the “be careful when traveling and telling people your from the states so you don’t get beat up” and so forth.. Sick of it. I am proud to from this great country, and I’m with my president 1000%. You know a lot of us conservatives suffered through 8 years of Obama, and were tore apart when he became president, but we didn’t go around spreading hatred and fear! come on.. It’s just as safe as any time to travel to America. Come on.. I’ll give you my couch..

    • In my experience, people abroad don’t generally treat you worse if they think you’re from the US. Not that the same can be said about some fellow Americans who get surly when I mention where I was born. I’m not sure why conservatives “suffered” under 8 years of Obama – I must have missed all the headlines about deathsquads and detention camps.

      Let’s not kid ourselves – spreading hatred and fear was the modus operandi of the conservatives. Have we forgotten the lyrics to “Barack the Magic Negro” after Limbaugh played it over and over on his program? Rush Limbaugh calling for school bus segregation, referring to Obama and his wife as “angry black people”? The birther conspiracy? Tea Party members calling black members of congress the n-word? Roy Blunt referring to Obama as a monkey (“So for this golf course…they passed a rule, and the rule was, you have to play the ball where the monkey throws it”)? Newt Gingrich’s assertion that Obama exhibited “Kenyan anti-colonial behavior”?

      But I guess when you’re loyal to a party rather than to principles, it’s easy to overlook the ugliness and lies in order to protect delusions that are more important than facts.

  28. Ariana, your patience and clear articulation of the TRUTH of what is happening and what has happened is greatly appreciated. I love that what you write can be verified, unlike the angry hateful barbs thrown by trump-ets.

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