thunderstorm andaman sea phuket thailand
A cumulonimbus cloud produces a thunderstorm over the Andaman Sea off the coast of Phuket. Photograph ©2009 by Brian Cohen.

A Word About Politics and Travel

Y ou read articles at BoardingArea — such as those posted here at The Gate — for information pertaining to miles, points and travel. Perhaps you are seeking a way to earn miles faster; save on how many points you redeem for an award; read a trip report to view photographs of some land far away; want to know the best way to achieve elite level status in a frequent travel program; or figure out on how to save money on airfares, lodging or rental cars.

Sometimes there is a story which is off topic. That is all right once in a while…

…but in reading the comments sections of other weblogs which have covered what could be considered political issues, readers also use BoardingArea as an escape of sorts from the “real world” or from “everyday life” — and that is certainly understandable. Some have expressed disappointment that the authors of the weblogs in question chose to write articles about political issues — even if they are relevant to travel.

A Word About Politics and Travel

No one probably dislikes politics more than I. The problem, however, is that there seems to be an increased number of stories related to both politics and travel which could affect you.

If thousands of people are protesting at an airport which you might be using, you would want to know whether or not your travel plans will be affected — similar to irregular operations of an airline and inclement weather.

If refugees and immigrants find it more difficult to enter the United States because of an executive order, the likely response from the countries in which they reside is to retaliate by reciprocating — meaning that if you want to visit one of those countries, you might have to pay significantly more to do so and go through extra paperwork and scrutiny — which, of course, means more time spent just trying to get into the country.

How many of you are going to Somalia or Syria during the next month or so? No show of hands? Do I see one way back there? You might be thinking that as long as current events do not affect you that there is no need to be subject to that sort of news…

…but back in October, a group of frequent fliers traveled to Iran — including George of TravelBloggerBuzz, who succinctly wrote in this article: “Just one thing to say about Iran: Do not believe the crap you hear in the West! I ALWAYS felt safe…well, unless I was crossing city streets that is! Oh, did I forget to say that the people are very friendly, especially to Americans?”

That statement pretty much sums up my visit to Beirut, of which Americans typically think of it being war torn and perpetually dangerous to visit. The same goes for my visit to Egypt.

I had found some reasonable airfares to Tehran from Atlanta offered by Qatar Airways in the past; and they could be on offer again. If the opportunity arose, I would not hesitate to travel to Iran — but that country was the first to announce that reciprocal measures were being considered against American visitors.

Yup. That’ll teach me a lesson.

In my opinion, the higher road for Iran and other countries would be the opposite: ensure that the process is easier for Americans to visit; spend their money; and — most importantly of all — return to echo similar sentiments to George. The thought did not cross my mind that someone put a gun to his head to say what he did.

The Problem With Politics

The problem with politics is that true legitimate leaders are few and far between — regardless of party or system of government. They rarely represent their constituents. They are more focused on how to enrich their own lives and of their families, friends and colleagues. They are focused on creating a legacy that some kid in elementary school will read about them 100 years from now and have an expressway or an airport named after them one day…

…and despite that, people latch onto politics like they do with religion. Rather than keep an open mind and engaging in a dialogue about the differing beliefs of others, many of them staunchly defend their positions and tell others why they are right and other people who do not believe in what they believe are wrong.

One thing which I have learned over the years: as with religion, you cannot convince or change the mind of someone else when it comes to politics. All right, perhaps I should have said rarely — but extremely rarely.

What people can do is discuss their beliefs in both religion and politics to learn from each other and strive to seek common ground in advancing the human race and society for the better — but I suppose I am dreaming again, aren’t I?!?


I realize that you are not required to pay a single penny to read what I write — which is why I am always grateful whenever you read articles posted at The Gate

…and as such, I will do the best I can to keep politics out of the articles which I write, as everybody seems to be constantly pummeled with politics over the past year or so. I will attempt to keep The Gate as a safe haven of sorts from the storms of politics as much as I possibly can. As I already stated, I vehemently dislike politics — despite serving on boards and associations in the past, where politics can be just as unproductive as in government — and would rather not write about them…

…but unfortunately — even though politics has always affected travel in one form or another — it seems to be exacerbated these days. Although the majority of the blame has been foisted on one person in particular, people just seem to be more sensitive and more outspoken — which is both good and bad; but I would rather not elaborate on that now.

