I had this question about combining travel and politics in my mind for quite a while now. But with topics like this it is pretty difficult to just sit down and write. Why? Because it is a not a really comfortable topic to talk about. And I would have probably waiting a lot more but yesterday it was brought up again. What good and bad can happen when you are traveling and decide to go deep into politics? I want to share few of my experiences, and, maybe, you will be able to advise something on that.
It’s not just about travel and politics – mostly equality
When I travel, I want to explore the scenery, taste the food, experience the culture, and, most importantly – meet new people. And by people I mean not only natives, but also other travelers. You have to know, that when you leave your comfort zone, there are going to be many kinds of people. Some of them might require you to open your eyes and mind. Few of them might widen you horizons. But you have to be ready for it. If you want your experience to be positive, there is a rule that applies. “Treat everyone the way you want to be treated”. It is more than 1000% true. I want to know more about those people, about the countries that they are from. I want to hear what it is like for them to travel. What are they looking for. Or what kind of people they are. What they like or dislike. I keep myself constantly curious and, honestly, it is very interesting for me. But I guess, just up to some point.
So main reason why I am even touching this topic is that I had some unfortunate experience with travel and politics. During my last evening in Valencia I just sat down at the bar of the hostel and decided to have few beers and chat with random people. There were quite a few people from random countries, cultures, races. And there was a Russian guy with whom I decided to interact.
Do ‘s and don’t ‘s for politics
First, I do not have anything against Russian people. Well I don’t like their president and other politicians but I have historical reasons for that. I think that all the countries from the eastern block have the same thing for that one dude in particular. Second, I NEVER argue if I feel that it is just a question of different perspectives. With that guy, Ivan, we started talking about movies and etc. He said he’s really looking forward for the new ZERO movie (which is pure Lithuanian comedy). I was quite surprised, so we talked about comedies for some time.
I brought up this question of the parody of Putin, made by a Slovenian stand-up’er (you can find the video below or click here). Then I asked him, what do Russian people think about it, because I’ve heard quite different opinions. He said that at least for him it is funny (I was like “uhhhhh, at least that”). And he started talking about how that video made Putin more popular among other Russians. I asked if he actually realized what was the main intention of the video and his answer just shocked me. So Ivan said that “you, Lithuanians, are brainwashed by NATO”. I saw a “stop” sign just then, but I still said something about history saying quite different thing. And he kept talking and talking and talking about how Russians are good and we are controlled by western countries, how everything that Putin did (including occupation of Crimea) was a good thing to do. It just made me so mad. At the end he said “it’s strange how you are not occupied by now”. It was right about time for me to block him.
Conclusion on political talks
I guess it is not a bad thing to talk about politics with people from other countries. There are a lot of questions to ask and to get some information on them. But I guess the main lesson is – NEVER condemn other countries or nationalities. For some of them it can be a really hurtful thing (as for my example for instance). And the least for it – it is really impolite. If you don’t agree, just say so or change the topic. It is not that hard. But judging and making fun of something that is important for others (e.g. Soviet occupation) is a terrible thing to do. So think twice before saying that.
If you want to combine travel and politics – be open as much as you can. And not only for cultures, but for other things too. Because you can never know when all of it will strike you back. As I’ve heard a really good phrase about religion, I guess it can also be applied to travel and politics topic:
“Religion is like a penis – it’s good to have one, it’s good to be proud of it, but there is no need to flash it around and rub it to people’s faces”
Peace, over and out.