The first time I took an international trip (other than Canada), it was 2004.
Remember 2004? America was in a war it didn’t want to be in, we felt misled by the government, and unsafe in our home. Only 3 years after the devastating 9/11 attacks, the country was still hurting.
When I was getting ready to pack my bags for two months abroad, I was asked this question frequently,
“Are you going to tell people you’re Canadian?”
Or they would say, “You should put a Canadian flag on your backpack so they don’t know you’re American.”or “You know, people hate Americans”.
I decided not to hide my nationality and I had zero problems abroad. Most people would guess I was Canadian or American by the accent alone. The “where are you from?” question is a common one wherever you are traveling. And in 2004 I was met with interest and curiosity about where I lived. Not hate or anger toward America or American politics. I felt welcomed as a person, not as a singular representative of every action or injustice that my country has ever done.
Fast forward to 2016.
I think much of our country is still reeling from the results of this week’s election. I personally am still in shock and utter disbelief. What does the election of Donald Trump say about the American people? How far off track have we gone? There is obviously a deep, deep problem, that cannot be solved with one person taking office. I have to keep reminding myself that I live in a VERY liberal bubble. I feel that I may be blind or ignorant to the challenges that others around our country are facing. It’s easy for me to assume that everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, sexist, idiot. But I also can’t believe that to be true. Otherwise, what hope is left? No, I think Trump is a part of a much larger ball of issues and our country is hurting.
The question that comes to our minds now, is what will it be like traveling as an American with Donald Trump as president? Will this warrant the Canadian flag approach? Time will tell, and we will be keeping a watchful eye.
Have you ever been afraid to tell people you were American when traveling abroad?
Dani, I’ve been proud of you all your life. As I type, I’m getting blurry, teary eyes about this latest display of empathy, compassion and thoughtfulness. Wow! Was I a GREAT Mom or what? Oh, ditto for your Dad. Love to you and your awesome traveling companion. He has GREAT parents, too!
Awww, thanks momma. You ARE a great mom! <3
When I moved to Italy in 1998, I remember wanting so badly to not be an American anymore. I was personally ridiculed because of the Lewinsky scandal, objectively looked at as a way to obtain a greencard, and even things like the Mary Kay Letourneau case were still popping up on Italian news and I wanted to hide in shame. After living there for 5 months, I went to the Vatican and without me even having opened my mouth, the guard at the door asked me *in English* to present my purse for inspection. I was mortified. A few days later I was in Milano and shocked a con-artist when I replied to him in vehement Italian with a Tuscan accent that he should be ashamed of himself (among other things) and he said “I’m sorry, miss, I thought you were an American tourist.”
It was obvious then that no matter how much I tried to blend in, tried to become something I wasn’t, I was always going to be outed as an American by my body language and ingrained attitude. I started sobbing on the plane ride home when I heard a Texan accent walk up the isle. It sounded like the most vile, crass, uncouth sound that had ever come out of a human.
It took me more then a decade to start feeling anything remotely like civic pride, and that was only because I fell deeply in love with my CITY. I still struggle with the idea that I’m an American, because I’m not an Alabaman, I’m not a Texan, I’m not a Californian, and I’m not a New Yorker. I’m a Seattlite. And the fact that I’m lumped together with other people who don’t share my values, ideals, views, or accent still drives me crazy. Today more then ever.
Wow. Thank you for sharing that! It’s amazing what you are identified with as an American in “98. Mary Kay Letourneau? Seriously?! I really want to have hope for our country and the principles it was founded upon.. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been listening to too much Hamilton. At least I love the Pacific Northwest.. long live Cascadia!
I traveled in 2005 when things weren’t going so well for Americans. I remember an English lady (I was in southern Spain) told me that I didn’t look like a Republican after I told her that I had not voted for George W. I wanted to kiss her. But, like you Danielle, I didn’t hide being an American. And I don’t think I ever will. First, because regardless of the outcome of this election, I’m still proud to be a citizen of one of the most prosperous countries, with the most freedoms on the planet. Where else can you freely speak your mind and not get sent to jail? Secondly, I can dispel those myths of Americans by proudly being American as I travel. I’m warm, friendly, not crass (I’m more crass here at home), dress appropriately, know a few words of the language, understand the culture and history of the place I am visiting. I give Americans a good name. And when it comes down to it, most folks from other countries can separate the person from their government. Hell, most of them aren’t too pleased with their governments and their leaders so they know exactly how we feel! By the way – I love that your mom wrote such a wonderful comment 😉
So, so true, Lynne! I love the concept of getting to dispel myths about Americans while we travel. 🙂