I have stated my political position clearly in the past: I am neither a liberal nor a conservative. I am neither a Democrat or a Republican, as I wrote in articles such as this one: “If you are wondering about my political affiliation, I am an independent person; or — to put it another way — I “like” Democrats just as much as I “like” Republicans…”

Rather, what I am about is listening to all sides of an issue. That is how I learn. That is how we arrive at viable solutions to problems which plague us. That is how we can best get along.

I am proud to be an independent person; and I will continue to do whatever I can to write articles — even if it contains political issues with regard to travel — as generically as possible; but when I interject an opinion, please realize that it is usually based on what I know and have experienced at the time…

…and please know that your opinions are always welcome here at The Gate — no matter what you believe as well.

Thank you for reading my ramblings which have been on my mind…

Photograph ©2009 by Brian Cohen.

  1. As much as I come here for an outlet to get away from politics, you are doing the right thing by covering what’s happening. As long as it’s unbiased then we need to hear it.

  2. It baffles me why so many trumpet their “independence” and eschew politics as though this is a virtue. Let’s call it what it is, good for business. You don’t want to offend your customers fine, that’s OK.

    In social circles someone who eschews all talk of politics in all circumstances is a nobody. Real people talk it, without drawing knives against each other. I like watching Anthony Bourdain, partly because he has a lot of political opinions, which I may or may not agree with. But he is UNAFRAID to discuss them with people. There’s only so much small talk you can do before you go around in circles. “Hey nice weather, how are the kids….how about those (insert sports team name)….”…

  3. Thanks for choosing to keep politics out of it. There’s nothing worse than going to websites you enjoy only to find heated political conversations.

  4. I feel bad for Vicente, since without politics they appear to have nothing to discuss with their friends. What a dull life.

    Many people have no interest in politics as a general topic, including me. I haven’t voted in years and have no party affiliation. I had an epiphany some years back after visiting some ancient ruins – it doesn’t really matter 99% of the time. If politician A wins some things will be good, some will suck…but the same will be true if politician B wins instead…it will just be a little different in terms of the particulars of what sucks and doesn’t suck.

    The times when it does potentially matter – the real tyrants of the world for example, usually ultimately require (sadly) a non-political solution (and I don’t just mean war) to overcome. Why? Because such terrible movements often are driven by power and money behind the scenes and will get their way regardless of the “spokesman” in front.

    There is so much more to our lives in this universe if we really focus on what matters. Most of the things I hear people complain about “Why doesn’t [the President/Congress/city council] do something about this?” are things that we as regular people – individually and collectively – can and should do something about on our own!

    Being independent and disliking politics is not the same as not caring, or not being involved, or not being aware of and discussing important events.

    I think the Gate’s approach is in line with what I want from a travel, miles & points blog. For pure politics there are plenty of other blogs and sites for that.

  5. I applaud your approach, and I predict that your readership will grow as readers flee from other bloggers who cannot resist the temptation to preach to their readers politically.

  6. Agreed. I work in the forensics community. With five continents and something like forty countries under my belt, I have had come to a realization. There are fewer things more effective than disaster or hardship at showing you that political divides are only inflexible in the eyes of the most moronic folks out there. That is regardless of political affiliation; no party is immune and not party has exclusive rights to spewing asinine drivel.

    Example: there was an explosion in my hometown (where I have not lived for several years) which turned out to be due to a gas leak. Within an hour of it happening, I had e-mails from a dozen countries wanting to know if I was okay. Apparently, it was briefly and incorrectly reported as a possible terrorist attack by a couple outside of the US (why anyone would think a terrorist would decide to bomb that third rate wide spot in the road like that is beyond me).

    Two of the messages were from Iran including one from a senior police official. His only questions: Are you okay? Is your family okay? Do you know the people who were hurt? How can my family and I help them? No thought of politics. No thought of the troubled history between our countries. No religious claptrap (there was mention of praying but only in the sense of asking if I thought the people who were injured and lost their home would take offense if they prayed for them). Just one good person wanting to help other good people in a time of need.

    Good people are good people regardless of where they are from or what motivates them. Bad people are bad people just the same way. I keep my fingers crossed that people will wise up to this as a group but at the same time I don’t hold my breath. There are too many short-sighted people out there.

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