How has travel influenced your politics?

Now…although most folks I talk to say that travel has made them more liberal, I don’t know if there’s a cause-and-effect relationship between travel and political views. However, while reading this interview with 30 year-old Jake Towne, the local third-party Libertarian/Tea Party congressional candidate here in Allentown, PA, I couldn’t help but notice his travel experience.

Clicking over to the “About” page on his website, his bio is almost entirely travel-focused. He’s studied in Germany and Hong Kong, worked for four years in Shanghai, backpacked in Nepal/New Zealand/Thailand/Cambodia, and taught English to “tribal villagers on the rain-forested Chinese-Burmese border” (though for how long, we don’t know).

He says his travels have directly influenced his decision to run for office. On the social side, he attributes his “understanding of how hard life can really be without the liberties that we Americans often take for granted” to his time abroad.  On the business side, he points to his time in China for giving him perspective on “the extreme nature of doing business in a country lacking individual freedoms.” (There’s no mention of the takeaway from his time in Germany and New Zealand.)

Travel provides the opportunity to visit every form of government currently being practiced, and to experience firsthand the arguments for and against each type. Similarly, restricted and prohibited travel to certain countries says something about the governments on both sides of the equation. Who’s keeping who out, who’s not letting who in? Even one bad bureaucracy (or anarchy) run-in can have lifelong effects.

So, how have your travels influenced your politics? Would Jake Towne have a different platform if he’d spent four years in The Bahamas, or Chile, or Ireland, or even Canada? Are we more likely to remember details that support our existing views, or are we truly open to a change in perspective?

Posted by | Comments (7)  | July 21, 2010
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

7 Responses to “How has travel influenced your politics?”

  1. jc Says:

    I studied abroad at a place with a lack of other foreigners in Africa with a bunch of African academics and IT RUINED MY LIFE. Well, sort of. I used to have lofty ideas about the UN and foreign service and NGOs and being the change. I came back unsure that I knew much about anything.

  2. Tom Says:

    Fascinating topic. Another angle on this that I believe you missed that may have influenced someone with libertarian leanings is the concept that freedom in America is not most threatened by any obvious takeover by fascists or other rightists, but instead by the slow, step-by-step increase in government regulation and control over our lives. Each step appeals to us because it’s easy to see the benefits, e.g. universal health care, increased benefits for the poor, etc. But it’s much more difficult to see the small, tough to measure loss to our freedoms with each step. Travel exposes us to those who are disenfranchised to an extreme we don’t tend to see in our own country in such large percentages–the starving, the victims of ethnic cleansing, etc., and this can make a libertarian-sensitive person less sympathetic of the “need” for legislation and court rulings against things like high-fat foods, for example. Hence, travel can make a libertarian more concerned about the increasing control of government over the lives of Americans (and this trend is of course true regardless of which of the two major parties is in power). Note that I’m not agreeing with this view, just commenting on it.

  3. Rod Says:

    After traveling I became a libertarian (small ‘l’, and I’m not even sure I fit into that). I observed how in places where people were free to trade, voluntarily interact, and peacefully coexist with one another without the guns of government threatening them at every checkpoint, life was better. Wherever the local governments use their guns to intimidate the local population and enforce religious or economic constrictions, corruption, ethnic strife and fear ran rampant. Wherever the UN gave massive aid, there was poverty, but wherever private industry and trade were allowed to flourish people’s standards of living were much better. I used to vote before I traveled, but no longer do. I prefer to not vote, since every politician seems to run on some plan to control, coerce and intimidate one group or another. That’s nothing I want to be a part of anymore.

  4. Frank Says:

    1) That Democracy does NOT equal freedom.
    2) That there is a big time difference between the freedom to call your leader/ruling class whatever epithet you want (freedom of expression) and the personal freedom to do what you want as long as you do not hurt others.
    3) That “the West” does not have all the answers, even though it thinks it does.
    4) That not all NGO’s are “angels”.
    5) That most people in the world live in societies that Western social engineers are aghast with. And since these social engineers believe that it is their right and duty to “change these societies for the better”, they will be directing the USA and other Western governments to spend vast sums of money (military, NGO’s, foreign aid, propaganda, etc.) to accomplish this task. Furthermore, since these social engineers consider these societies to be inferior, watch out for laws to restrict travel and money flows from the West to non-Western countries, and especially from the USA to these non-Western countries as the social engineering zeal is perhaps strongest in the USA. These social engineers really hate the idea of people moving to a place like Thailand to avoid stupid laws, Political Correctness, or having to pay exorbitant taxes to support bloated pensions and the Welfare State back home.

    Though I am not completely a libertarian, it made me tilt in that direction a little.

  5. Tom Jones Says:

    I went to West Germany for 2 years once, didn’t learn jack, other than hashish and alcohol.

    Yes, there was once a West Germany and an East Germany.